[Klaudia sending it off the big un in Stubai. Photos: Sani Alibabic (action), Cyril Mueller (portrait).]
Second place in our female European Rider of the Year Awards lands at the feet of a girl who's played no small part of the recent quantum leap in the progression of women's freestyle snowboarding...
“She’s a badass girl! She likes to go big and she is not afraid of anything."
- Roope Tonteri
Liptovsky Mikulas, a town in the valley separating Slovakia’s High- and Low Tatras mountains, is an unlikely place for someone who would help redefine women’s snowboarding to hail from. Nevertheless, thanks to an innate fearless streak and a grounding in gymnastics, Klaudia became a solid young rider lapping her home resort of Jasna. Opportunity didn’t exactly wander round Slovakia back then looking for doors to knock on, though, so she jumped aboard the FIS tour and looked set for a career on the fringes. But then in 2015, Klaudia earned a Wildcard spot at the Nine Queens in Serfaus.
The sessions that went down that week would catapult her into the full glare of the snowboarding media. It was the perfect storm - there was a perfect BIG jump, a selection of female snowboarding’s best riders, and the motivation of a contest environment in which to step things up. And Klaudia certainly did, becoming the first woman to ever put down a double backside Rodeo. Things moved quickly from there - Spencer O’Brien took her under her wing and lobbied for Klaudia to get invites to the bigger contests, Bataleon, Horsefeathers and Monster came knocking, and the following year she blew the doors off at the Nine Knights once more, hit up Spencer’s Views From the 7th all-girls kicker session, and produced a rather tasty edit.
"The sessions that went down that week would catapult her into the glare of the snowboarding media."
It looked like 2017 was going to be the one where she would kick on and tuck more podiums and jaw-dropping edits under her belt, but it turned out to be more one to file under ‘experience’ for Klaudia: she suffered an injury at the X Games Big Air in Aspen attempting a front 10, yet healed up in time for the World Champs in Sierra Nevada, only to get another smackdown. But this is what characterises her snowboarding, and was no doubt in the minds of those that voted for her - because, as Ethan Morgan, points out, she’s “full send all the time."
As we noted in her Blowing Up feature last year, "She’ll get an idea of something she wants to do and will keep trying it until she gets it, even if that means taking some heavy slams. When she does get the trick, it’s with insane style." It’s this mindset of no-holds barred snowboarding mixed with mouth-watering style that clearly resonated with our panel of riders and industry, so keep sending it in 2018, Klaudia, and here’s to an injury-free season.
“Because she's G, and because of all the steeze she’s got."
- Måns Hedberg