Life outside being a Zag: Out on the road and the cable

  • Will Stephan: This triple-sponsored skateboarder and Chicago native can be seen chillin around campus in his wolf shirt and cutoffs.

  • Mackenzie Pavlik: A fear of heights is no problem for this zag. Zip lining hundreds of feet up in the air through the Alaskan wilderness is a normal day at work.


This Zag flys high

This Zag flys high

Will is majoring in Communications and minoring in Spanish

Me: Tell me about how you started skateboarding?

Will: I started skating in 8th grade when I received my first long board for a graduation present. That entire summer my three friends and I skated day and night. We explored our town and even started to film our own videos. We named our first ever video “Guapo Longboarding.” We decided to name it Guapo after our Spanish teachers dog who we had all come to love. So from then on, my three and I were known as Guapo boarding. Once we released our final video at the end of August 2009, we sent it to the company Original Skateboards. The owners loved the video and offered us the very first spot on their up and coming junior team. I have now been with Original Skateboard for 5 years now.

Me: What does your sponsorship mean for your career?

Will: Currently I am a Team Rider for Original Skateboards, Bustin Wheels, and RDVX Griptape. As a sponsored rider I travel around the world to competitions and produce videos to represent the companies products. I receive all my skateboard equipment free of charge in exchange for advertising and skating each companies product. I am lucky enough to have my travel expenses covered by my sponsors as well. I would not be able to be where I am today without the help of Original, Bustin, and RDVX. Thanks guys!!

Me: What are some up coming events that you’re looking forward to this summer?

Will: This summer I am traveling around the Midwest hitting up as many local events as possible. But starting July 25th, I am packing up the car and I am headed on tour to 4 of the biggest freeride events of the season. These include Giants Head Freeride, (Summerland, B.C.) Cathlamet Downhill Corral, (Cathlamet, Washington) Switchback Attack, (Portland, OR) and Boomtown (Eugene, OR). Coming along to accompany me for the ride are my roommates Mike Orcutt and Charlie Marks! In between each event we will be driving all around the Pacific Northwest and camping in some of the gnarliest places out there such as Banff National Park, Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Rainer National Park, Crater Lake, and The Redwood Forests. It is going to be a stellar trip for sure!

Me: Can you tell me about some accomplishments that you have had?

Will: My most recent accomplishment happened this past April when I was in California to film and compete in Muir Skate’s Downhill Disco (Will appears in 0:46, 1:45 with his winning jump, and 2:15 of the video). It was a rad event and I was lucky enough to snag 2nd place in the big air competition. I also was in New York City over spring break shooting a video for Originals new board, the Arbiter Double Kick. It was an epic week of sight seeing and thrashing around the city! The video is still in the works but hopefully should be public within the next few weeks.

Will shredding it up at the Downhill Disco

Will shredding it up at the Downhill Disco

Me: How does your skateboarding career blend with you ZAG life? Do you skate in Spokane?

Will: My skateboarding career blends in with my ZAG life very well. This year my friend Benton Waterous started the first Gonzaga Skateboard Club. I was elected Vice President and due to Benton’s absence next semester while he is in China studying abroad, I will be President. I am really looking forward to help develop the club into a fun, easy-going environment where anyone can come and skate around the Spokane area. When it comes to skating around campus, I really like to skate all around. There are some fun features on all ends of campus so it never gets old. As for the surrounding area, I usually head out toward the Valley, South Hill, or CDA. CDA has some killer runs that are a dream to skate; 15 minutes long, 50 mph, and beautiful scenery.

Me: I heard you have a hotline job answering skateboarding questions?

Will: I work as a customer service representative for Original. When a customer is surfing Original’s website, a chat box pops up asking them if they have any questions about a board or their existing order and I am the guy who answers their questions for them! So if anyone needs any help or has questions about their board hit me up and I would be glad to help.

Me: What is your favorite thing about skateboarding?

Will: My favorite thing about skating is how free it is. There truly are no rules and you can skate however you would like, whenever, and wherever. There is also something about riding that is very serene and I will always refer back to its calming nature.

Me: Any funny stories or wisdom you’ve gained for skateboarding?

Will: It doesn’t matter if you are sponsored or just stepped on a board for the first time, you will always fall, especially in embarrassing places! For example, I ate it in front of a group of 15 girls on the first day of freshman year hahaha.


Will comfortable out on the road


Mackenzie reppin the ZAGS while on the job

Mackenzie reppin the ZAGS while on the job

Mackenzie is studying Public Relations with minor in Art specializing in ceramics

Me: When was your first time zip lining?

Mackenzie: My first time zip lining was my first day of training! I admit being a bit scared that first day, asking myself, “how in the world will I be able to lead others to do this when I can’t even open a double locking carabineer to hook myself to the line?” But just like anything, with good teachers, support, and lots and lots of practice anything is possible.

Me: What was training like?

Mackenzie: Training is intense. I remember being exhausted after the 8, 8-hour training days last summer. We practice guiding fake tours with our supervisors being complete jerks, preparing us for the worst possible ‘real’ tour. We have to become familiar with gear names for a written test. Then, we have practical test that consists of a full-length tour that focuses on safety, speed, and engagement with the participants. However, the most important part (and the part we continue practicing throughout the entire season) is the scenarios that hopefully never happen. Less serious ones consist of trolly exchanges. These are likely to happen if a glove or clothing item gets caught between the trolly and cable. The most serious one would be if someone were to become unconscious in the middle of the line. We are taught what to do and how to handle these extremely rare scenarios. (That has never happened by the way. But we do have to lower people down from the platforms occasionally due to extreme fear).

Me: What are your responsibilities as a zip line guide?

Mackenzie: Responsibilities consist of daily inspections of the two zip line courses prior to the first tour, 1,2,or 3 two hour tours, and “clean up” which consists of taking down a “DEUS” which enables one of the courses to have a rappel. (The guides take turns for the early course inspection shifts) Then, the responsibilities really are more like roles that a guide has to play that can change with each tour. I joke and have a bit of fun with groups that are comfortable with heights and, for the most part, are ready for whatever the tour brings. Then, other times I am an encourager or even a therapist, easing people on and off the line who are scared out of their minds. There are old and young participants alike, and I try to read each of the groups to see what they are most interested in whether it is facts about Alaska or just a smiling, energetic tour guide.

Suspension bridge on the zip line course

Suspension bridge on the zip line course

Me: Do you have any funny or exciting stories while being a guide?

Mackenzie: Quite honestly it is the people I meet, the other guides I work with and the diversity of participants that create the most worthwhile stories. Every summer, one of the cruise ships has a cruise specifically for Gays. A “Gay cruise.” The tours for this cruise ship were coveted. I was lucky enough to be able to guide a tour from this ship and I realized why they were so coveted; not only do they tip well, but it was a blast to guide for them!! As an added bonus, they smelled really good and a couple even had color-coordinated outfits.

Me: How does your ZAG life and your guide life blend?

Mackenzie: Being a Zag means a lot. I live it. I love it. I am able to visit with some of the older participants who are interested in my future with talk about Gonzaga and the shared values I have with my school. But I can also engage the younger ages with stories of jam-packed, energy-filled basketball games or just be that fellow college kid that has just as much life to live as other college kids who come zip lining and are stoked to be outside in this moment doing something epic.


No big deal, just striking a pose in the rain

No big deal, just striking a pose hanging from a cable in the rain




Categories: Lifestyle

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