Photo left: Dan Milner
Eagle-eyed readers will know we’ve had Jenny Jones on the cover before, but we couldn’t let the first British X Games Medal ever, of any sex, sail by unnoticed now could we? Nope. And this time we got another UK snowboard legend and Olympian Lesley McKenna to have, in her words, “a wee chat" with her
Jenny Jones found snowboarding later than most top class riders. She burst on to the GB scene back in 1999 after doing a season in Tignes as a chalet girl. She turned up in Laax for the British Snowboard Champs, and impressed everyone there by smoothly executing a perfect back flip on the big booter. I remember it distinctly, and as I knew she’d had barely a few months on snow at the time I was very stoked on her back flip and her desire to perform in the contest. I have watched her take this desire for a great performance and build up a large collection of prestigious wins in all the top contests, including the TTR . She’s developed one of the most progressive styles out there in women’s freestyle snowboarding both in contests and also in the backcountry. As I watched Jenny stand at the top of the X Games slopestyle in Aspen last season, memories of her back flip that day in Laax came to mind and I knew that Jenny was capable of the performance needed to win. I wasn’t the only one who was proud of her when she did.
I caught up with Jenny for a chat in New Zealand where she was still buzzing after the season of her life.
Lesley: I like to ask people, especially competitive snowboarders, what their first memory of adrenaline was. I’m often surprised by what people say. Usually people fall in to one of two camps, either their first memory of adrenaline was in a contest or doing some dare devil stunt. Jenny: I must have been about six years old and I remember building rope swings in the forest with my family, up in the trees. Then I would have to launch off and swing out. I was terrified but I still remember the buzz I got from that. It’s just the same feeling I get from riding a big kicker today. I love it.
Lesley: What about competing in sports, did you compete in all the sports you did as a youngster? Jenny: I remember loving school sports day, especially the running race. I felt it was my chance to shine, as I was about average at all other school things. I also competed in gymnastics at school.
Lesley: What did you learn from being a gymnast? Jenny: That you lose points for picking your leotard out your bum while doing your floor routine! And I was good at elephant lifts.
Lesley: What on earth are they? Not lifting elephants I guess? Jenny: They are really hard. You have to go from sitting on the floor with your legs spread wide to a handstand in one move and back down again, but you are not allowed to put your bum back on the ground in between. I’m sure gymnastics taught me a lot about practising, training, goal setting and being confident. I built up a lot of strength, balance and special awareness skills through gymnastics.
Lesley: What’s the most important thing you learnt before the age of 15? Jenny: That showing your lady bits to the boy neighbour is not going to get you anywhere in life. Joking! I don’t think I learnt anything that important, but I guess that’s a good thing because I got to be a kid for a long time. No harsh life lessons if that’s what you mean.
Lesley: How many brothers do you have? Did you fight with them when you were growing up? Jenny: I have two brothers and in general we got along really well, playing guns, Transformers, shopkeeper, Spiderman, going off and building fires. I was pretty much the tag along. They used to pull my dolls’ legs off though and that was pretty harsh.
Lesley: You must miss a lot of important family and friend times because you are always on the road. How do you deal with this? Jenny: This is tough but it’s my choice because I love what I do and I have to accept that the sacrifice is not always being there for birthdays and events and parties. It’s easy to lose track of their world and them mine. I try to work hard at a few friend relationships so maybe have fewer mates but the ones I do have mean a lot because they have made the effort to stay involved in my world too.
Lesley: Is it hard for your friends back home to understand what you do? Jenny: Sort off. I think a lot of mates know the scene now, but I don’t think they always realise how vulnerable you can feel. You don’t ever have a definite job really. If you get a degree that’s it you have it, no losing it or it becoming less valuable or going out of date and you can use it anywhere pretty much.
Lesley: Does it help to have close friends on the circuit and do you have many of these? Jenny: It’s so nice to have made some good friends. They really make the whole thing a good time. I make sure I organise my trips with the people I like to be around. That way our friendships get stronger and we have fun experiences together.
Lesley: Do you take risks readily? Jenny: Does skydiving count? I don’t take silly risks but I do love the adrenaline of things like skydiving, for sure. And if there’s a big waterfall to jump off I’ll be right there.
Lesley: What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken in snowboarding? Jenny: Trying to do a double back flip in my first season maybe. I hadn’t a clue of the risk at the time I just saw some guy do it and I thought, “Yeah! Me too!" and fucking ate shit. I thought I had no face left and my boobs had gone inverted into my ribcage. I think that was a big reality check for me. I learned that I was not invincible and to calm down. And I guess deciding not to go to university, I had no clue if snowboarding would lead me anywhere. It was a risk but it was worth it.
Lesley: How did you feel when Janna Meyen-Weatherby came back so strong in the competitions this last season? Jenny: Sooooooooo friggin stoked ! It has been the biggest motivation for me. I feel so proud and it’s a lot to do with her age she killed it and at 32 is older than most and it proved to me I still got time to get those tricks I’ve always wanted and keep riding at a high level.
Lesley: I read recently in an interview that she didn’t approve of coaching and training for contests. I think she even called some contest riders monkeys. What do you think about this view? Jenny: Oh, that’s maybe not so cool, but it’s her right to have her own view like it’s a monkey’s right to ride a half pipe.
Lesley: You’ve achieved so much in your career, are there any things left you’d still like to do competitively? Maybe to win the TTR Title? Jenny: Mmm that’s a tough one because at the end of the day I don’t ride pipe and if the title was for slope only then I would feel I had a fair chance but I’m obviously not an all round rider because I can’t ride pipe that well so I think it would be a hard, hard challenge.
Lesley: And non-competitively? Jenny: Land certain tricks on jumps and rails. I would like to get a film part that I’ve had time to work on all season and know that they’re the best tricks and jumps I could have done that year, that way I’d be proud whatever might get said about it afterwards, because we all know people love to diss snowboard movies, ha!
Jenny Jones is sponsored by Billabong, Salomon, Oakley, Nixon and Les Ettes