Before Shaun White became a household name by capturing the hearts and imaginations of snowboarders everywhere with multiple gold medals in the Olympics and the X Games and tricks that seem like they can only be done in a video game (double McTwist 1260) there was another rider who pushed the sport to where it is today, his name was Craig Kelly.
portrait of Craig Kelly hanging in the Burton Chicago flagship store
This is a picture of the Craig Kelly Air from the Burton New York flagship store in Soho, one of the first snowboards to be named after someone.
There are so many things about Craig Kelly that I admire:
- He was never satisfied with the snowboards. Though he dropped out from college to compete in snowboarding, he was obviously a smart guy and learned enough from his time at University of Washington (where he studied Chemical Engineering) to be able to give valuable feedback to snowboard manufacturers (Sims Snowboards then Burton Snowboards).
- Despite tremendous temptation, he would not “sell out”. He left potentially millions on the table in terms of sponsorships to ride his way. And his way was awesome, freeriding terrain in the world that had never seen a snowboard and becoming an ambassador to the sport.
- He trained to become the first ever Certified Canadian Mountain Guide on a snowboard (he used a board that could split into skis).
- He rode as if style counts (which it does).
I like to think I’m pursuing similar goals in my riding (though on a much much more modest scale). Perhaps Craig Kelly’s spirit, living in the mountains of Washington, inspired me during the time I spent there and snowboarded in his backyard. When I’m on a mountain, I am at my happiest. Maybe it’s the feeling of being close to heaven.
I know that I have some finite number of days, x, to snowboard.
- I would like to maximize those x days as much as possible which is why I keep up with emerging technological advancements in snowboarding equipment.
- I want to distribute x days across a broad spectrum of mountains, a shredding world tour if you will. (Still working on a map to show all the places I’ve been blessed enough to snowboard)
- I became a snowboard instructor so that I could introduce anyone to the sport, it’s the reason I teach my friends for free.
Every time I ride I know I get closer to x, so I savour every moment. Every day I wake up, I get closer to dying, so I want to make the most of it.
Fellow shredders that would like to learn more about Craig Kelly’s life can watch his biographical movie, Let It Ride. If you know me, I can lend you my copy.
One reviewer on Amazon.com writes:
I don’t care if you’re a snowboarder or an artist or just a dreamer, this movie will inspire you. Craig Kelly the man and Craig Kelly the athlete are both personas to be reckoned with. This movie will make you ask yourself what the heck you’re doing with your life, and why, if you have a dream, you aren’t chasing it right now.
I couldn’t agree more.