The Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Qualifiers concluded last week after two days of slopestyle and halfpipe competition at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania, and halfpipe rider Summer Fenton was all smiles as she stood atop the podium. She had just commanded the day, putting down a backside 5, a switch backside 5, and a huge crippler 720, and officially qualified to compete at the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championship. But, with the thrill of victory still fresh, Fenton has one thing on her mind: competing at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
It's not a long shot for the 19-year-old San Francisco native who rides for Zeal Optics. In addition to her February 3 Qualifiers win, she's also nabbed first place at the 2013 Burton U.S. Open Qualifiers, was named the overall 2013 Revolution Tour Halfpipe Champion, took third place at the Northstart Revolution Tour, eighth place at the Mammoth Grand Prix, and was invited to the 2014 Dew Tour and all five of the 2014 Olympic Qualifier events. If she can maintain that momentum, South Korea could definitely be in her future. For now, she's calling on her trademark optimism to stay ahead of the game.
Tell us a little bit about your background with snowboarding.
I started snowboarding when I was 4-and-a-half years old, and it was love at first ride! My dad got me a lesson with Scott Harris and I never looked back—Scott’s still my coach! Without him I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. I started competing at 6 years old at the North Lake Tahoe Series USASA.
Did you expect to do so well at the U.S. Open qualifiers?
In general, I go into any contest with a positive mindset, good vibes, and a smile on my face. I was so stoked to put a run down and to have another repeat win at the Burton U.S. Open Qualifiers—it was such a good feeling! In the previous weeks, I had been competing in the Olympic Qualifiers, and it was a bit rough. I crashed a few times, so I was extremely happy when I landed my run out at Seven Springs.
What was going through your head that day?
It was raining and super foggy but the pipe was in good shape. My motto that day was, “Don’t wait until the conditions are perfect, embrace Mother Nature, drink some rain, absorb the universe in you, and stomp your run.” I was just having so much fun throughout the whole day!
After winning the Gatorade Free Flow Tour Finals and Boreal Revolution Tour, you got the chance to be coached by U.S. team coaches—what was that like and how did that change things for you?
Being coached by the best is an honor, and I am so grateful I’ve had the opportunity to get coached by them. This past summer I trained with Bud Keene at BKPRO camp, and it was the time of my life—Bud is the man! I’ve never learned so much in a short amount of time. It was a really progressive moment for my snowboarding career.
What’s the most misunderstood aspect of halfpipe?
I would say maybe the margin for error, like if you mess up on timing and pop too hard, you land to the flats or you don’t pop enough or go too early and you land on the deck.
How do you prepare for a competition—do you train, eat, or mentally prepare any differently than you normal do?
I eat a big bowl of KINDsnacks Cinnamon Oat Cluster granola and listen to some Juicy J. Then I write down my contest runs, inspirational quotes, and how I’m going to land my runs in a pocket journal. And I must fist bump someone, anyone, before I drop in.
What do you think has been key for your recent success?
I think just staying positive and always getting back up when I fail.
You also surf. What attracts you to a certain sport?
Indeed I do! I grew up a block away from Ocean Beach, San Francisco, so I’ve been surfing since I could even remember. I even used to compete when I was younger. It’s super calming yet it gets my adrenaline pumping. There’s nothing like riding a wave.
What's important for you going forward?
Stop eating tater tots, get pitted, and drop in faster! [Laughs.] Actually, I’m going to make my dreams a reality.
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