Interview: pro freeride snowboarder Angelica Sykes

Get seriously inspired by Angelica Sykes, a British pro snowboarder who is tearing up the mountains are a freerider. I first met the lovely Angelica when we were both seasonnaires in Cervinia, in Italy. She was already getting into boarding in the backcountry then, and it’s amazing to see her now, riding as a pro and shredding her way through the Freeride World Qualifiers to be the top-ranked British woman. Ever wanted to take the next step and compete in your favourite sport? This girl tells you how to get the grit.

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When did you first learn to snowboard?

I first learnt to board when working on my first ski season in Pila in Italy. I had no idea what I was doing and most of the time I was just trying to impress the cute instructor who worked at the local ski school. It took a few weeks to get the hang of snowboarding but one day it just clicked. Then I started to head to the snow park and quickly realised it’s a lot more fun to impress yourself than some Italian boy!

How did working as a seasonnaire help you decide to compete?

It made me realise that there was a an entire world of snowsports which was becoming more accessible to me. I watched female pro riders in particular and was totally captivated – they were athletes living the life I had dreamed for myself. Working as a seasonnaire means you’re surrounded by talented, passionate people and that’s a real learning opportunity, so many people are seriously skilled at the snowsports they love. Some of our mutual friends, Sian! They taught me a lot about my own potential and inspired me. Now I get to be friends and ride with the people I looked up too, and I’m constantly learning from them too.

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What was your first competition, and how did you feel?

What an absolute unprecedented disaster! I had a whale of a time though, and I very much enjoy telling the story, even to this day. I remember explaining it to a writer from the Freeride World Qualifer Series and I must have sounded completely crazy. It was back in 2011 and by some miracle I was selected to compete in the Roxy Chicks On Board Tour passed through Cervinia. I was the most nervous I had ever been. You know that feeling when you are in an exam and you look down at the questions and you realise you haven’t got a clue? Well this competition was like that. I got to the top of the run and looked down at the kickers – they were pro size. I knew I could barely land them, let alone do any tricks. I finished that day in hospital after rather emotionally charged helicopter ride, but it’s funny now – every time I tell the story people have a chuckle and it’s synonymous with how much of a ‘blagging it’ type of person I am.

How did you work up to where you are now?

A lot of hard work! I do still feel like I’m winging it sometimes but honestly, making the career transition from amateur to pro is very very tough. And in part you’re not just an athlete – these days you’re also a marketable product, and there’s whole world of sponsorship and social media that goes with working as a professional. I actually spend a lot of my time on my computer looking after social media, writing my blog and discussing work with companies. The rest of the time I’m working out. I train a lot and there are days when I have to drag my aching limbs out of bed and force myself to exercise. I do yoga on down days and run, bike or do Nordic walking on high intensity days. I need to be fit and ready for the challenges ahead. After all, in freeriding you often have a gruelling two-hike to the the starting point at the top of a mountain face before you can even ride.

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How did it feel to be ranked as the UK’s number one in the Freeride World Qualifier series?

Pretty gosh darn great. I felt very proud. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and the people who support me made me feel like I really deserved my spot. Now I’m excited for what comes next.

How do you keep fit in the summer?

Keeping fit has been real fun this summer. When I first returned from the winter season I had to get rid of my “pizza pouch” – I’m sure you know where that little monkey lives! So I headed for the gym. I had a great personal trainer who helped me with weight and strength training. Then I worked in Lake Garda in Italy over the summer, which was brilliant, as it’s nature’s gym – there’s so much you can do. I fell in love with yoga and I’ve leant to find my balance. It helps me feel calmer, fitter and stronger. I also like cross-country mountain biking as a way to get good cardio exercise – it’s a great excuse to be out in the hills.

What’s your training schedule like this winter?

My training schedule this winter is pretty jam packed already. So much so that I need to make sure I fit in enough sleep! But I struggle to justify a lie-in when there are snow-covered mountains outside my door. First I’ll be acclimatizing with lots of yoga. Then I’ll do trail running before the snow covers the lower mountains. But mainly I’ll just be out riding with my buddies on the glacier, blaring cheesy Europop in my headphones and probably taking obnoxious selfies hashtagged #anotherdayintheoffice.

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What competitions do you have coming up?

Oh gosh, this is where is gets a bit nerve-racking. I may not get into all the competitions I apply for but I’m hoping I will be selected for one in each crucial country, that’s the aim this season. I hope to head to Verbier Freeride Week (Switzerland), Chamonix (France) Livigno (Italy), Jasna (Slovakia), Kitzsteinhorn (Austria) Nendaz (Switzerland), Roldal (Norway) and Riksgransen (Sweden) at least.

What advice would you give to young women who love snowsports and want to take them to the next level?

If you have enough passion for something you don’t need to be reminded that it will take a a lot of hard work. The more and more I learn about this ‘pro’ environment the more I understand that sporting communities are very friendly but also very competitive. The criteria for finding sponsors and performing well in competitions is a scarily high threshold to meet. But having said that, I think snowsports are becoming more accessible, equipment is easier to get hold of and there is a lot of help available. So just go for it! Make sure you keep your eyes and ears open, learn from every person you meet and grab hold of every opportunity. If you get the chance to go watch a competitions and the professionals you’d like to be you’ll be inspired to push yourself and create the future you imagined.

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Check out Angelica’s blog for more, and follow her on Instagram for inspiring shots from the mountains.

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2 Comments

  1. November 9, 2015 / 9:46 pm

    Amazing!! Always wanted to snowboard. Really need to get on it!