By: Shirley Ju // Flant.com
Jake Vedder is only 22 years old and already going down in history as one of the greatest snowboarders to ever do it. Hailing from Pinckney, Michigan, the professional athlete began skiing at the young age of 2, before discovering snowboarding 3 years later. After witnessing his first ever snowboard cross races, the adrenaline junkie immediately fell in love… and the rest was history!
Growing up with little to no mountains around him and becoming a snowboarder is Jake’s whole story. He states, “My local hill I grew up on is 250 feet vertical, which, if you go to Colorado, you’re talking 30K feet. It’s totally different. It’s what inspired me to be a snowboarder. My dad would take me out of school early, that’s what I liked to do in the winter time. I’d ride all night till 10pm or 11pm, and go to school the next day.”
5 years back, Vedder made his first World Cup appearance, and even took home the Gold medal for the United States at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Winter Games. In 2018, Vedder became a junior world champion in Cardona, New Zealand. But when he’s not indulging in the sport, Vedder spends his time doing charity work and even has a comic book series out documenting his life. On the entrepreneur tip, Vedder has his own SKC CBD line in partnership with Stay Kind Co, and is in the work of launching his own clothing line called Street.
Flaunt caught up with Jake via FaceTime, who was across the world in Austria participating in the World Championships. Reads below as we discuss his time overseas, the reality of the competition, the definition of snowboard cross, his CBD line with Stay Kind Co, shooting his Old Spice commercial, giving back to the community, and more!
How are you feeling over there in Austria?
Competition’s been going well, I’ve been feeling really good. I’ve been doing good, I’m right where I want to be. I gotta up the game a little bit and start winning these things, but I’m doing well. Healthy is the #1 thing I’m paying attention to, so we’re doing good.
Can you break down how it works with the World Cup and World Championships?
It’s hard to explain, you obviously have to qualify to get into the World Cup. The Olympics up here, World Championship is right here. The Olympics are every 4 years, World Championships are every 2 years on the off year of the Olympics. The World Cup is what we compete in every year. Let’s say we have 10 World Cups a season, that’s our normal competitions to qualify us for World Cups and World Championships. You gotta go through the circuits. I went through the North American circuit to get to the World Cup circuit, it’s all a point system.
How was it moving from Pinckney, Michigan to Colorado?
When I got the opportunity to go to Colorado, I was blown away, I didn’t take the days for granted. Wow, this is what everyone else gets to ride all the time? This is wild. I’ve always strived to get there: “man one day, I’ma be riding this every day. I’ma have the opportunity to be out there all the time.” I didn’t really see my whole vision until I was 13, 14, 15 years old, like “okay I can actually do this.” It was more a hobby and what I did in the winter time.
What happened at age 13?
I was winning the local competitions around Michigan but if I went to Colorado, the best place I ever got was 3rd out of Nationals in Colorado in my age group. It was luck of the draw. I knew a family friend who’s on the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team already. They threw my name in there, was annoying the program and the association a little bit. They said “okay fine, we’ll bring this kid out to Project Gold Camp.” You pay to go out there and train with all the National Team guys. You see how they live their lives, how they train and we got to train with them. I took that as a huge opportunity. Ever since I was 13, every year I was going up to Project Gold and all these camps. Really being in the back of the coaches’ ear.
In 2016, I won Youth Olympics in Norway. That was a big turning point, I established myself to get on their radar. I won Junior World the year after that, won a Championship event to prove to the national team that I belong. They took me under their wing. Peter Foley’s been my coach for the last 4 years, he’s been the National coach for 20 years now. I’ve been working with him ever since, it’s been awesome. Not coming from much and not coming from the opportunity to see this dream come to reality, him taking me under his wing, throwing me on the National team and getting fully funded, being able to travel the world and chase my dream honestly has been crazy. It’s been a dream come true.
How does snowboard cross compare to snowboarding?
I’ll explain it. Shaun White goes back and forth on the halfpipe, that’s tricks. For me, it’s more like motocross on a dirt bike. Depending on the course like at the Olympics, there’s 6 guys. I had a race yesterday, we raced 4 guys on the track at once. I’ll break it down. Say there’s 80 guys who show up, we’ll have 6 or 7 U.S. guys, 6 or 7 Austrian, Italian guys. We’ll do a qualifying day where each of us go individually down the track and get a time. You have to get in the top 32 to be bracketed out into heats of 4. There’s 8 heaps of 4 and every race, you race 4 guys at a time. The top 2 advance to the next round, to the next round, to the next round, until you get to the finals 4 guys. That’s how you decide the winner. We have 100 foot jumps, we race 60 miles an hour down the course right next to each other. It gets pretty gnarly.
What does training look like for you?
In the off-season, a lot of fitness training. I’m 22 so I’m still fairly young for my sport. If I was on slope style or halfpipe where I’m doing all the tricks, those guys’ career starts when they’re 15 to 25-ish. For us to be 22 on the National Team for 4 years, I’m pretty early stages. I have guys on my team that are 35 years old so the age difference is wild. I’m learning as I’m getting older, in the summer time to train smarter. I used to try to kill myself in the gym and do all this crazy stuff. I train really hard but train smart, know what your body can recover. You work to a point but it’s really how much your body can recover for the next day so you can keep working.
Jon and his whole Stay Kind company has been a huge play to that. I’ve been trying to find a company I can work with that can actually help my body and I can benefit from. The CBD has been a game-changer for my whole career, it’s been amazing. Working with a solid group of dudes: Monty, Fetty, David Correy, all those guys. They’re so cool and I love music. First thing in the morning, music is my vibe. Doesn’t matter how I’m feeling in the morning, I set the vibe with whatever I listen to. Music runs my world.
Talk about your SKC CBD line and partnership with Stay Kind Co.
Being an athlete, I have to keep my image somewhat clean. As an individual, I speak the truth. Literally Stay Kind Co and Jon, it’s been a game changer. They’ve opened up so many doors for me. Fetty’s DJ was rocking a Team Vedder shirt during the Rolling Loud Twitch the other day, so wild. Being a small town kid, this is insane. CBD helps my body, helps everything. Helps me sleep, helps me recover, and I’m able to see other people benefit from that. Some of my friends’ dads who are elderly are hitting me up all the time: “my dad really needs the CBD, I’ll buy it from you.” Don’t even stress, I gotchu.
To see the impact it’s doing: I don’t care about money, that’s what I do it for. To see someone really benefit from it is dope. Obviously I love it, so to see people benefit from it is super sick. The opportunities, the fashion line they’re doing, Jon calls me everyday like “hey bro, we’re doing this we’re doing that.” Dude, you’re blowing my mind. I want to come to California and chill with everyone. It’s honestly a dream come true, the whole crew is good vibes. I got half the music industry supporting me, it’s insane.
Do you like cannabis too?
Yeah for sure, I’m a huge believer and huge lover of it all. In the summertime, it’s my free time, but in the winter, we get drug tested. In the winter time, I have to stay clean. It’s good.
What was your reaction in seeing Big L (Fetty Wap’s DJ) rock Stay Kind’s Team Vedder tee for Rolling Loud? That’s awesome.
I really had no idea. Jon’s such a cool dude, he’ll blow my phone up. With the time change, I’ve been over here for the last 2 months so I wake up to texts in the morning. Jon will send me 5 things, wait what? This was on Rolling Loud’s stream on Twitch, it’s bizarre to me. I wake up and show my teammates, they say “dude how did you get this?” ‘Cause they know me as a normal kid from a very small town. It puts a huge smile on my face every time. it’s insane.
Do you ever get nervous?
Oh my gosh, come on. Yeah, I struggle. To be completely honest, nights before races are really tough for me. That’s when t CBD comes into play, it helps me sleep and lower my anxiety. In my sport, there’s so many variables, so much stuff going on. Me being the young gun in the U.S. coming up, there’s a lot of eyes on me from everyone. From coaches, sponsors, media, press, whatever it is, or trying to get the results I need to go to the Olympics. There’s a lot always weighing on your shoulders.
I only have 8 to 10 competitions a season. If I was a football player relying on the rest of the team in having 16 games a season, it’s an individual sport so that much more pressure weighs on you. It makes me nervous for sure but I do a lot of preparation work. Super big into yoga, try to calm all that anxiety down. Sleep is the #1 thing that gets me. I can handle it when I’m up in the hill right before the race, I turn it into adrenaline and get me going, but it’s tough to sleep sometimes for sure. Nights before races, it’s tough.
How does this World Cup overseas now compare to when you first entered the World Cup in 2016?
It’s funny, I talk to my grandfather daily about this. He used to race Nascar and has a similar background in racing. Him being an athlete, dealing with sponsors and having eyes on you to perform all the time. When I first started, I said qualifying for the top 32 guys to race was my benchmark. Sweet, give myself an A+. Good job. Then I got top 20 one time, okay now that’s my benchmark. Keep leveling up. This season’s been great, I’ve had 4 races and one World Championship 2 weeks ago in Sweden. Qualified for that, I ended up 10th there. Not what I was hoping, I was the top U.S. guy but I’m here to win these races. That’s the biggest thing for me, I’m a champion inside and out.
I know my time’s coming, I have to grind. I’ve had all Top 10’s this season, super consistent. But I know very soon, I’ll be looking at Top 3. I used to think Top 10 was good, now I’m at Top 3. Just upping the ante. Over the years, you build that confidence. You build the skill in the sport, it’s been a wild ride. I never really thought I’d be on tour all winter long. Growing up in the sport, I didn’t really realize what it takes to make all this happen. Sacrifices whether financially, or not seeing your family for so long. I barely went to high school. I made this decision when I was a freshman in high school. Nah I’ll do some online school but if I want to do this, I gotta be gone all winter. I gotta make this happen, I gotta keep up with the guys training all season or on snow all year.
Being from Michigan, didn’t really have that opportunity. A lot of sacrifices have gone to getting there. I’m finally realizing like how much my family, how much I put into it. It’s coming all full circle, it’s really cool. To see everyone a part of Stay Kind, Monty and the Remy Boyz come on. When I was in high school, that was it. They were #1. To be in a conversation, FaceTime Monty and say what’s good, it’s crazy to me. I take a step back every once in a while and realize how much work I put into it, everyone’s put into it. It’s only up from here.
You placed 9th at the world championships in Idre, I saw you said it wasn’t what you hoped would happen. How are you feeling?
It’s good. We had a competition yesterday up here in Austria, I got 7th. World Championship is every 2 years on the off year of the Olympics, so it’s a little bit bigger than a World Cup. It’s the exact same people we race against, but it means more to countries, the U.S. I was hoping to represent the country better and get on top of the podium but again, I’m healthy. I’m able to compete for the next competition, got seventh yesterday. I’m still riding really well but in my sport, you have to be perfect man. To win, you can’t make any mistakes or errors. It’s a hard bite to swallow sometimes but I’m feeling good. Honestly I’m confident and stoked in my riding, I know where I’m going. I got more in me for sure.
How important is failure in a career like this?
So big. I got a mental coach as well, he tells me “these bad days are literally your best days. To actually understand them, it takes a while.” If I was growing up as a kid, I was never winning all the competitions. I slowly made it to where I’m at today because I stay on the grind. I stay working hard, I stay hungry. I’m normally the top U.S. rider, but I’m hungry. It keeps me wanting more. Everyday, I’m up talking to my coaches, studying film, trying to better myself.
Failure is huge, being able to deal with it with a “champion mindset.” Don’t be hard on yourself, don’t beat yourself up. Yeah you made the mistakes, but how can you better yourself? If you correct your mistakes next time, give yourself an A+. Keep moving forward. There’s a fine line between failure and doubting yourself, to seeing the failure, adapting, then having a championship mindset with it.
What do you feel when you snowboard?
Free. We all race at the same time so we all load the start gate like race horses. We get in there, my coaches are next to me. I shed my headphones out, I’m tuning everything out. When I’m either competing or free riding, I always have music on. I’m not thinking about anything. I’m vibing, it’s literally what I do. Either having a bad day mentally or woke up on the wrong side of the bed, my thing to put a smile on my face is throw some headphones in and take a few laps around the hill. Go ride by myself. These mountains, mother nature is so beautiful. To be able to ride, to see these Alps, to see these crazy mountains is so wild to me. I grew up in Detroit, you didn’t see anything like that. I’m very grateful to be here.
How excited are you for the Olympics, less than a year from now in Beijing?
It’s going to be wild. Everyone still has to make it and qualify but I’m in a good position, just gotta stay on my grind. Keep doing my thing, get one of these top podiums, win one of these races. I’ve won Youth Olympics, that was at a smaller stage. Seeing how much everyone puts into it, every country, everybody, the whole world’s watching you. As a kid, it’s what I dreamed of. That’s my Super Bowl, it’s literally everything. It means everything to me. My family will be there, Jon says he’s going to fly everybody out there. He says he’s bringing in the whole troop. He expects Fetty to be out there, Monty for sure. 2022 Beijing, let’s go.
Original article at https://flaunt.com/content/jake-vedder