Toby Miller on being Shaun White’s protege and the future of snowboarding

Toby Miller got his first snowboard when he was just six years old. In the two years that followed, he took so well to the sport that his parents packed their bags and moved from Southern California to the mountains of Lake Tahoe so he could snowboard all winter. A move that, at the time, likely left many of his classmates (and their parents) scratching their head.

Fast forward five years later and Miller not only proved to his peers the move upstate was warranted, but he started getting the attention of the entire snowboarding industry. At 13, Miller competed at the United States Snowboard Association’s National Championships, nabbing first place in the halfpipe competition. Over the next five years, the rising star picked up a slew of big-name sponsors from brands like Burton, Billabong, Capita, and Bonfire, to name a few.

The award wins kept flowing in, as well. Be it the FIS Junior World Championships or the Revolution tour, Miller consistently found himself gracing the halfpipe podium. It should come as no surprise then that today, many dub the young snowboarder (and Red Bull athlete) “the next Shaun White.” Given the fact that he’s spent the past two years traveling the world with the snowboarding icon, the comparison is spot-on — and despite a 14-year age gap, Miller considers White and him to be “best friends.”

Digital Trends caught up with Miller after his runs at the Burton US Open in Vail — viewable via Red Bull TV — to talk about what snowboarding gear he uses, where he thinks the industry is headed, and what it feels like to be best friends with a snowboarding legend.


Digital Trends: As a professional athlete, what relationship does your gear play to your performance when competing?

Toby Miller: It’s one of the biggest components when it comes to being a competitive snowboarder. As athletes we need the highest functioning gear — we aren’t going to be riding the boards they’re renting out at rental shops. We have to have the highest level boards our companies make to allow us to do the crazy maneuvers we have to do. Simply put, the most important part of being a snowboarder is definitely your snowboard.

“One of the biggest components, when it comes to being a competitive snowboarder, [is our snowboard]. As athletes we need the highest functioning gear.”

Which technical qualities are most important to you in a snowboard?

In terms of must-haves, when I compete in the halfpipe, I ride a camber snowboard and I like it to be stiff. When you’re going through the flat bottom and you have to go through that transition, you don’t feel the bumps as much. You just power through them and you don’t really feel the little things you might feel if your board was flexible. If I’m going out just to ride the powder or the park, sometimes it’s fun to have a softer board. It could even be a reverse camber because they’re fun to play around on.

If you were to wave a magic wand and design your perfect snowboard, what would it look like?

It would be a camber board, my size, and stiff enough to do what we have to do in the half-pipe. It would have the highest quality base out there so it could go fast in any type of condition the weather has to throw at you. And I definitely want it to be lighter, just so you can do these tricks that we have to do without it getting in the way.

How have you seen technology change since you started snowboarding?

Snowboards have gone from a traditional snowboard shape to the whole powder board where it looks almost like a surfboard. But the biggest change I’ve noticed in the industry is probably helmets and goggles. They’re really working on technology to keep athletes safe. When it comes to goggles, these companies are investing in better lenses so when it’s sunny out, they have the best lens possible for the sun or flat light lenses for the contrast in snow. A lot of companies are using Zeiss, which was a company originally making camera lenses, so they can have the highest quality out there.

Red Bull

Have you tried the electro-chromic ones with the push button?

I haven’t but they sound amazing. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed, though. Goggle companies and manufacturers have just basically been trying to beat each other out for the best goggle. I mean, look at Oakley. They put a camera in one of their goggles just to see what it’d be like.

And honestly, one of the craziest changes from when snowboarding started to where it is today is boots. If you look back, guys were wearing Sorels — they didn’t even have snowboarding boots. Companies were coming out with new technologies for how to tie your boots or put clamps on your boots so you don’t need binding straps.

Just seeing people sitting on the chairlift with their board connected directly to their boot — it’s pretty crazy to see that happening. For the person who just wants to go ride the mountain or go ride powder, I imagine that’s pretty amazing.

Do you see it sticking? What have you heard people in your world saying about step-ins making a comeback?

On the competitive side, I don’t know if it’s going to play a huge role because it kind of adds one more risk for us if we throw a trick. What if our foot rips out of our binding? We’d have to adapt to that technology on our side of the sport. But if you’re just going out to ride some powder or ride the mountain, I could definitely see it taking off and can see more companies come out with technology similar to that.

Red Bull

Ten years from now, what do you think snowboards are going to look like? What technology are we going to see that we don’t have now?

Honestly, in 10 years I don’t think you’ll see much difference just by looking at them. I think it’s going to be more what goes into them. You’re going to notice companies using higher quality materials to make them quicker, or break less, or move faster, or lighter.

It all comes down to playing to the consumer. Companies will start creating a snowboard where if you want to compete in slopestyle, here’s your board. Or compete in halfpipe, here’s your board. Breaking down what the athletes want and creating something to sell to the consumer.

It’s our understanding that you used to ride in Shaun White’s private halfpipe?

Yeah, I’ve been riding with Shaun since I was about 12 or 13 years old.

Red Bull

How did you guys meet? And how is he as a mentor?

I was training in Tahoe for the ’14 Olympics and I got invited to come ride with him. I was super young but I went over and rode with him a couple times and we slowly built a relationship. The next year, he invited me to come to Australia and ride a private halfpipe GoPro built for him. So, I went and our relationship just kept getting stronger and stronger. These last two years we basically traveled around the world together and became best friends.

He’s been the best mentor you could ask for, too. He’s the greatest halfpipe rider of all time so being able to ride with him and observe how he trains — it’s amazing. You really see his passion for the sport and why he’s been so successful.

People have compared you to him, calling you “the next Shaun White.” I imagine he must see a bit of himself in you. Do you think it’s nostalgic for him to see you coming up and passing the torch, in a way?

Oh, I hope so. I mean, I love riding with him. It would mean the world to me to follow in those footsteps.

Emerging Tech

This 21-year-old’s 3D-printed aquatic jetpack makes scuba fins look prehistoric

For his final year Product Design class at university, Archie O’Brien built a 3D printed underwater jetpack. And very soon he hopes he'll be able to sell you your very own version.

That’s not Nathan Fillion’s voice you hear as Cayde-6 in ‘Destiny 2: Forsaken’

It turns out Cayde-6 wasn't voiced by actor Nathan Fillion in the Destiny 2: Forsaken trailer. Fillion was unable to reprise his role for the DLC, so Nolan North, the voice of Ghost, stepped in for Fillion.
Emerging Tech

Pilot’s sneaky puff on his e-cigarette causes chaos on passenger plane

A relaxing smoke turned out to be anything but for an Air China pilot last week. An effort to prevent the vapor from reaching the cabin ended up causing chaos on the jet, with the incident ultimately costing the pilot his job.
Emerging Tech

This spider robot moves around to keep the plant on its head alive

Inspired by a dead sunflower, the founder of the robotics company Vincross modified his company's spider-like robot so that it could care for plants by moving to the sun and monitoring water levels.

Will Antonio Brown fall victim to the Madden Curse?

Join us as we take a tour through the long-running history of the Madden Curse -- and Tom Brady's recent accolades. We all know John Madden is a longtime NFL talent, but is he also an agent of dark forces?

Everything you need to know about ‘Madden NFL 19’

Madden NFL 19 arrives on PS4, Xbox One, and PC August 10. This year's iteration of the football sim adds much desired features for popular modes such as franchise and Ultimate Team and brings the return of the Longshot story mode.

'Alto's Odyssey' will be available for Android on July 26

Alto's Odyssey -- the sequel to Alto's Adventure -- takes Alto from the snowy climes to the majestic desert. Originally available for iOS, the infinite runner will soon be available for Android as well.
Emerging Tech

World’s first VR-augmented waterslide is totally unnecessary, but also amazing

An amusement park in Germany unveiled the world's first waterslide that requires riders to wear a virtual reality headset. Here's what went into making this waterlogged VR dream a reality.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Movies & TV

15 epic sci-fi novels you should read before they become blockbuster films

You can get ahead of the next crop of science-fiction movies coming out of Hollywood by picking up the books that inspired them. We compiled a list of books you can add to your reading list now to get a glimpse of the future.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in July 2018, from ‘Coco’ to ‘Jurassic Park’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Smart Home

A.I.’s humorous side: The funniest things to ask Alexa

Amazon's Alexa voice assistant has a wide repertoire of funny responses, jokes, and hidden replies that you can have fun with. Here are the best funny things to ask Alexa, and examples of what her responses are.

Win the new Square Off Kingdom Set automated smart chess board

The all-new Square Off Kingdom Set "smart" chess board takes this centuries-old game into the 21st century, letting you play against AI or compete with millions of players from all around the world -- and it even moves the pieces for you.
Movies & TV

M. Night Shyamalan debuts 'Glass' trailer teasers ahead of Comic-Con

M. Night Shyamalan is getting back behind the camera for Glass, his crossover film that connects the stories and characters from his 2000 superhero film Unbreakable with his 2016 thriller Split. Here's what we know about the movie.

Samsung’s moon-hopping VR experience in NYC is like space camp for adults

For the next year, Samsung will let you simulate walking on the moon, thanks to the Gear VR, Galaxy S9 Plus, and a complicated harness system that was developed in partnership with NASA.
Emerging Tech

Bright idea: Keep your gadgets juiced up with these stellar solar chargers

Looking for a gizmo that can help you charge your phone while on the go? Here, we've outlined the best solar chargers on the market, whether you're looking to charge your phone once, twice, or three times over.

The AllTrails app gets even better, adds more details in new map layer

AllTrails updated its app with an all-new map layer that is easier to read, more clearly defines state and national parks around the world, and offers more points of interest for hikers.

Sleep anywhere with this tent designed to conquer land, sea, and air

The Tentsile Universe is a new tent designed to bring versatility to the campsite. It can be set up like a traditional model and accommodate five campers, suspended from a tree, or converted into a floating raft.

Lyft wants to partner with cities to add bike and scooter sharing

Lyft announced a multi-mode transportation plan to bring bike and scooter sharing to cities. To kick off the new initiative Lyft will invest $1 million to help nonprofits establish income eligible transportation programs.
Emerging Tech

Man vs. machine: An A.I. algorithm attempts to break a world speed record

A new machine learning algorithm created at Switzerland’s EPFL is being used to design what its creators hope is the world's fastest bicycle. It will attempt a world record later this year.

‘Part coat, part science experiment,’ a jacket made of graphene is on the way

Outdoor performance apparel manufacturer Vollebak announced it will release a jacket made from graphene later this summer, marking one of the first times the material has been used in clothing.

Dirt-cheap camping gear that’s actually worth spending your money on

Buying new camping gear can get very expensive, but these products offer great performance without breaking the bank, proving that you don't need to buy name brand equipment to have a good time in the backcountry.

The best Amazon Prime Day smartwatch deals (updated)

Amazon Prime Day is upon us, and that means deals, deals, deals. We've been scouring through endless pages on Amazon looking for the best, and we've rounded up a good list of smartwatch deals if you're looking for one.