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Behind The Brand: Greg Dacyshyn of Burton

It’s the dream for any working class man or woman to truly love your chosen field of work and love the life you live through it. It may not come often, but every now and again you’ll meet a special someone who has found their destiny in their chosen career path, and that ladies and gentlemen, is the exact case for Burton’s Chief Creative Officer, Mr. Greg Dacyshyn. Based out of Burlington, Vermont and now with the leading brand for almost twenty years, Greg is the lead man focusing on both Burton’s creative inspiration and creative direction, monitoring and keeping close eyes on almost everything from marketing and product executions across a globally growing market. A true character and creative mind of the industry, Greg’s life seems to be full of everything we here at SurfStitch love; travel, working with the best products and seeing their fruition to the market, oh, and don’t forget hanging out with the best snowboarders in the world along with his best friend and boss, Jake Burton himself. We recently had the privilege of catching up with the man behind the magic to talk about exactly what his role entails, how his early life helped bring him to where he is today, what incredible experiences have arisen while working at Burton, and much, much more.

Thanks so much for taking the time to catch up Greg! What’s been happening over on your side of the world?
No problem, thanks for having me! Well, we’re in the middle of summer, so it’s quite nice here in Vermont. Mind you, there’s no snow but that’s allowed us all to do a bit of travel, especially to catch good summer music. One of my favorite bands for example is the Grateful Dead, who have created a new version of the band called Dead & Co. They’re on tour in the US so I’ve been catching shows wherever I can including NYC, Boston and Boulder, Colorado. I also just went to Montana for the first time and saw my first rodeo. I felt like I was in a Western movie, it was awesome. And I’m meeting up with Jake (Burton) this week in Europe to see all our connections over there which will be great. So it’s all happening here at the moment!

Can you give us a rundown of what your role as Chief Creative Officer at Burton entails and what aspects make it so special?
My role is 100% focused on creative inspiration and creative direction for the company. Jake and I are both incredibly passionate and protective of the brand, so it’s a huge honor and also a huge responsibility for me to be able to guide where we are going. Myself and Jake share the same vision, and that’s really what helps us work so closely together on projects. The Burton brand is built on a lot of heritage, including 40 years of developing the best products in the world. But we never stand still, we are always trying to evolve, innovate and keep the brand growing in the best way possible. I try to approve every piece of creative that goes out the door, whether it’s product design or marketing collateral, to ensure Jake’s vision really permeates through everything we do. At the end of the day, we are in the business of fun, so we really try to remind people of that. You know, you might not need to go buy a new snow jacket or pants, but you might because you want the experience to be better, and that’s what we try to remind people of. We really want to be able to make people smile and have a great time, and that’s really the heart and soul of what I try to do, ie., to make sure Burton continues to do cool things that showcase our brand message and most of all our brand spirit. I also spearhead the collaboration stuff we do, which is an ongoing and exciting part of my role. It’s super inspiring to travel the world and meet up with incredibly creative people or brands to collaborate on a collective project. It’s both amazing to share the world of Burton with these new groups, as well as get a glimpse into their creative worlds. This shared creative process is something that keeps me very motivated to keep on trucking!

Can you tell us how your early life really influenced your love for products in general?
Yeah for sure. I’m originally from Toronto, Canada. As a kid I was always into product, I think to the point where I was a little OCD. I’d always be the kid who was mulling over every catalog, knowing all the prices, products and everything else. As a young kid reading Vogue, GQ, Esquire I think I was almost a little odd in a way, but really product obsessed. I’d hang out at the mall and bother all the shop owners. I remember when I’d take the bus downtown to go to my karate lessons and just hang out at the shops, and as I got older I knew that this is the world I wanted to be in. I started working in retail, mainly in ski and sporting goods shops (because there were no snowboarding stores at the time) which really helped grow my love for the industry and products even further. As I got older, I got super into skating – this was during the mid 80’s skate boom that was happening at the time. That was around the same time I started making my own snowboards in class, so my own board was one I made myself. I then got a really big obsession with outerwear, I don’t know why, I just loved it. All the types of fabrics and everything else that goes into making a garment I just loved. That’s when I combined my love for sports and lifestyle products in particular. An acquaintance of mine who was working at Burton at the time one day gave me a call and said "Hey, Burton is ramping up their outerwear division and I think it would be perfect for you!” Now fast forward 20 years and I’m still here, working with amazing people, creating and loving product, and traveling the world, all in conjunction with a boss who happens to be one of my closest friends. So I guess you’d say I feel really fortunate.

What an incredible story! Can you tell us about some epic experiences that have come to fruition through working at Burton?
Burton has given me so many things in life it’s hard to list just a few. Mostly it’s allowed me to work with people and brands that I truly admire and never thought I would have the chance to work with. For example on the collaboration side there are so many brands and designers who have been amazing to work with over the years. We’ve just finished working with Led Zeppelin on a collaboration, we do ongoing work with Gwen Stefani, Steve Aoki, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Playboy, Star Wars, Neighborhood, the list goes on and on. To work with so many creative people and to have the capabilities to bring these ideas to fruition is something really special and something that I love. Our pro snowboarding team are also a constant source of inspiration for me. I consider them my younger siblings, I love spending time with them all. We have a lot of fun hanging out and definitely love giving each other a hard time, but then I sit and watch them ride and it’s mind blowing. To be able to make products for them is an incredible feeling, it’s really rewarding and humbling to provide them with products that will make them better riders and make them enjoy the snowboarding experience and lifestyle more and more each time. The time I’ve spent with the team are some of the best memories I have for sure. They are great supporters of what I do and I couldn’t be more supportive of what they do.

In your mind, what allows Burton to stay one step ahead of other brands on the market?
Well, I like to think we have some of the best people in the world working for us. We have great facilities for our crew to use too. We have a complete prototype facility here for product construction. We also have a facility for outerwear prototypes that allows us to test all our products as much as possible and really perfect them before releasing them onto the market. Jake and everyone involved are all really invested to ensure we’ve got both the people and assets to stay one step ahead. We don’t really look to what other people are doing either, we do our own thing. We’re a business, and yes, we need to make money, but we also want to do what’s right for the sport. Being the big brand on the block we get critiqued a lot, but I feel very confident that we do all we can to protect and grow the sport in general. It’s all about authenticity and love for the industry.

Can you describe your workplace?
Well, I don’t really notice it as much as others as I’m so used to it, but when you bring people in they always say how cool the Burton HQ office is. I guess you could say it’s pretty casual. We have a work hard, play hard atmosphere. We’ve got a skate bowl out the back, an epic showroom next door, a beautiful flagship store, the R&D facility, photo studio, archives and much more. And there are literally over 100 dogs running around the building at any given time, so that’s pretty cool. You’ll see how much I love animals whenever you stop by, with two of my own! The dog element definitely adds a relaxed vibe that helps make it a more chill work atmosphere. We’ve got a great community culture with everyone sharing lots of passion for the sport and brand itself. My actual office is surrounded by all things that inspire me. It almost looks like I’m a hoarder, but of very interesting things. Throughout my travels I always collect things from different cultures and things that continue to help inspire me. I’ve got everything from a 16th Century Samurai helmet to handmade blades from British Columbia. Pulses of inspiration truly do come from everywhere, and everyday these things help me move forward with creation.

What will we catch you doing outside the workplace?
I get to live what I love. I really do love to travel though, and more times than not I’ll bump into someone or something that is work-related which is great. I also love to see live music and do that a lot. And then it almost sounds boring, but when I’m not travelling I really just love to chill out at home, just hanging on the couch. I never get to do that so the times that I do, it’s really relaxing. Netflix and chill I guess you’d say. My wife and I have a place down by the lake here in Vermont so it’s cool just to be able to chill with her and my dogs down there. I love travelling, but I love hanging out at home. I get time to decompress and review my thoughts about what I’ve been working on lately.

It’s summer time for you, and winter time for us down here in the Southern Hemisphere. Surely you and the Burton crew are ready for a product testing session on the Aussie and NZ mountains?
For sure! I know we’ve got a crew coming down that way soon. Mark McMorris, Danny Davis, Mikkel Bang and some of our Burton Girls are hitting the South Island of New Zealand soon to shoot our 2018 stuff. I might have to jump on a plane and come supervise and get in on it!

What's next for Greg Dacyshyn and for Burton?
Oh brother, everyday above ground is what’s next for me! I love my work and I love my life! This is our 40th anniversary for Burton, so we are looking to make some special noise around it. It’s really about exactly what it says on the front of our building, ‘You’ve gotta know where you’ve been, to know where you are going.” That doesn’t mean we’re going to just dwell on the whole heritage side of things but we acknowledge it and want to keep progressing so that’s a big thing for us this season. We’re never going to give up on what we are doing to progress the sport and innovate equipment. But there’s a bigger picture at Burton too, which is the whole fun lifestyle vibe and combining everyday functionality with a great aesthetic. When you see our new lifestyle jackets or fleece, they all compliment and amplify the Burton message. So in short we want to keep both the sport and lifestyle going for years to come.

*Imagery by Patrick Lennox Wright / Burton Snowboards