We paint the picture of professional snowboarders that we want to see. Often, in awe of our favorite pros, we find it hard to accept their basic human characteristics. Because we don't see their struggles, we go on assuming that because they are getting paid to travel the world and have "fun" that they shouldn't have flaws and varied emotions. But life smacks us all in the face sometimes, no matter who we are, how talented we are, and how good we supposedly have it.
Take, for example, Travis Parker. At what seemed to be the pinnacle of his professional snowboarding career Parker made the decision to step out of the spotlight to focus on other pursuits -- the ultimate being his personal happiness. Many of his fans were baffled by his decision, because if you knew Parker only from what you saw in videos and magazines you would think that he was the happiest man on earth. But after years of success, Parker pulled the plug and walked away.
This summer, rumors started to swirl around the giant snowboard industry toilet bowl that Parker might be making a triumphant return to pro snowboarding, but no one knew if it was fact or fiction. So when K2 sent out a press release last week announcing that Parker had rejoined their pro team, the TP faithful let out a collective sigh of relief.
Welcome back, Travis. We have been waiting for you.
ESPN: Hey Travis, what's going on?
Travis Parker: Not too much -- just trying to be a snowboarder again. And I just applied for a job at The Hard Rock Café, so hopefully I will have some work there, too.
A lot of your fans where shocked when you quit snowboarding professionally. What happened?
I was so devoted to snowboarding, but I really got on the wrong track. I was really focused on making a lot of money and lost track of what was important. I would sacrifice relationships in order to get ahead. It ended up being a very hollow and empty existence, and I really needed to rediscover myself. I burned some bridges and was a jerk to some folks. I wasn't very nice to be around, so I had to reinvent myself and get a new perspective on life.
It's been humbling. Just going back to school and getting an education has been huge. I needed a reality check. I've been working on my mental health and trying to find balance there. I'm trying to find balance in every way, whether that's mental, physical, or in a work or school environment. I needed to time to focus, but I feel like I'm going in a good direction.
But it always looked like you were just a happy-go-lucky guy.
Well, when you're in the public eye it's different. I suppose I had a dark side and that wasn't visible through the camera lens. With film and photography, people don't want to see negativity, so they don't get a full picture of a human being. I'm a human, but you only see the highlights. All the snowboarding you see ... there's so much hard work that goes into that. You risk burnout, and that's what I think happened. I just got completely exhausted. People don't see that side, and they don't want to see that side. It's not entertaining.
I'm glad people have the perception that I'm all smiles and everything, but man, I can be really grumpy, too. I'm a really hard worker and I have a really high standard, so I'm really hard on myself. That part of me isn't shown to the world, and maybe it shouldn't be -- I don't know, but the reality is I'm not smiles all the time.
Are you in a place now where you feel like you can handle those situations better?
Oh yeah, I've learned so much while working on myself. I'm feeling excellent and doing good. I can't complain one bit!
I'm glad people have the perception that I'm all smiles and everything, but man, I can be really grumpy, too.
How did you getting back on with K2 come about?
That was really cool. K2 was always such a great sponsor. Years ago, I had a really big ego and I destroyed our relationship. But they gave me another chance, and I'm trying to prove to them that I really value them. Sponsors are really important, huge part of my success, and to be on their team again is really exciting for me.
What's your role going to be there ?
I set some goals with K2, and I would like to get back into competition. I feel like competition is really healthy. If I could figure out a way to compete with some of these older guys I would. I'm not really competitive with the younger guys, I think there should be a way for some of us older guys to showcase some of the talent and skill we still have... so more competition than film, to be honest.
But you filmed for "Respect Your Elders" this year, right?
Yeah, I don't know what Jesse [Grandkoski]'s intentions were with the title. I don't know if we were the elder snowboarders from being all banged up and everything.
How old are you?
Dang, that is old.
[Laughs] I'm older, not old.
I have just always liked working with filmmakers, and supporting their vision. There's a lot of creativity and freedom in film, so if I can use my snowboard to create some type of entertainment through adventure, I will support it, creating something unique and different is exciting and fun.
You're in school, a professional snowboarder, and are looking for a regular job. How do you plan to juggle all of these things?
It's a challenge. I'm doing whatever I can just to make ends meet, make it all work out, and have a good time. Basically my goal is to achieve balance, so these challenges don't phase me one bit. If anything, I value and welcome it.
Have you been snowboarding a lot during the last few years?
I'll tell you what I have been doing: cross country skiing. I love cross country skiing! I love snowboarding, too, but with my old friends. I don't really understand this new generation of snowboarders. I really enjoy snowboarding with Jesse, and my old friend Bobby Meeks. I really like snowboarding with Ben Lynch, too. He's younger but I can actually relate to him because we have similar ideals, like go out and go fast and don't worry so much about talking about it. Just charge and be a goofball and have fun. Some people take it way too seriously.
So no front boarding triple kinks with tight jeans on?
[Laughs] No, I'm not going to get into that mess -- no way!
So you're here to make snowboarding fun again?
Yeah, I'm here to make it fun for myself, and if other people can relate then that's positive.