Ståle Sandbech's long look back
It isn't often I get to pat myself on the back for my clairvoyance skills, but re-reading the first interview I ever did with Ståle Sandbech, for Europe's OnBoard Magazine four summers ago, is one such occasion.
At the time, Sandbech was best known as the brother of Norwegian photographer Frode Sandbech. Yet, with everyone from TransWorld Snowboarding editor Annie Fast to legend Terje Haakonsen falling over themselves to anoint the shy Norseman with snowboarding's "Next Big Thing" crown, it wouldn't be long, I humbly predicted, before Ståle came out from behind his brother's shadow.
Four years later, it is fair to say that prediction came true in style. From the Olympic silver medal hanging around his neck to the Heikki Sorsa-esque post-Olympic mohawk he sported on Norwegian television, today Ståle Sandbech is a fully-fledged snowboarding rock star.
It isn't difficult to see why either. He's a podium regular. His film parts are as impressive as his comp consistency. He rides everything with the same effortless style. And he's universally liked, which is nice because it would be annoying if he was that good and wasn't such a nice kid as well.
But even for Ståle, the 2013-14 season surpassed every expectation. Lucky for us, he documented the entire crazy 12 months for his "Station to Station" web series on YouTube channel Line9.
It seemed like a good time to catch up with the Norwegian shred phenom and get the inside skinny on these last 12 crazy months.
So what has been the best memory of the last year?
Er ... I mean, the Olympic podium is probably the craziest one. It was just insane. Going into the stadium, and there's this school bench thing you have to wait on. They're there teaching you how to walk. I had my mohawk ... And then there I am on the Olympic podium with two of my best friends. I didn't even know where to look. I just thought, "Okay, focus. I need to remember this."
What do you remember about the Olympic slope finals?
I remember all of it. It was sick. I mean, the day before conditions had been icy and sketchy, and a lot of things hadn't been working out so well. But on the final day the sun came out and melted the snow a little, so we had slush and conditions were so much better.
I was feeling good. I was like, "It's now or never." I wasn't going to hold back. I was either going to land or not land. I'd already told myself I was going to do the run a year before. So it was almost like I imagined it.
I like competing. It's gotten to the stage where you're so focused you're not scared ... When you ride normally you're more skeptical, you pull back. In a contest you have to go for it.
How did you find the Olympics in general?
For sure, it was different. But we're still snowboarders. We're still homies up there. Sure there were a few more walkie-talkies than normal, coaches taking to each other a lot more. I mean, it's the Olympics. It's serious. But I didn't really feel any pressure.
Overall we had a mellow one because the Norwegian federation is separate from the ski guys, so we had a good vibe. We tried to run it like any other snowboard contest. Which is important, because if you change it too much you get psyched out and lose your normal flow. It's hard to snowboard when you're stressed out. It might be the Olympics, but you need to keep the fun.
How was the party after the medal ceremony?
That same night we didn't get to party as we had so much press and we finished too late. But yeah the official party was a good time -- a bunch of snowboarders in a Russian nightclub with showgirls hanging from the ceiling.
What was it like back in Norway?
That was pretty crazy, and yeah pretty different. I was on media shows every day for a week. I didn't have the same crazy names [interviewing me] as the Sage did in the U.S.
I started snowboarding again after like a week. I just didn't want to be on TV too much. Meeting the King of Norway was pretty fun, posing in front of him. I felt I had to do something to remember it. Right after I did it I was prepared for some dude to come and beat me down, but they were stoked on it too.
Tell me about Station to Station show. Yeah it's this sick extreme sports channel called Line9 on YouTube. I've got my own web series on there. There's a BMX guys called Harry Main, a surfer called Fergal Smith and a skater called Madars Apse and we're all making our own web series.
I'm filming with my brother Frode, which is fun. I'm looking forward to working on it this summer now that I have some more time away from contests.
What plans do you have for the summer?
I'm going to do my driving license. I can't drive! I mean, I know how to drive, but I haven't had time to get the license. It's kind of a process in Norway. And hopefully get some time to go surfing a bit, some summer adventures. I suck! It's hard. Then again, I've snowboarded for so long that I know how to snowboard, so I like the feeling of learning a new thing.
What else would you like to achieve in snowboarding?
I want to keep doing this for a long time; I love to snowboard. I want to get an X Games gold, get a couple more first places, just keep it going. Keep competing -- I like competing, it's gotten to the stage where you're so focused you're not scared, which is pretty sick.
When you ride normally you're more skeptical, you pull back. In a contest you have to go for it. If you can do that without being scared, it feels sick.
Describe your perfect day.
I would have a long breakfast, on the beach ... like a super long breakfast. I'd chill and eat my two breakfasts, listen to music, hang out with my homies. Go in the water, surf for a bit.
Then you have this machine this teleports you to another place of the world, you're at the top of the mountain for mid day. I'd be anywhere with good snow. I'd take the longest pow run down to a slushy park, then jam it out down there for the rest of the day. Then be picked up in a limousine by models. (Laughs)