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Dusty Henricksen Looks To Continue Rapid Rise At Freeski And Snowboard Worlds

By Alex Abrams | March 06, 2021, 10 a.m. (ET)

Dusty Henricksen goes over a rail during a warm up run the Men's Snowboard Slopestyle Finals at the 2020 U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain on Feb. 1, 2020 in Mammoth, Calif.

 

Dusty Henricksen has reached a new level of fame in the four weeks since he won a pair of gold medals in snowboarding at the 2021 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

It has gotten to the point where even his baggy pants are recognizable.

Henricksen started putting patches on a pair of black pants he loves to wear when he’s competing to cover up the brand’s logo.

However, since his breakthrough performance at the X Games in late January, strangers have started recognizing Henricksen simply by his clothes.

All of the attention is new and a bit overwhelming at times for the snowboarding phenom who turned 18 on Feb. 2.

“I love the fact that I can just make so many people happy, so it’s like super sick when people come up to me with just a huge, biggest smile,” said Henricksen, who now has nearly 70,000 followers on Instagram. “So it’s super fun. 

“I’m just kind of getting used to it, kind of, but definitely a little awkward sometimes. But it’s fun. It’s interesting for sure.”

Henricksen can continue his rapid rise in snowboarding when he returns to Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen — which hosted the X Games only a month ago — for the FIS Freeski and Snowboard World Championships.

The world championships, which run from March 8-16, were originally set to be held in Zhangjiakou, China. However, the International Ski Federation decided to move the event to a new site because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Henricksen, a native of Mammoth Lakes, California, enjoyed his last trip to Buttermilk as an X Games rookie in January. He got things started by winning the knuckle huck competition.

Two days later, he appeared relaxed while wearing a T-shirt and baggy pants during his gold-medal run in slopestyle snowboarding. 

Henricksen, who was 17 at the time, became the first U.S. male snowboarder to win the Winter X Games slopestyle snowboarding competition since Shaun White in 2009.

“You definitely feel the nerves, but I try to kind of not think about it as much as I can,” Henricksen said. “I feel like I ride the best when I’m just not thinking about it and I’m as relaxed as I can be and treating it almost like another practice run. 

“So I try to just not think about it the best that I can and listen to the music and vibe out.”

Henricksen said he had no clue he had accomplished something at the X Games that hadn’t been done since White 12 years earlier. He only learned about it later on.

Coincidentally, Henricksen said his father was one of White’s first coaches at Big Bear Mountain in California. Henricksen grew up hearing stories about White and watching videos of him performing.

White was also a teenager when he emerged on the snowboarding scene and won gold. Still, Henricksen doesn’t feel comfortable being considered the “next Shaun White.”

“You never know. There are some many variables in this sport that can just happen at any moment, so you never know what’s going to happen,” Henricksen said. “But yeah, that’s the dream of course.”

Henricksen said his father put him on a snowboard for the first time when he was age 2. On his fifth birthday, he entered a halfpipe contest at Big Bear and won it.

Henricksen also rode mountain bikes, motorcycles, surfboards and skateboards as a kid. He didn’t feel pressure to compete in snowboarding just because his father coached it, but he was naturally drawn to the sport.

“I just ended up being better at snowboarding than the rest of things, like it came a little easier, so I just kind of stuck with snowboarding,” Henricksen said. “And it didn’t hurt quite as bad when you fall.”

Henricksen made a name for himself when he won gold in the slopestyle competition at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020.

A year later, Henricksen said he didn’t have any expectations when he arrived at the X Games. He simply wanted to land his tricks and stay on his feet — something he admitted he had difficulty doing two years ago.

Henricksen said he felt out of sorts after he experienced a growth spurt as he was climbing up the ranks in the U.S. Revolution Tour. He grew eight inches in one summer, and it took him some time to feel comfortable in his 6-foot frame.

He fell frequently during competitions and didn’t perform as well as he expected.

“I have definitely grown into my body more,” Henricksen said. “I feel like more (in proportion) and kind of normal and then, yeah, just riding my snowboard and consistently landing stuff and going out and just trying to progress every time and it working out consistently for a while. 

“It definitely builds your confidence, and then your confidence is definitely a huge part in snowboarding.”

Alex Abrams

Alex Abrams has written about Olympic sports for more than 15 years, including as a reporter for major newspapers in Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.