WHY I: OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST SNOWBOARDER JAMIE ANDERSON
I’m at the LAAX European Open Switzerland, a definitive stop on the World Snowboard Tour at the home of snowboard freestyle, LAAX. Attracting the biggest names on the global tour, the LAAX Open has long been one of the most critical and enjoyed stops of the tour, with the riders stoking out on LAAX, which was purpose built for snowboarders. It’s incredible facilities include the world’s biggest halfpipe, indoor training hubs, and of course, the unparalled and stunning riding terrain. I’m here to see for myself the incredible highs snowboarding has come to in this leg of the European Open, and to chat to none other than slopestyle QUEEN, the reigning Olympic Gold slopestyle medallist, the incredible Miss Jamie Anderson.
A name that reached the mainstream consciousness following her crowning glory of winning the first ever slopestyle snowboarding competition at the last winter Olympics in Sochi Russia, 5 time X Games gold medallist, World Champion and all-round bastion of positivity, Jamie Anderson is a name both synonymous with being at the forefront of progression in snowboarding, and always doing it with an infectiously rad positive energy and unrelenting stoke and smiles. After taking a podium spot at LAAX, I headed off with Jamie to chow down on some well-earned pad Thai and talk snowboarding, successes, mindfulness and what is next for the 10 year dominant force in women’s snowboarding.
If there is ever an athlete that not just is a beacon of showing what hard work and tenacity, combined with an unrelenting, clear, earnest, and honest love of her sport, it’s Tahoe-native Jamie Anderson. 26 year old Jamie has been been a stalwart of competitive snowboarding the last decade. With her list of never-ending accolades, including of course, her Olympic Gold Medal in the last winter Olympics in Russia, Jamie has enjoyed a career of which her hard work and honest love for her sport has been steadily reflected in her haul of bullion in her trophy and medal cabinet. Reflecting that she is “extremely thankful that I found snowboarding at such a young age…it’s the number one passion of my life. And it’s so fun because you have that fire to keep going and pursuing."
It’s clear that when talking to Jamie, it isn’t just competitive drive that has propelled her to such successful heights, but heck, it’s her genuine love of strapping onto her board and riding which is her driving force. I wondered what, after such a long and steadily rewarding career which sees her on the top of podiums regularly some 10 years down the line, continues to spur her on, to motivate her, when she has conquered every competitive challenge on the snowboarding circuit? “I think just personal perseverance. My own challenges that I have, and trying to overcome them and not...let fear get in the way...I’ve been competing for like a solid 10 years, but I’m always inspired to learn more, grow, try new shit and progress, so I think that’s kind of the motivation to continue to do it.”
Many of us, when approaching a competitive sport, or any challenge for that matter, can focus on the want of that success and end goal. Sage advice from the Olympic Champion, who suggests that:
“Instead of thinking about just being successful, think about finding something that really lights your heart on fire and makes you stoked to wake up every day and pursue it."
Seeing the unrelenting smile on her face when she is at the top of the park of any competition, it’s clear snowboarding sets Jamie’s heart on fire, and that these could be wise words to follow. There are of course, challenges, difficult moments and testing times, especially in the fast-paced world of competitive sport. What, I ask, does she do in those moments, to move past them? “Those moments when you’re feeling discouraged or challenged… (I) usually try go back to gratitude, thinking of how lucky I am to get to do this and be in Switzerland, or Colorado, or wherever I’m at on the planet…I think that an attitude of gratitude is pretty powerful...remembering to stay humble and thankful for all the gifts”.
"Learning to not let get your head in the way, women are like…we got crazy minds (laughs) so learning to…embrace that feminine power, but not let it… make me afraid, because that’s the only thing holding me back”.
This makes me smile, for there is a beauty in our innate “feminine power” as Jamie attests, which surely when harnessed, makes us unstoppable forces. I love Jamie for showing that to be at the top of your game in a sport, and not just from a female perspective, but both perspectives, it doesn’t have to be about being a testosterone charged individual. Jamie embraces this feminine energy, and in my opinion, this is a critical, and highly important, influential ideal to share with women, with young girls, showing that it is possible to embrace this and be a champion, why the heck not?
Standing at the side of the slopestyle competitive at the LAAX open, it is clear to me, having worked in the action sports industry for some 12 years now, that women’s snowboarding is at an incredible juncture, whereby the athletes are embracing this power, where they are bonded by a love of their sport, of genuinely supporting each other and of welcoming progressive raw talent to the game. It feels electric right now in women’s snowboarding, and Jamie is in the thick of it, agreeing that "Oh my gosh, it’s really cool... it has changed so much in the last couple of years with girls just getting inspired and tapping into their power and realising what they are capable of. I think the number one thing that limits us is the mind and fear of course, but once you see your friends, going through and persevering with challenges, it is so enlightening.”
Younger girls looking to start a career in competitive snowboarding have some pretty powerful role models like Jamie Anderson to look up to at this point in time. Though a difficult industry to truly make it to the top, Jamie shares some meaningful advice to younger girls, suggesting that :
"Make sure you’re down for the cause, have fun, be around good people that lift you up and trust yourself… Listen to your intuition most importantly. Don’t try too hard. Don’t listen to what other people say. Listen to yourself. “
Seeing Jamie on the podium with first place rider, the insanely talented Finish rider Enni Rukajarvi, and hot-new talent and new podium regular, Anna Gasser, cheering them on with genuine happiness for their successes, it is apparent that this field of support in women’s snowboarding is a powerful and potent field.
Sitting with Jamie’s boyfriend, fellow rider and podium-placer, American Tyler Nicholson, I ask Jamie is she equally inspired by riding with her boyfriend? “He definitely inspired me a lot when we first started dating he was the first one to really encourage me to do a lot of the new tricks I tried just because he had that belief…having someone give you that courage is what we need the most. Just having someone actually believe in me, then I’m like yeah, I guess this is possible .and I can do it.”
With so many podium spots and so many wins, I wonder what in Jamie’s illustrious career has stood out as a moment that has perhaps meant the most to her? “Getting to go ride Alaska even though it wasn’t obviously a contest, it was just to shred, it was so empowering just to be able to fight my fears and not be discouraged…the mountains are so powerful and it just inspires me to keep charging and even if it is not a competitive realm, snowboarding has so many different realms… it’s not all about double corks or 1080s and the Olympics…
"It’s just about being your true self and having fun and living for the moment and charging. Namaste!”.
With athletes like Jamie who have had such sustained and enduring success (when measured in terms of wins), I wonder what therefore can be defined as success to her now, and what are her hopes for the future? “I look at older people and think I just think success is measured in happiness and groundedness and being…stoked on life every day, regardless of the situation. Practicing that, (and) not being attached to always winning or doing a certain trick, just being okay with what what is, living in the moment, and embracing what is. I hope to just like continue having fun hopefully land some new progressive tricks and make them look fossy and flow and with grace and then I want to make some films… I want to make some really cool like documentary films travelling around to cool places connecting culture, lifestyle and just spreading the love and epic vibes. I’m so thankful to be in this epic industry...and the people in snowboarding…we are really lucky”.
Even though Jamie is one of the most successful athletes ever to hail from the US, and whilst it could seem hard to relate to a champion of her level, I love having explored Jamie’s honest motivations, stoke, and love of her sport, and how, just like many of us when a snow day comes, she “just love(s) bundling up and being in the mountains. I’m definitely a mountain girl at heart I grew up in northern California just outside of lake Tahoe and we used to just jump off roofs into powder...
"Still to this day I’m 26 and I still go play in the snow every day and it’s so fun, it brings me so much joy".
With thanks to Jamie Anderson, the LAAX Open and Canoe INC.
Stay tuned for the next WHY I interview!