Sponsors: Pret Helmets, K2, Oakley, Fiction Wear and US Snowboarding
Home Mountain: Boyne Mountain
You’re from Detroit, which isn’t the most common of places to start riding. How is the scene there and do you still ride at the hill you started on?
Detroit is definitely not the most ideal place to start riding, it is very flat there. Our hills are usually made out of old landfills that have grown grass and land over the top of the trash. We have tow ropes and night riding until 10 pm. It is very cold in Michigan so there is a lot of ice there. The park is basically just a small rail yard made up of rails that they hand weld on site. It is bigger in the north and I still ride up there at Boyne Mountain when I am home in the winter time. I love where I’m from, and I still live and work there.
You went into Sochi relatively unknown, did anyone suggest someone else with a bigger profile should have gone in your place?
There were a lot of girls that wanted that spot. I was definitely someone that seemed to be counted out from the beginning of that season. Being an underdog was sort of my plan though. I didn’t want any of the hype or attention at all. I knew in my heart that I could make that team. It is all that I thought about, and I put all of my energy into it all summer and fall before the Olympic season. When it came down to the very last week in mammoth I earned my spot. I think I just had something to prove, a positive attitude, and maybe I just wanted it more.
Did you have much funding leading to the games, was it a struggle to make all the qualifying events?
My entire career has been self funded. With the exception of the US Team helping me with training camps and grand prix’s now, it still is. My family and I organized a fundraiser in my hometown at a local restaurant in the fall. The support was unreal. Everyone I knew showed up that night to eat, and some very generous people donated. Even if I was an underdog in the snowboard community, I had the support of an entire city to push me. When I made the team they painted all of the windows on main street, and put giant banners up on the highways and in the schools. They really are what made me believe in myself, and I believe that I did it for my hometown and my family.
You came away coming 6th in Sochi, did life change for you in a big way afterwards? What was the moment you thought, “this is weird?”
It definitely changed me! For starters I made the US Team, which was a dream of mine since I was a child. Now I am pretty famous in my hometown which is very cool. The weird part is that when something on that large of a scale happens to you it takes time for the changes to set in. There was a period where I really had to find myself again, and decide what it was that I learned from the experience. It follows you, and everything in your life goes back to the Olympics for a long time afterward. You have to get used to it defining who you are.
It seems harder and harder for up and comers in Europe to get a solid deal, are US riders facing the same issue?
Yes!!! It is so hard for me to get deals, in fact I am only on one very small paying contract right now. I’ve never gotten a salary, or a bonus, or anything like that. I work all summer long to earn my money, which is no bother to me except for the fact that I could be riding somewhere instead. I pay my own travel, lodging, food, and sometimes I buy my own equipment. I know tons of people in the US that have a lot of trouble getting deals. It is a shame because these companies would be nothing without all of us riders!
When you emerged onto the scene, you seemed to be really enthusiastic and had a huge thirst to go riding. Do you still have that love for the sport or has it drained in time?
Yes I definitely do! My love for snowboarding continues to grow every single year. I still ride until I can’t feel my legs anymore. I learned to snowboard when I was 6 but I was a gymnast until I was 12. When I quit gymnastics I would sit in class and the only thing that I could think about was snowboarding. Every single day, all day it was what was on my mind. Today it is the exact same story. I can’t believe how much I love what I do, and I know how blessed I am to feel that way. I get frustrated when I can’t learn new tricks, but I’ll still keep trying until I am bruised and beat up all over my body. If that’s not love then I don’t know what is haha. A lot of people imagine that contests are stressful for riders and not that fun.
Do you genuinely enjoy competing or do you see it as a necessary stepping stone?
I have competed throughout my whole life, and I am a naturally competitive person. I can honestly say that I enjoy competing. It can be stressful, but it is also so much fun. They balance each other out for me, and I enjoy the pressure sometimes. The huge events like Dew Tour and the US Open are definitely very intense for me. They are the most fun and the most stressful. Growing up I watched those events on TV every year with my entire family. I think that makes it a lot more intimidating for me. For me those events are my stepping stones because I have to mentally overcome them.
Do you have plans to film in the future? If so would we be seeing backcountry riding, park or street?
I definitely want to get into filming once I do everything that I want to in the contest scene and my schedule opens up some. What I really want to get into when I have the time to travel to make a good full part would be street. I have done a little bit of it and it is so much fun for me. There are some pretty rad girl crews (Too Hard, Jet Pack 5000) in the US that I have lots of friends in. It would be awesome to travel and have some fun with those girls. For now, competing is where my heart is and there is a lot that I need to get out of my system before I even think about walking away from it.
Follow Karly on her Instagram here.
Intro video filmed by Ian Thorley