It’s absolutely pissing it down in Oslo for the World Snowboard Championship half pipe finals, and while it’s not so nice for the outdoor spectators, it’s ideal conditions for the experienced pipe rider. We’re here perched at the side of the pipe, watching anxiously to see whether our first question for Kelly Clark will be about her 15th consecutive win. The competition is fierce but Kelly clinches not only the inaugural WSC half pipe crown but also the TTR half pipe title and her 15th win in a row! She is certainly one of the top female pipe riders ever and a progressive force on the scene. But does she feel unbeatable right now?
Interview by Hannah Bailey
So Kelly you’ve just won the first WSC half pipe and your 15th consecutive win, do you feel unbeatable?
I don’t think of myself as unbeatable. I think it’s one run at a time and I achieve my own goals regardless of what everyone else is doing. I can’t help but be inspired, I got pushed more tonight by the level of women’s riding than I ever have. I think the girls were riding a lot better and I was happy to be in the mix with them and then on top of the podium after such a performance from everyone.
You talk of being inspired, which riders, past and present, have been an inspiration to your riding?
Queralt [Castellet] and Gretchen [Bleiler] push me more than anyone right now. Currently they do things that, when I watch, make me want to be a better snowboarder. But in the years passed, the people that influenced my riding the most, Anne Molin Kongsgaard, from Norway an old Burton rider and Nicola Thost. These two women probably impacted me more than anyone and really showed me what was possible in snowboarding. They broke the mold and I’m trying to break the mold as well!
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
I’ve had an incredible career, won and lost a fair scope of events, but I think the Olympics still stand out the most for me. Winning gold in Salt Lake when I was 18, my first Olympics and the first gold for USA. That was an incredible moment for me personally and for snowboarding. I think it made snowboarding acceptable in the mainstream. As an Olympic sport, not everybody can take their kids bobsleighing at the weekend but they can go snowboarding! It’s easy to relate to.
So are the 2014 Olympics your next focus?
I’m definitely thinking Sochi, it’s on the horizon and it’s my next big thing. Everything is now leading up to that, being that it’s only two years away. But more than anything the approach I’ve taken the last few years is to really try and be intentional. I think you get caught up and only do things based on what‘s going on around you. That’s why I have tried to progress the sport on my own terms. I’m going to continue to do so and hopefully in turn you’ll see me in Sochi.
Well you have definitely progressed the sport! Where are you going to push it next?
I definitely have some work to do with my backsides spins and cab spins. Frontside I’ve got on lock. I’ve been going doubles into airbags, but I don’t know at what point they’ll be ready for the snow.
How about some old school tricks?
If I could just get a method in there! Well, that’s the one good thing about the FIS. The mandatory straight air could see some methods!
So you scooted off to Japan over New Year, jealous! How did that come about?
We had a slow start to winter and a handful of pipe contests got postponed or cancelled in January. The day after Christmas, my Burton team mate, Kimmy Fasani called and was like, “Hey, want to go to Japan tomorrow?” I thought, I totally want to go! So we pulled the trigger and went and had an incredible time. They are having an all-time winter there. It snows somewhere every night and we had pow every day. Pow laps at 4pm riding back to the park, amazing!
Wow! Must be nice to have some non-competitive, out of the pipe riding time?
Japan was the best thing I could have done heading into the X Games. I had a month off so would have gone crazy had I a month to think about one event. I got to go ride pow, have fun and shoot some photos. Then back to train a little and get ready.
Ever feel like giving up the pipe, changing disciplines or becoming a freerider?
I love riding pow, and having that element so wouldn’t dream of giving it up. At the same time I truly love riding half pipe more than anything. I love it because it’s so unobtainable. I love snowboarding because it’s so unobtainable! As soon as you think you’ve done it, someone’s doing it also. You can never say, “I’ve mastered this” and pipe is like that for me. The unobtainable thing I continue to pursue.
If you weren’t a snowboarder, what would you be?
I’ve always joked that I’m the black sheep of my family because everyone skis and owns restaurants. So if I wasn’t snowboarding, I’d probably own a restaurant.
Well, we googled your name and there’s a Kelly Clark, crossword designer…
Haha, that’s not me.
If you could shred with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
So many big names, I always get stoked out riding with old pros. Earlier this season Kimmy Fasani, Elena Hight and I hooked up with Shannon Dunn and Anne Molin. I was taking photos and thought, “This is amazing.”
Finally, do you have any weird food combo suggestions?
I’d recommend a bacon and peanut butter sandwich. Works together somehow….
Kelly is sponsored by Burton