The US Open has always been the most special event for me! I have competed in the event for the last 13 years in a row.
It all started for me when I was 12. In the year 2000, my mom took me to Stratton Mountain for the legendary snowboarding event. I was competing in the junior jam and it was a dream come true! That week, I shredded with all the best up-and-coming kids including Luke Mitrani, Mikel Bang and Shaun White. It was so cool to be a young kid seeing all my idols and shredding my heart out! On Saturday of that week I hopped the fenced and poached the pipe finals, and from that day on, I knew that I wanted to become a pro snowboarder.
Over the next six years, I competed in the event and worked my way up the ranks, getting closer and closer to making the finals each year. I knew from early on that if I wanted to break out in the sport and make a name for myself, I was going to do it at the US Open! In 2006, everything seemed to click for me: my snowboarding was on point, I fell in love with my wife, and everybody knew that it was going to be the year that I made a name for myself in snowboarding. That spring, I went to Stratton and started from prequalifiers and had to battle through the rounds... I won prequals, then I won qualifiers, then I won semis, and boooom I had made my first US Open finals! The day of finals everything went amazing and I just missed the win, earning a close second behind Shaun White. From that day on, people knew who I was and soon after I was getting paid to snowboard!
For the next three years, I traveled the world as a pro snowboarder and met so many amazing people. There was still something missing though: a US Open title. In 2009, I would make that dream come true! That year, I had an amazing season with podiums across the globe and everything seemed to be falling in place. I was competing in the Global Open World Tour and the TTR World Tour. The US Open was the last event of the tours and I was high in the standings. To lock up the tour win, I needed a top-three finish, so the pressure was on. I went to the event nervous but ready, and when the starter in the gate said, ''You’re good to go,'' I just laid it all out there. I stomped one of the best runs of my life and won the event! I was in shock! I not only won the event but I won the Global Open Tour title. After finding that out, I almost fainted, then someone told me I also got second in the TTR Tour. It was ridiculous. It was the best moment of my life at that point. That day, I took home the biggest prize payout in one day in snowboarding history. I am one blessed individual and I will never forget that day! The US Open was and always will be a memorable event for me.
This year’s Open was very bittersweet for me. They have taken the US Open out of Stratton, Vt., and moved it to Vail, Colo. The event was held in Stratton for over 20 years. I was heartbroken when I heard the news, but in the back of my mind I knew that Vail would pull off a better venue for the riders.
Out with the old and in with new is how the world works, so it was time for me to embrace the change and go have some fun. Coming straight from Japan, I missed both practice days due to screwed up flights. Things still worked out the next day and I made it through semis into finals. I was super relieved. I woke up on finals day to a full-on blizzard. I don’t mind bad weather so I got up and got excited to compete. The U.S. team coaches and wax techs were on point, so for me speed was not an issue. The snow kept falling and it was time to throw down a run. I landed my first two runs and was sitting in third, but I knew what I had to do to get on top: the triple. I wanted to throw it so bad in my last run, but it just wasn't in the cards. I ended up coming short and not putting together the run I wanted... I ended up with a third-place finish which is nothing to cry about, but at the same time I was disappointed in myself for not doing what I really wanted to do. It was another successful US Open, nonetheless. What I love about snowboarding and my life is that when things don’t come easy, you have to work even harder to accomplish them. When you finally get what you have worked for, the reward is so much bigger!
Overall, the US Open was an awesome time and I saw some amazing riding going down from all my friends. More and more, I realize how amazing this life is and how blessed we are to snowboard for a living.