Jonathan Weaver: A Tribute To Grilo
In this moving and heartfelt piece, Jonathan Weaver pays tribute to a rider who inspired more than one generation.
Two weeks ago, the snowboarding world lost one of the good guys. There’s just no easy way to get your head around it. It wasn’t supposed to happen to him, and it wasn’t supposed to happen now. This is one of the cruellest things the snowboarding family has ever experienced.
Marko Grilc (or ‘Grilo’ as everybody called him) was one of those guys who would always just radiate positivity, no matter where he went or who he was with. His smile, his laugh and his energy all combined to make him one of those people you just wanted to be around. It didn’t matter if you’d known him for 20 years or for 20 minutes. He offered that same warm positivity to everybody.
When the snowboarding history book that documents our corner of the world is written, Grilo will be an integral part of the story. As a professional, his exemplary work ethic saw him land video parts with The Pirates, Burton and Standard Films and, of course, in 91 Words For Snow. Whatever the project, Grilo was always putting out the best content in his own style. I’ll never tire of hearing his infectious laugh, or see him explain that he was the first Slovenian to ‘ride a snow mobile’ (which yes, is definitely two words).
One of the clearest memories I have of Grilo is from the 2009 Air and Style in Innsbruck. This is always a big one for Marko’s long-term sponsor Burton. You can pretty much see the office from the top of the drop-in. At the time snowboarding had been progressing at an amazing rate, and the line-up of that year’s contest featured what was essentially a Who’s Who of legendary riders. Think Gigi Ruff, Travis Rice, Torstein, Eero Etalla, Peetu and Andreas Wiig.
In typical Grilo style he wasn’t even on the start list, getting drafted in to replace somebody else who got injured. Up against that all-star line-up, he went to work, putting down a backside 1080 double cork, a switch backside 1080 double cork and a double wildcat to reel in the field one by one and win the whole damned thing.
That was one of those nights where you knew something special was unfolding before your eyes. You were just stoked that one of the good guys had won, especially as it’s the kind of scenario we all dreamed of as a kid. “You ready to ride? We’ve got a spot for you!" To see Marko grab that opportunity with both hands and make it his own sums up his riding career really well.
And yet, as we now realise, it’s where he went next that has saw him come into his own as a truly influential snowboarder.
I remember in the early 2010s hearing that Nina, his girlfriend, was pregnant, and wondering how he would balance the travel involved with being a pro snowboarder with the demands of being a young father. As a Dad, it's difficult enough being away for a night or two with work, but entire winters spent on the road are just part of the deal if you want to be a pro snowboarder.
Somehow, Nina and Marko made it work. He continued to put out content, make video parts and began mentoring many of the young riders we now see at the top today. A few years later, when his kids Max and Emma began to ride, Grilo’s new purpose shone through even more clearly. The videos they put out, showing this wonderful little family travelling the world together, snowboarding and having fun, with Grilo as the captain of the ship, were amazing and inspirational.
Above all, he made it cool to be a Dad. He made it so damned cool. He made it so aspirational to be a father that it inspired many of us to take that next step ourselves. After all, if Grilo and Nina could pull it off, then maybe we could too. I just hope he realised the impact he had on so many of us. Over the last few years, the messages we swapped on Instagram were all focussed on stuff like what size kit the kids should run, where he got that Star Wars helmet for Max, how old Emma was when she started. He replied to every single one of them and I’m pretty sure he was that helpful with everybody. Indeed, I’m confident he’s done more than anybody else in his position to get kids and families snowboarding together.
This week has been a very hard one for all those people close to him. But it has also shown the esteem and affection in which people across the world held Marko. I’ve had messages from people who never met him, saying his videos helped them through some very dark times when they first became parents themselves, and other messages from well known pros saying their own parents were distraught, as Grilo had reminded them daily about special moments in their own lives.
I think his legacy will live on every time we see families going snowboarding together. I know it will with my own family, and personally I’ll try to live up to the example he’s set for all of us, which is to spread the word about the sport we love, to share it with those we care about and those friends we haven’t yet met.
We’re sending all our love to Nina, Max, Emma, his family and friends.
Thank you Grilo. You inspired generations.
Marko’s friends have set up a fund to support Nina, Max, Emma and their next baby on the way. Click here to donate.