U.S. Paralympics Sno... Features Tyler Burdick's Adve...

Tyler Burdick's Adventurous Hobbies Led Him To Snowboarding Success

By Al Daniel | Jan. 04, 2023, 1:30 p.m. (ET)

Tyler Burdick reacts to a banked slalom run at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. (Photo: Mark Reis)

U.S. Para snowboarder Tyler Burdick was recently back from Austria and ready to reminisce on two of his most rigorous hobbies — sailing and aviation.


That phone call had a four-minute delay, as a delivery truck pulled up with a portion of his luggage that returned a day late. It was a spontaneous reminder that short-lived stress is no stranger to Burdick.


Then again, neither are the means of reducing that stress. He benefits from those in his sport and everyday life, which he credits in no small part to sailing and flying.


“Sailing a sailboat, flying an airplane require a complex skill set and a cool head,” the two-time Paralympian said.


He started testing those traits as a teen through winter sports. Skiing was his natural choice of recreation around his native Salt Lake City. He picked up snowboarding after another Austrian excursion in the mid-1990s.


Then he embraced a wholesale change when his father co-constructed a 45-foot sailboat. A then-20-year-old Burdick and his brother Tim took a maiden voyage from Corpus Christi, Texas, to St. Petersburg, Florida, in the summer of 2001 when their parents went to work in Saudi Arabia.


Amid that odyssey, a tropical storm nearly butted into their lane.


“It wasn’t very notable,” he said, although he recalls the cyclone reaching hurricane status during its lifespan.


The Burdick brothers dodged any damage and maneuvered through or around more typical gusts plus stationary obstacles like oil derricks and haze. Their rewards included a six-week detour to the Bahamas and a safe return to the Texas coast.


It was a good experience for Burdick, but it was all far from home.


“I was missing the mountains,” Burdick said.


So in the early-to-mid 2000s, he returned to where he first took up snowboarding and skiing. While there, he upgraded his big-air ambitions and enrolled in a piloting class at Salt Lake Community College.


While flying an airplane, a heads-up tells you who is coming where and when. Everyone is merely a fellow commuter up there.


Back down on the slopes, one’s peers are fierce competitors. Their only interest is getting to the finish line first.


“(Your opponent) may end up in the spot you want to be in,” said Burdick, “and you have to adjust everything on the fly.”


In that sense, he said, snowboarding is more akin to sailing, he said, “especially if the wind changes.”


That notwithstanding, Burdick has managed the traffic-heavy race to the tune of a bronze medal in the snowboardcross LL1 at last season’s world championships in Lillehammer, Norway.


That achievement furthers Burdick’s immediate desire to stick with snowboarding while he can. The 41-year-old is more than a decade-and-a-half removed from the private plane, which he left indefinitely to serve as a combat medic. A 2010 leg injury ended that occupation, but also led him to the Paralympic program.


Burdick says the gap from his last flight is “something I want to remedy one of these days.”


And then the 2014 and 2022 Paralympian intends to return to the seas. To that end, having competed in major events in Russia, Canada, Norway and China, gives him an advantage for when he starts to travel again.


“Understanding customs and being comfortable in different cultures definitely goes back and forth,” he said.


How soon he tests that worldly wisdom is murky at the moment. Burdick at least wants to compete in the Paralympic Winter Games Milan and Cortina 2026 and is putting off any long-term leisure travel until his daughter Izzy has bolted the nest.


But after handling end-to-end Gulf of Mexico rides when his own parents first left a boat to him, he has layers of poise from piloting and snowboarding alike.


“When the time comes and I set off on my sailing trip, having kept myself ready for the adverse and the unknown, I should still be sharp,” Burdick said.

Al Daniel

Al Daniel is a freelance features writer and contributor to USParaSnowboarding.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. Follow him on Twitter @WriterAlDaniel.