Gabe Adams – Britain’s Bright Snowboarding Hope
Gabe Adams is a seriously exciting freestyle snowboarder and the kind of character who'll soon be a household name...
Over the past year we have come to love our extreme sports athletes, the skateboarders and BMX-ers who lit up the Tokyo Olympics not just with their daring skills but with their personalities and camaraderie that made the competitions a joy to watch. Further back for viewers, we know that the snowboarding fraternity are perhaps the ultimate athletes in these respects, the most daring and the most fun. It is with great delight, then, to have come across Gabe Adams, a rising British star on the circuit who will hopefully be lighting up the next Winter Olympics with his freestyle. Now, though we love to watch the sport, we are by no means experts, so we were glad to grab the chance to speak to Gabe to find out more about him and the sport, and what goes through your mind in the middle of a death-defying trick.
Where are you now, Gabe?
I’m in Switzerland at the moment, it’s the start of preseason training, I’m out here till Christmas and then I get to go home for a couple of days, and then I’m back out for the rest of the season.
What’s on the agenda in pre season?
It’s finalising all the all the stuff that you’ve been working on, especially at the end of the season before. It’s really getting it perfected before you go into competition season and you’ve got a little bit less time to train.
Is there much in terms of getting yourself fit and building your body in a certain way?
Definitely it’s a lot of core work. The summer is great for me because I can bulk up for three months, put on a bit of weight, because I love spending time in the gym. Apart from being on the mountain, my favourite place to be is in the gym.
How did you first get into snowboarding?
Well really it was when I moved from Australia to France when I was seven years. Straightaway we got put into a French school yeah and all of us were put on the slopes. I’ve always said the best snowboarders always come from skiing first. So I started skiing and moved to snowboarding when a family friend came out – he was a snowboarder and I really looked up to him. He was a great guide, a really close family friend and he just got me on a snowboard for two weeks. I really did love it, and in the second week we went for a walk down into the town, moseying like into malls and there was a little snowboarding competition going on. My dad was like, ‘do you want to go and get your stuff?’ I was like, ‘let’s do it.’ I started that competition, came away with a few prizes and from then on it just kicked off. When my family friend left I then went back to skiing and I think the second day I was back skiing I slipped and broke both the bones in my left wrist. As soon as we finished in the hospital I just wanted to go back up and keep skiing but I realised I couldn’t hold the poles because I had a cast on, so I went back to snowboarding and the rest is history.
Even with broken bones nothing was going to stop you?
Yeah, that was when I really caught the bug and just decided that’s what I wanted to do. And then I just really pushed on and as soon as we moved back to England, I was doing four seasons every year.
What was what is it about snowboarding? What do you love about it?
I mean, a lot. But if it wasn’t snowboarding, it’d be motocross. Or skateboarding, wakeboarding, surfing, anything like that. Just because I love that feeling of being – and this sounds very cliched – but being so close to death. Because it’s such an extreme sport. I like that feeling of being so high up, where it’s so interesting, and really get your heart racing. What I love about snowboarding is you will always be doing something that will get your blood pumping and your leg shaking when you when you scare yourself a little bit too much. It’s a really great sport, just one of those things that keeps you on your toes all the time.
As a viewer it is hard to fully understand the height, the speed, just how dangerous it is, because you guys tend to make it look quite easy. But how high do you go, how fast do you go?
We don’t really figure out how fast we go. It’s really hard to explain – when you’re doing it, it’s just the feeling of it. So you can see a jump, maybe a really big jump, say 22 or 24 metres, something like that: a snowboarder who’s done it as long as I have, can see that jump and know exactly the feeling of how fast they need to go into that jump. They wouldn’t be able to tell someone how fast you need to go into that jump – it’s more like you have to be able to feel while you’re riding towards that jump how fast you need to go. And hit the perfect spot. A lot of people say, ‘how do you know where you are in the air?’ When you’re in the air and you’ve done it for that long, everything goes into slow motion, you can see every person around you as you’re spinning. It’s a weird conversation to have with other snowboarders especially but quite a funny one, we all relate to the same thing.
In terms of developing the tricks, how much how much work does that entail?
It’s really breaking down all of the big tricks into your lower trick. So you’ll start with, let’s say 180s, 360s, stuff like that, but then every bigger trick is just a breakdown of those smaller tricks. That’s how I think about it. But every snowboarder will tell you a different story about how their mind works towards it. For me, I just break down every trick into a sequence of smaller tricks. We spend a lot of time on trampolines as well – having that spatial awareness, especially when you’re upside down, and then it becomes second nature to just know where you are in the air all the time.
Is there a lot of analysis of what you’ve done as well? Are you recording everything, and have trainers around you?
There’s a lot of people who do work like that, you’ll definitely find all of the Japanese team will have someone filming it. They are just unbelievable, and they’re the main guys who really do analyse their tricks, and really go deep into it. Me, I kind of work the same as a lot of other riders, where if there’s something off in our trick, we can feel it straight away. You can feel exactly what’s wrong, and then work out in your head very quickly what you need to do to fix that.
The snowboarding community seem like a good bunch, is that true?
Yeah the camaraderie is unbelievable. In training we all ride around with each other, we all chill on the chairlift with each other, have a chat about the course, everyone’s just super close. I love riding with the US team. Two of my best friends are Icelandic. So yeah, it definitely involves every nation. If you’re in that circuit, you’ll know each other and you’ll be friends. Especially something like this, in elite training, when everyone is just absolutely going for it, trying all their hardest tricks. It is a really, really great atmosphere.
So what is the what’s the next things coming up for you then? Is it the Olympics?
Well, really, it’s pushing on in these next few World Cups. We have a series of World Cups in the year. And you have to so many top 20s or top 30s, and push your points up enough so you can get your own spot for the Olympics, or get your country its own spot for the Olympics. I will be trying as hard as I can to make sure that I’ve got everything covered so I can go into these World Cups and get as many top 10s as I can before the Olympics. Do everything I can to get my points up before going into the games, so I can hopefully have my spot.
And how are you feeling about all that? Are you seeing yourself improving every year and, and feeling like you’ve got that progression behind you?
Yeah, definitely. I’m definitely seeing with the other guys I ride with as well. We all reassure each other that every year we’re just getting that little bit better riding with that little bit more style. I definitely look back and am happy with what I’ve done so far. Although I’ve got the mindset that I’ll never be satisfied. I’m definitely always going to push and try and go that extra mile, to make sure that I’m progressing as much as I can. S
On the mental side of things, the mindset element, what do you do in terms of training around that?
I keep everything super simple. There’s a lot of a lot of snowboarders who speak to sports psychologist and they’ve got to talk about everything that they’re doing, or there is that mental strain. But I’ve never had that. There are rides who will be up the mountain, and be a little bit down or saying the weather’s not as good as it should be, or this and that. But every time I’m up that mountain, I just think there’s worse places to be. So no matter what, I’ve just got to be grateful for what I’ve got at the moment. I’ve got no real reason to be up there and putting that mental strain on myself. I always think there’s so much worse stuff going on in the world at the moment. I’m in a sport where a sport where politics takes control of some of it, but at the same time, I’m still snowboarding. I’m up on a mountain at 4000 metres every day. The sun is shining, there’s snow on the ground, everyone’s having a good time. What have I got to be upset or disappointed about? I love my job.
Is there any rivalry with other riders or are you competing against yourself?
This is this is crazy, no one would ever think this, but the biggest rivalries are between the guys from your own country, right? It’s very different with other countries because in the US they get six or seven spots per World Cup. But in England at the moment we get one spot per World Cup. I’m competing against the other British guys to make sure that I get that spot. Because obviously I want to go to the Games just as much as they want to go to the Games. It’s all about who wants it more. There’s no hostility or anything like that but as soon as you’re in that start gate, and you’re about to drop in for your run, there’s no friends at all. You’re there to do a job, you’re there to win. I always say to myself just before I drop in, ‘Okay, it’s time to pay the bills.’ But three seconds before I drop in, I’ll high five the boys from the other countries and then we’ll all wait at the bottom to watch each other’s runs. And at the bottom you high five, you hug it out. Everyone tries to do their thing and snowboard their best.
Just going back to when in the midst of a trick, what’s going through your head?
Well once you take off, you can tell. Normally, if you’re doing a trick, as soon as your feet have left the ground, you can tell if you’ve landed that trick or not. You’ve got the feeling of whether you’ve thrown your arms enough, for instance. And then once you’re in the air, it is it’s not at all like you’re going too fast to be conscious of it – you can see everything that’s going on. It is like slow motion, you watch yourself coming around. I watch myself come around each time I do 360. I’ll go okay, ‘one’, and then it comes around again, ‘two’ and then it comes around again, I go ‘three’, and then you see your landing and open up. Then all it is about is landing the trick. But that’s normally second nature, getting your feet on the ground and making sure your hands don’t touch. But yeah you’re definitely super, super aware.
Can you just tell us a little bit more about style? You mentioned it a few minutes ago, but like, what does that mean?
So, in in slopestyle, there’s so many components that go into it. Degrees of rotation, how many times you go either over your shoulder or go upside down. There’s amplitude, which is how high you go, and how many seconds you’re in the air for. And execution, which is how you land. The best way to land is facing straight down the hill completely sideways, and locked on your toes without touching your hands on the floor. If one of your hands touches you can drop three or more points depending on how long your hands are on the floor. If you touch both hands, you can basically count that as a fallen run.
Style is really up there with the most important components. It’s really hard to explain. When you throw a trick, you have to gain more points, and to help with the degrees of rotation, you have to grab your snowboard – but it’s got to be clean. You cannot be either touching your foot or your binding on the side of your board. It’s got to be a clean grab to get your points up. And style will also be how you look in the air. If you’re tweaking your grab, or if you’re spinning faster at some points in your spin, and then opening up and spinning slower other points, that will cost you. And just how you execute that trick as well, how you land. Do you land and power squat? Or can you land as if you’ve just done the smallest trick and made it look so easy?
A bit of swagger goes down well I imagine.
That’s exactly right, riding with swagger. If you land with swagger just like you haven’t done a trick, that definitely goes towards your style points
If all goes well and you get to the Games, are you ready for fame?
I’m obviously just as ready as the next guy! If that happens then it happens, if it doesn’t then I just have to keep trying. Obviously there’s nothing promised in this life, it’s just one of those things that I’ll just have to see what happens, especially with the games. If I do get to the games then I’m going there not to take part, I’m going there to absolutely do everything I can to get on top of that podium. We’ll just have to see what happens this year with these World Cups.
How do you relax? Do you relax?
No, I definitely do relax. I watch TV and chill out. Especially when I go home. I chill out, hang out with my family, hang out with my girlfriend. That’s a big part of my summer, which is only three months I spend in England. When I’m in season, my biggest time where I just chill out is the sauna. I love it. I’ll just finish riding, come down, get changed, head straight to the spa, and go to the sauna. And just sit in there for 15-20 minutes. It’s a shock to the system – get super cold, then hit the sauna.
It doesn’t sound that relaxing, to be honest…
It’s as relaxed as my life gets!
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