It seems the world of action sports is slowly permeating the mainstream subconscious.
This year, surfing made national headlines after Mick Fanning’s shark attack and Kelly Slater announced his groundbreaking wave pool but they’re not the only athletes having a moment.
With winter in full swing, the surf is big and the snow is dumping (in some places) so athletes are showing no signs of slowing down.
We’ve rounded up the top action sports athletes to watch in 2016 and the list is full of newcomers and longtime pros, all of whom are pushing boundaries and shaking up the industry.
Snowboarder Cole Navin
Navin has been making a name for himself in snowboarding because of his fresh take on street riding.
He had a breakout moment last year in Rendered Useless and it's only a matter of time until we see more from the 19-year-old.
“It was a true ‘breakout’ part, and it’s going to be exciting to see what he does this winter,” Tom Monterosso, editor of SNOWBOARDER said. “His riding is unique and very creative and he looks at street spots differently than other street riders.”
The Massachusetts-native just signed on to the RIDE Global Amateur Team.
While Slater hasn’t had his best year competitively in 2015, it’s his recent groundbreaking announcement that his team has created a perfect artificial wave that makes him the athlete to watch next year.
The artificial wave pool is going to change the world of surf forever, bringing it to landlocked cities the world over and paving the wave for mainstream participation.
“We're not sure what the next phase is for Slater and his man-made super wave, but we're going to be watching very closely,” said SURFER editor Todd Prodanovich. The announcement of the wave and the accompanying video flipped the surf world on its head, and that was just the beginning.”
Slater said more information about his wave pool will be available in the coming weeks.
Kayaker Sage Donnelly
At only 15-years-old, Sage Donnelly has a paddling resume that many people would be proud of after a lifetime on the water.
She scored higher than any of the women at the 2015 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championship and is just barely old enough to compete.
CANOE & KAYAK editor Dave Shively said he's expecting big things from the paddling phenom during the next year.
“(She) just claimed a junior world title at this summer's freestyle world championships in Canada and she is ready to roll her slalom-racing savvy into a race bid in the Elite Division of June’s North Fork Championship,” Svhively said.
Not to mention she does all this while closely monitoring her health since Donnely has Type I diabetes, thyroid and celiac disease.
Skier Fabian Lentsch
Austrian skier Fabian Lentsch grew up around majestic mountains and began competing at 15-years-old.
He has since turned his attention to free skiing to explore more mountains and continue following his passion for skiing.
POWDER editor John Davies said he's a skier to watch after already having some noteworthy movie parts.
“He had a few great parts in Legs of Steels' Passenger, and it’s only a matter of time until the 22-year-old puts together something truly special,” Davies said.
Biker Richie Rude
Rude has had a breakout season this year after branching out from downhill racing to the increasingly popular enduro race format, in which riders are timed only on a combination of their total downhill rides.
He’s captured some key wins and clinched the overall Enduro World Series title.
BIKE editor Brice Minnigh said Rude has no shortage of motivation.
“As one of the youngest, hardest-working racers on the Enduro World Series circuit, Rude is poised for another promising season in 2016,” Minnigh said.
Only time will tell at what event Rude will find the top step of the box.
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