A conversation with Stephon "Sterph" Deifer. All Imagery by Chip Proulx (@chipproulx)
I met Sterph six or seven years ago. He had this super raw, completely unperfected, yet perfect style and his seemingly off-the-cuff trick selection and mile wide smile caught my eye immediately. We put Sterph on flow right on the spot and over the years anytime we would pass through CO we would always be sure to invite to throw the invite out there to hang. For most riders, their personal priorities usually come first and invites are in great parts dismissed as they have other plans that take precedence from hanging out with a bunch of office-legged shredders. But I don’t think Sterph ever didn’t come through for at least a few laps or stop by the house for some après or dinner. It seems the allure of laughs and good times with good people are what drives Sterph, not clout, not accolades or even a single trick. Sure, those things will likely come with time, but it’s this love of life, snowboarding and good people, an open mind and a truly unique perspective on having fun on his board that sets Sterph apart. This was supposed to be a 12-pack of questions, but the conversation was so good and as one questions spilled into the next, I actually don’t know how many questions we got through. Take a read and get to know “duh homie.”
686: Where are you from and how did you end up in Colorado? What's your road out to where you are now?
Sterph: I'm from Spring Mount, Pennsylvania, right outside of Philadelphia and there's just a little resort near my parents' house and that was cool. And then, I ended moving to California, which was cool. Big Bear - I love that place. After that, I moved home for two or three months and my homie Kyle was like, "Yo, I'm moving to Colorado, you want to come?" And I was like, "Bah." And here we are…
686: Nice. And there you are. Do you remember the first time we met? Years ago?
S: I do. Yeah. At the, what was it? The Mountain High Rail Jam? The ... What was it called? It was called something kind of cool.
686: I don't know. It was pre-season kind of thing, right?
S: Yeah. It was on the street. That was a good time.
686: Melissa (Evans) introduced us and I was like, “Dude, let's get it going…”
S: Yeah, that was sick. I was like, "No way. This is ... Wait, what? Oh, what?" That was probably the greatest day of my life.
686: Moving on. What music do you listen to on the way to the mountain or if you listen to music while you ride and is that the same music that you listen to when you're chilling?
S: I definitely have a lot of rap in my playlist, a little bit of reggae in there, but when I'm chilling, I normally just try to put on the shuffle and just let it run - not through my playlist, through somebody else's.
686: Oh, nice. That playlist move is it!
S: You know what I mean? And I just download the songs that I feel.
686: Okay, cool. What's up with Dirty Blue? Give us a story on Dirty Blue.
S: Oh, man. Ah… I don't know, man. I've wanted that car since I was probably 14, 15 and I finally got it when I was 20. Now, I keep her in the garage because every time I pull her out, the bumper breaks.
686: (We both are laughing) You can't drive it right now?
S: I mean, I can, she's all-wheel drive, but once the tires are off the ground, you're not really going to be moving anyway. She's kind of lower, ya know.
686: How many miles on Dirty Blue?
S: 119.1k I believe.
686: And the last time you drove it?
686: You have a little bit of an unorthodox style on your board, where does that come from? Those late taps and the shifty things and a lot of the landing into nose butters and tail butters and shifty’s and stuff, where did that all come from?
S: Well, I got a kid I consider my brother, his name's Chris Fredette and to be honest, he's been doing that like the whole time I've been watching him snowboard and I just get so amazed, so I started doing it. Then, we started playing games of S-N-O-W and then it was like I had to do it because you don't want to lose, you know what I'm saying? (Laughing under his words now)
S: Yeah, we've always snowboarded like that growing up and continued it on.
686: So you've had that style since you were young young?
S: Yeah, I definitely have always had that idea, I guess, to just ... I think tapping is cool and honestly, Lucas Magoon, you know what I'm saying - my favorite boarder ever… You know, coming through, being in Bear and watching that, watching Bradshaw, hanging out with Lucas and hanging out with Bradshaw and watching everything go down there really is… well, you can do a hundred different boards sides a hundred ways if you just sit down and think it out real quick. (Laughs that special Sterph laugh)
686: Actually, when you say that, that's deep. That's true.
S: You could do a hundred different boardslides, but each one is different and they could all be boardslides… and you could be having a great time…
(It’s at this point my mind was blown. This statement really hit home and reminded me how special snowboarding is that people can view things with such a creative approach.)
686: You kind of covered this one, but… Your approach to riding in the park or on the streets. When you're flowing through a park, how do you pick what tricks go where? Is it all flow or is it, "Oh, I got this last time," and you build upon tricks that you've been working on or is it all just, "Oh, I'm on this edge, all of a sudden, whoops, we're going to go do this thing?" How loose is your style and your line and vision?
S: I would say I definitely have a go-to trick on every edge, you know. That I would... If I'm confused and I don't know what to do, I just do that certain trick. And then, once you run through those, you got to do something different so you just think about a couple of tricks that you want to try and then try them on the way down no matter what rail. Just pick a random rail because you might try it on this round and not get it. I'm not going to try it on that rail again, I'm just going to try it on a different rail. Just because, yeah, I'd rather just be flowing through and not really worried about trying to put a line together. You know?
S: I'm just trying to go top to bottom and have a good time. Maybe even do some swivels... (Again, Sterph’s laugh permeates the call)
686:That leads to my next question. Your level of seriousness when you're boarding, 1 to 10?
S: Well, I would say it's gone down since I've become an “adult snowboarder,” you know. When I was a kid, I was very like, "I really want to snowboard, this is what I want to do," you know what I mean? And now, I kinda like… I just enjoy the mountain and just being out there… and just cruising with with my homies, you know?
S: So I'm not like out there thinking about, "Okay, I got to do this trick for this," or, "I gotta like to prove to myself ... " I'm like, "Yeah, I'm going to do one of the hundred boardslides."
686: Okay. A couple more here. How many days do you have in the backcountry currently? It's a two-parter.
S: What do you consider the backcountry?
686: I would say being anywhere that's not within the ropes actually should be considered the backcountry. But most people would consider it at least like… A solid drop away from the resort.
S: Yeah. Okay. Probably only two to three times.
686: What are you most looking forward to in a trip where you actually get to spend some time learning the backcountry?
S: The homies, man. I just want to be out there in the snow. I kinda hope there's some sun and the homies are just having a good time.
686: I want to touch a little bit, especially since it is currently Black History Month, on your experience of being a Black man in snowboarding.
686: You got a picture in the Snowboarder “Turn The Page” issue with Russ on the cover. Was that your first photo that you've ever gotten in the mag?
S: That was my first photo.
686: Did that feel special being in that issue or were you just stoked to have it in Snowboarder no matter what? Did you feel different because of that issue?
S: To be honest, I was hyped to be included, you know. Because they didn't have to. Yeah.. I snowboard and I'm Black, but I mean, for them to put me in a magazine I’m hyped on that. It’s like, "I've done that." For sure.
686: Being Black and coming up in snowboarding, did you have an issue finding friends or feeling like you fit in ever? Did you ever feel like an outcast?
S: No, because everyone in my neighborhood snowboarded, it didn't matter if you were White, Black, girl, guy, we all snowboarded and then when I moved to Big Bear, we had a solid crew there as well. No, I wouldn't say I've had any trouble making friends or anything. It's cool standing out in the crowd and not even having it be hard to do.
686: That's cool that snowboarding seems like it was an equalizer, like you said, men, women, White, Black, boys, girls, anything. When you were growing up, everyone just shredded and that was a bond, you know what I mean? It's cool.
S: Yeah, it didn't even matter, you know? We have Black people in our neighborhood. It wasn't weird.
686: Do you feel that you have a role as a role model for young Black men and women snowboarders?
S: I mean ... I guess it depends on how they look at it. Because I'm not looking at it like ... I guess maybe because I'm older than them, but other than that, it's like, I don’t consider myself on top like someone like Zeb. Look at that man, that kid's ripping. If anybody's got the culture on his back, it's that dude.
686: Yeah. For real.
S: Yeah. I'm a huge fan of that guy.
(A small pause)
S: Actually, yeah. Back to that question though, actually, now that you say all that, yeah, I do believe I should probably think about that whole role model thing.
686: You're not bending and curving and try to fit any mold. You're just fitting your own mold. When I see your snowboarding and your personality, that's what draws me in. I'm like, "Dude, he's just doing his thing, which is so sick." I think people, they probably do see that, but that was just a question. If you even considered that or not, because we're all young...
S: Yeah. That's why I was like, "Oh, man."
686: Are there any Black athletes or artists or others that you think people should discover that are your following? Anyone that you would like to shine your spotlight on?
S: So many, man. So many… Oh, man.
686: Loaded question?
S: Yeah. I could go on for a few hours, man.. But I was living with this dude, his name is Josh, his name's Josh Redmond and he's been making beats and they just come out so good. I've been bumping those on Spotify. I probably should have put some of those on the playlist…
686: We will add it to your interview. (Stream the album below)
686: If you could pick, you had to pick only one for life: Eagles, Phillies, Sixers or Flyers.
S: This would never happen in real life, though, right?! (Laughter explodes again.) I got no disrespect to any at the other teams, but I got to go with the birds, man.
686: Okay, last question. This summer you gave people a little glimpse into a few negative messages you would get on Instagram, which blew my mind. Do you still get a little bit of hate on Instagram or that was really mostly just this summer? Have you seen a change, do you think, in people, or you think things just quieted down?
S: Yeah, I actually don't know. I guess because it wasn't ... This summer was random. I definitely got a lot of random people hit me up because maybe they just figured out they were haters, or racist or whatever. I’m really not sure what was up.
S: But even before, I would definitely have people hitting me up and hating - basically telling me the only trick I can do was a board slide or something and I'm like, "What?"
686: That's so foreign to me.
S: You know what I mean? I don't know if it's calmed down or I'm just in a slow patch where I'm doing front boards too or something.
686: (Laughing) You're mixing it up too much for them. They don't know what to do.
S: Yeah, I was like, "Oh, I grabbed the board twice at the same time." I mean, my Instagram's been pretty dry lately. No one's been too mad, no one's getting mad at me.
686: Okay, actual last question - We were talking about the haters this summer and you had an amazing quote that I believe your mom told you. Can you lay that out there because I honestly think it’s such a strong thing for anyone to live by when they encounter random haters, cyber bullies or whatever?
S: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Way before Instagram even, my mom told me, “If they're hating on you, they know your name. But if you don't know theirs, why would you let that bother you?”
686: Let’s end it right there on that wisdom. I’ll see you at Mt. Baker next month.
S: Yeah, let's do it. Les do it.
686: Alright have a good one my man.
S: Alright, thank you sir.
And that’s how we left it. Wise words from a young man.