Mike Powell is a Seattle podcaster who delves into the stories and opinions of action-sports insiders and icons. Here’s why so many are tuning in to the Powell Movement. By Colin Wiseman.
Mike Powell’s big break came during a flip-cup tournament. At a private event at Mount Baker in Whatcom County, Washington, in 2007, he picked up the mic to do colour commentary on a flip-cup contest. By the time it was over, “I had like 10 jobs.” Powell says. At the time, the Washington, DC, native was working for K2 Skis. He’d been there since 2000 and would remain there until 2015, wearing a marketing cap for ski, inline, snowboard gear. But that impromptu MC moment at Baker spawned a new career direction that would crystallize in January 2017 with the launch of The Powell Movement podcast. “I feel like I’m best at live events,” Powell continues, “and I’ve done live events since 2008. I did the podcast to keep my name out there and stay in action sports, then it took off.”
Out of his home office in Seattle, Powell, 44, began by interviewing personal connections. Episode one was snowboard legend Jeremy Jones. He began to cover ground quickly—skier Jonny Moseley, mountain biker Jill Kintner, skateboarder John Cardiel, Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, and a collection of industry insiders across the action-sports landscape—and more subjects began to reach out. Powell mainly sticks to snow-related subjects in the winter, then branches out in the summer. The unifying thread? “I’m always interrogating people,” Powell explains. “I’m not afraid to ask the more difficult questions. That’s what people want to know, and that’s what I’m here for. I find the best podcasts are the ones where someone has a story with some level of struggle that they had to overcome.”
The podcast accounts for 70 per cent of Powell’s income at this point; he figures in a few years, it’ll be a full-time gig. “Once people realize the future’s in digital, it gets easy. In the next couple years, it’ll be smooth sailing,” Powell says. “It’s like Netflix for your ears. You get to on-demand whatever type of content you want.”
A year and a half in, Powell claims 5,000 to 7,000 listeners weekly and sponsorship from evo, RESQWATER, 10 Barrel Brewing, SPY Optic, and Outdoor Research. He says it’s still growing, and he feels that the action-sports world is home to enough diversity to keep it going for years to come. “You think all these athletes have similar stories, but I’ve found that every story is so different,” Powell says. “There are so many wrinkles in everyone’s lives. There are so many legends and icons that haven’t had their stories told in one place. The podcast is creating a history of action sports from the horse’s mouth, all in one spot.”