Wrestling, snowboarding and forest firefighting aren’t common paths for your typical entrepreneur, but it’s one that Marc Page took and the business owner and engaged community member wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The Loaded Sports owner and born-and-raised Rupertite has ventured down most walks of life, and every pit-stop has offered a little bit of a different life lesson or philosophy that to this day, he swears by.
It started with amateur wrestling in high school.
“I was in the paper quite a bit for wrestling [during the early ’90s]. I competed at the provincial level and ranked in [the top five] in B.C. in AA and AAA in my Grade 12 year,” said Marc last week.
But it wasn’t always glamorous and it wasn’t easy for Marc. It took three straight years of ending up on the wrong side of the mat for Marc to fine-tune himself into the driven individual he is today.
“It takes a lot to be a wrestler and lose a lot of matches … at some point when you’re in a wrestling match and you’re losing and you’re on your back, you can say ‘I give up’ or you can say ‘I’m going to fight with everything I’ve got’ and that’s the one thing I learned from wrestling,” said Marc of his formative years.
After graduating high school, Marc would go on to coach the sport for nine years to give back to wrestling after it guided him through so much.
“At times, we had great teams and great athletes come through and I really miss it because it kept me in shape too,” he added.
It wasn’t an immediate transition to extreme sports or opening up Loaded in downtown Prince Rupert either. It started with a unique viewpoint of the tough times Rupert would go through in the early 2000s.
“I graduated as the town slowed down. A lot of people left our community because of the pulp mill crash and … I was working at the credit union doing collections at that time and the economy was so bad here, there was no work for people to sustain their mortgage payments so people were dropping off the keys to their homes saying ‘I’ve got to go to Alberta, it’s the only way for me to survive anymore’,” said Page.
That’s when Marc was introduced to snowboarding, the most active sport he takes part in to this day.
“My cousin got me into snowboarding when I was a teenager … when I graduated I was able to do my coaching and go snowboarding [living out of Terrace], and I was starting to go 20 or 30 days of the season to Shames Mountain and that’s when I became extremely addicted to the adrenaline rush you get,” he said.
“It’s like when you’re going fast downhill like on a roller coaster or on a winding road in a car, with snowboarding you’re able to control that feeling at high speeds and with smooth finesse. Just slashing some snow and watching it fly or grabbing air off a cliff. And on a perfect day, the landings don’t hurt if you wipe out.”
Marc was bitten by the extreme sports bug, but through his days shredding the mountains, picking up ice hockey and a fateful day out on the water riding a tube behind a speed-boat Marc damaged his knees.
“They say play within your limits when it comes to gambling and technically when it comes to extreme sports, you’re gambling with your life, so there’s always a risk when you’re pushing your limits,” he said.
Riding a device that was pulled off the market two weeks later, Marc caught 20 feet of air on the ocean in an inner tube and rode the high for 15 seconds before it started spinning out of control, flipping him over and slamming him back down to the water.
Coupled with an awkward fall in ice hockey, his knees have never been the same. And it was because of the knees, mixed with his asthma, that after six summers of fighting forest fires in the early 2000s, Marc had to call it quits even though it was his dream to save lives.
“I originally wanted to be a structural firefighter and I thought this would be a good way to get in, but in the end I’m not the best person for a firefighting career if I’ve got asthma … and the job is in such demand that there’s someone better-suited for it than me,” said Marc.
“It was awesome. It was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. You get to travel Canada and see so much terrain that I would have never had the opportunity to see – back roads and canyons and rivers and waterfalls and lakes and swimming holes.”
It was also through that career that he first developed his brainchild of Loaded.
“Forest firefighting, when you’re out there you have lots of time to think. So I was thinking of opening up a store – I had a name picked out and I drew a logo and I came back to Rupert in the fall of 2004,” he said.
Through his mom’s retail experience owning property and ordering product through catalogues, Marc had the necessary know-how and knew the right companies to talk to to get skateboard and snowboard brands into his store. These companies wouldn’t sell their product to just anyone: The shops had to be specifically related to the extreme sporting enthusiast.
“We opened up right before Christmas and it was a success right off the bat. Rupert hadn’t seen a skateboard shop that had lasted more than six months,” he said.
After three years, Marc bought the building and is slowly revitalizing it for expansion.
Through Loaded, Marc also organizes and sponsors a plethora of skateboarding and snowboarding contests and competitions for the area youth and is adamant the entry fee be $0.
“My philosophy when I came into the business was if I was going to try to make money off this sport, I had to give back,” he said.
Marc encourages his posse to record their stunts on video and be creative with his boards. That has blossomed into a community of extreme sport enthusiasts.
Lately, Marc has offered up his opinion on the future of recreation in Prince Rupert with a seat on the city’s rec commission and has helped ensure the civic centre be transformed into a safe haven for boarders and anyone looking to get active on Friday and Saturday nights with free entry into the building.
“A quote I picked up from my teenage years is ’99 per cent of life is what you make it’ … I understand everyone is born with different situations and different hardships but we all have to overcome something,” said Marc.
“I just hope that all these kids facing challenges these days …. try to realize they have a choice on how they want to live their lives and I want to help these guys out and get them in the right direction because that’s what I had – good guidance. I had people to get me where I needed to go and progress and learn and develop. I just feel obligated to give back.”