How do pro riders deal with fear whilst Snowboarding?

Sage Kotsenberg flying over Folgefonna. Photo: Dasha Nosova

Snowboarding in it’s very nature can be a scary pastime and fear is something everyone has to conquer if they want to progress. From the first time you link turns together to hitting that absurdly huge icy park kicker, all snowboarders have faced some degree of doubt whilst riding. The vast majority of holiday maker riders or weekend warriors will peak at a certain level and spend the remainder of their days cruising down the pistes carefree and won’t ever scare themselves too much, where on the other side of the spectrum, professional riders will have to fight their inner demons each day.
We were curious on if pros feel fear in the same way as your average snowboarder and if so, how are they able to control it so it doesn’t get the better of them. Or could it be their brains have a completely different function process to non-pros and if that is the case, is it possible that someone can learn this technique? We reached out to a view to get their views.

Clemens Millauer trying to avoid the wind at the Innsbruck Air and Style. Photo: Tom Kingsnorth

Clemens Millauer
I would say if you hit a big jump that you had a bad experience on from the last season you will get scared but as long as you know the speed and you can watch someone hit it before you who is the same level or has the same speed board you don’t get that fear. It’s more the excitement about getting the shot or how big you will go rather than fear. I think fear is a really bad thing to have because then you get stiff legs and forget your usual technique and that’s when you fuck up.

I think dealing with fear is definitely something you learn over time and with experience, when I was really young, around 10 years old, I would rather do my tricks on a small jump but now if I am going for something new, I would rather chose a really big jump like the Stubai prime session, so I know I have enough time in the air to bring it around, as to under rotate on a big jump would be the worst. I’m more scared of small jumps now, bigger jumps are safer as the jumps have less impact as long as you have the right speed and there is no wind. If there is wind then jumps are way scarier.

Jake Pates.
I get really nervous before I ride and it’s more fear than adrenaline. After a while though I suck it up and drop in and the fear goes away. I feel like I am so lucky to be in this position where I get to ride professionally that I have to go out and give it my all and that usually pushes the nerves to the side a bit but I am always nervous.

Frank Bourgeois putting his fear to one side Photo: Sebi Madlener

Frank Bourgeois
When I was filming for Real Snow I was doing some stuff that I never tried before with both new tricks and new spots, so of course you have that feeling of fear but it quick disappears after I try it. That fear turns to adrenaline and it pumps me up.

I was that kind of rider that had no fear back in the day and eventually I paid the price for it. Today it is a different story and I think twice before hitting something that is big. Will I get enough speed? or will it be too much? etc. That thought process is now more calculated and it saves me getting a lot of injuries for sure.

I think pros definitely face fear in a different way, because we know the limits of what we can do. I think it’s good to have some fear as a pro snowboarder so you can see what to do and what not. If something is too scary I just wont do it, I know my limit and I think all pros have that.

Sage Kotsenberg making sure he’s getting the shot. Photo: Mathis

Sage Kotsenberg
I really do have fear when I ride but it’s a different type of fear. Fear of not landing the trick and fear of not getting the shot.  I still get scared to drop into a massive jump but I turn that into adrenaline and get juiced to drop in.
Do you think average people can teach themselves to have less fear or is it something you are born with?
I think anyone can teach themselves that, it really depends on how determined you are you take your riding the levels that most people wont take it to. It’s the same in a lot of sports. Are you ready to take those risks and push yourself to the level that an average person won’t? Some people are born with it but with a lot of people it’s blood, sweat and tears that take them to the top. It’s a different state of mind.

Annika Morgan is one for the future. Photo: Monster Energy.

Annika Morgan
I usually don’t get nervous before dropping in but since i got invited to bigger contest like The US Open I started getting nervous and excited because competing at the big comps is such an unreal feeling. I just don’t want to mess up those amazing moments and I think pros definitely think of fear differently because they have more experience when it comes to snowboarding overall and are able to overcome those feelings. At the same time pros have to progress and overcome their fears to get bomb shots for the movies.

Ethan Morgan
I definitely have a lot of fear; I just try to find stuff that I want to ride that seems possible to me.  Sometimes I scare so much that I back out of spots even.  I like to play it smart and think of what consequences could happen and if I feel like it’s doable then I just shit my pants and go all in. I love that feeling, especially when it works out, if it doesn’t work out and I am all good, usually I am bummed but at least I shat my pants and went for it., you win some you lose some.

Ethan Morgan hopefully keeping his pants clean. Photo: Monster Energy