‘Sing Star’ interview with Silje Norendal

She’s been called the next Torah Bright but we prefer to think of her as the next Mikkel Bang. 17-year-old Norwegian ripper Silje Norendal has grown from a gangly grom to a confident pro snowboarder. We caught her on a down day to learn about the gritty details of life on the road, short school days, karaoke and Barbie tunes included

Words Posy Dixon, action photography by Matt George, courtesy of Roxy, lifestyle photography by Bella Howard

Tell us about where you grew up.
I’m from a small town called Kongsberg in Norway. There’s a really good ski resort right by the house I grew up in so I’ve been riding since I was four years old.

Who got you into riding so early?
It was actually my Mum as she’s really into snowboarding herself. It was her that bought me my first ever snowboard when I was super-young. She got one for me and one for her so we could have a mother-daughter thing to do. We started learning together at the same time.

Do you get to ride with her often now?
Nah, not really. She used to travel with me a lot, but I have so many people around me now I don’t really need my mum to accompany me. She still tries to make it out to one or two competitions a year though.

Did you ever rebel against being encouraged to snowboard and not want to ride?
No I’ve always been into it. It’s always been such a big part of my life and I’ve always loved going to the mountains. My brother, who’s ten years older then me, was always riding and skating too. He was one of those guys who was a really good skater but didn’t want anyone to notice him, he was just into skating with his friends not getting sponsored. But still growing up with him meant snowboarding and skating were always around me when I was younger.

So how did you first get hooked up with Sponsorship?
When I was 12 I did my first national championships in Norway. I wanted to compete sooner but you weren’t allowed to enter until you were 12. So when I was finally old enough I went and won everything you could compete in, pipe, slopestyle, big air, boarder cross, slalom, everything. Roxy called me up after that and then I did my first proper Roxy shoot when I was 13 with Erin Comstock, Lisa Filzmoser and Kjersti Buaas and the rest of the team. We went to Hemsedal in Norway and it was such a great trip.

Was that the trip where they made the Roxy podcast of you when you were super-young?
Yep… haha. I’m so embarrassed of that movie, my friends still post that on my Facebook wall every month just to remind everyone that it’s there. And you know on that shoot, everyone told me that the English word for riding was “driving”, so for ages I was using that, you know, saying “I’m going driving.” I think I used it until I was like 14 or 15.

So you go to snowboarding school in Norway. Do you have to be a good rider to get in or can anyone go there?
No, it’s not an option for everybody, you have to go through a week of riding with the school before you get in, kind of like a Pop Idol audition, but for snowboarding. You have to have good snowboard results to apply for the school, and you also have to have certain grades in your studies to get in, because the school is not just for snowboarders, it’s for all different sports. We do classes with football players and racers, all different athletes who study and train together. It’s pretty tough to get in to so I’m lucky to be there. We have the sickest schedule at school, during winter season we only have class from like eight until ten thirty, and then we go out riding.

Do you even get to be there though with all your travelling?
No to be honest, for instance I’m only going to be there for a month and a half from the start of this summer 2010 until Christmas. But it’s good because as soon as I do go home I can go riding with all the people at my school, all the snowboarders and my coach. And we have a lot of gym stuff too, strength and core training. I’m glad I’m there at the moment as school helps me to keep my life on track. I’m going to be there for the next year and a half or so and then after that I guess it’s just going to be a bunch of travelling.

Do you feel like your snowboarding career has led you to grow up pretty fast?
I’m surrounded by people who are much older than me, and it’s always been like that, I’ve always been the kid, way younger then everyone else. So of course you have to learn to take care of yourself, and learn how to do things like airports on your own, which makes you grow up faster. I definitely feel more grown up when I’m out travelling. But you know I still always love going back home and hanging out with friends my own age, just being normal and acting like a kid again.

What’s your favourite kind of riding?
Slopestyle definitely, I love slopestyle. I try to ride pipe as much as I can because I want to go to the Olympics in four years, so I guess to achieve that I’m going to have to keep riding that pipe for a while.

Girls’ park riding is improving at a pretty accelerated rate at the moment, what do you find the hardest thing about progressing in slopestyle?
The biggest block for me at the moment is fear. I mean the jumps are getting bigger and bigger, and I get scared and nervous about it.

How do you deal with that?
I always have my music on, I can’t ride without my music. I listen to really bad Barbie tunes, lots of crazy Barbie tunes and nothing else. I can listen to that stuff forever. It sounds crazy but I feel like if I have dumb happy music like that playing, bad things can’t happen, things can’t go wrong. You can’t find yourself lying in the landing half-dead with crazy Barbie music playing in your ears. There’s a lot of crappy Barbie doll music out there and I’ve got it all on my iPod, it’s my secret weapon.

You’re going out with Jossi Wells (World Champion freeskier), do you get a chance to ride with him much, or even get to see him much considering you both have such hectic schedules?
We had two weeks in Breckenridge this winter and it was great, such good fun. It’s not actually so bad because skier and snowboarder schedules aren’t that different, we have contests like the Dew Tour and the X games that we both get to go to. I also try to start my seasons in New Zealand, which is where he is with his family. I love it there, we stay in Wanaka and it’s so beautiful.

What are your goals for the 2011 season? Are you going to try and get some filming done or focus on comps?
I’m definitely going to some of the TTR events, I want to get high on the TTR, higher than I did this year, and I also want to do the Euro X Games again. But along with that I’m also going to try and film and do a lot more photo shoots this year. I really want to do that because right now I don’t have the pressure from my sponsors to enter all the competitions, so I want to take this chance to spend a lot more time on snow, learn some new tricks and progress as much as I can.

Do you enjoy competing?
I do like it, but I get really, really nervous, like really bad, especially just before my runs. I have to stand at the top sometimes and just breathe to calm myself down.

You did pretty well at the last X Games, how was that for you?
Europe 2010 was my first ever X Games, and it was a lot of fun, I had a great time. But I was definitely really nervous, it was a huge competition and there were a lot of people watching. I got fifth in slopestyle in the end so I was stoked, super-happy.

Ok, so to wrap this up, we’ve heard you’re pretty talented at karaoke, who’s at your dream karaoke party and what are you singing?
Haha oh god, yeah we were out last Saturday doing some karaoke in Saas Fee, we were singing a lot, it was pretty out of hand. I guess the dream team is me, Aimee (Fuller) and Basa (Stevulova), and yeah I wish we had had Lisa (Wiik) there too as she’s a wild one. We were doing Bad Day by Daniel Powter and we did So What by Pink too. We were loving it. Karaoke can be a lot of fun if you’re with the right people and us girls know how to have fun when we’re away together.

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