It's March 2015 and we're in the Czech resort of Spindlruv Mlyn, ostensibly to check out the long-running Snow Jam contest and see what the snowboard scene in this Eastern corner of Europe is like, but in reality it seems like it's some kind of perverse experiment to determine how much schnapps a human being can take. Through the fog of alcohol, though, one thing stands out: there's a girl absolutely SENDING backside rodeos – and not only that she's got a legit, poked to buggery back 180 in her armoury too. A quick comparison of bib number to start list confirms her name: Klaudia Medlova. We'd never heard of her.
Fast forward a few weeks and women's snowboarding hits insane new heights at the 2015 Suzuki Nine Queens event, and there's Klaudia making waves again by stomping the first double backside rodeo ever done by a girl. People are quick to take note and she's swiftly snaffled up by Bataleon Snowboards while Spencer O'Brien takes her under her wing and sets about getting Klaudia invites to snowboarding's more prestigious events for the coming winter.
A year on and she's rapidly cemented herself as one of female snowboarding's most progressive riders with another sterling performance at the 2016 Nine Queens, not to mention the epic Views From The 7th edit. "She's basically just a charger," says our boy Sam Oetiker. "She'll get an idea of something she wants to do and will keep trying it over and over until she gets it, even if that means taking some really heavy slams. When she does get the trick, it's with insane style."
We sat down with Klaudia at the Bataleon team week in Andorra to find out where she came from and where she's going...
Interview: Sam Oetiker
Hey Klaudia, what’s up? You’ve just come from Nine Queens...
Hello [laughs]. I was super excited to go to Nine Queens again this year, because last year was amazing. I loved the setup, the jump is always perfect with a great landing and we were super lucky with the weather again because it was sunny, slushy and warm. The landing was very soft and the takeoff was nice and hard, so we could try new tricks and it was pretty safe. So I really enjoyed Nine Queens again this year.
Did all the girls learn new tricks? You learned a front 10, right?
Yeah, I learned frontside 1080s this year. I wanted to try it already, I’d been thinking about it and I’d been trying it the day before. I landed one in the sunrise shooting but it didn’t feel very good, I think it was so sketchy in the air, but then on the contest day I stomped it good. And Kjersti did a frontside 10 too, but she made one last year already. Anna Gasser was coming back from her injury so she hadn’t ridden for three months, but she killed it – she was doing doubles…
Do you think it helps that it’s women-only?
This is different. I like to ride with guys because I can push myself and I was used to it. When I was young we didn’t have many girls riding in Slovakia so I was used to riding with boys, and they taught me a lot. But I liked it so much that [at Nine Queens] it was just girls there, we push each other and it’s such a good atmosphere with them. No pressure.
[Below: Getting upside down for the boys at the Bataleon week in Andorra. Photo: Cyril Mueller]
[Above: In 2015 Klaudia Medlova turned up as an unknown and blew minds by stomping a double back rodeo. One year later and she was back at the all-girls setup and was crowned Ruler of the Week. Photo: Klaus Polzer]
As you said, you come from a grew up riding in Slovakia. What’s the snowboard scene like there?
There’s not so many people, but I think it’s better than it was. Snowboarding’s not that cheap, it’s pretty expensive for people who live in my town if they want to go with the whole family to Jasna.
When did you start snowboarding? What made you want to try it?
I started snowboarding when I was 10, before that I was doing gymnastics and skiing. I started snowboarding with my dad, and then I joined two boys in the park and always someone showed me what I should do better, so there were always people who helped me. I always enjoyed it, I didn’t want to go back to skiing [laughs].
"I like to ride with guys because I can push myself and I was used to it. When I was young we didn’t have many girls riding in Slovakia so I was used to riding with boys, and they taught me a lot."
Which riders influence you growing up? Did you watch the snowboard movies?
Yeah, when I was younger I used to watch a lot of snowboard movies, for example my favourite one was White Balance. The whole movie was good.
What about today? Who do you look up to in snowboarding?
There are a lot of riders who inspire me. It doesn’t have to only be in snowboarding, but I like Spencer [O’Brien’s] riding, Anna [Gasser], Enni [Rukajärvi], Kjersti… and for boys there are many good riders.
You’ve been competing for quite a while but you seem new to the scene…
Mmhmm, but only in FIS contests because now it’s so hard to get the invitation for Dew Tour or X Games and such contests, so I was riding only FIS. But this year I had the opportunity to start with Dew Tour and X Games Aspen and Oslo, US Open… I was always an alternate but somehow I got in. But Spencer helped me to get here.
What’s the difference between the FIS contests and these bigger ones? What do you like better?
It was always my dream to get to X Games and Dew Tour and US Open, so I like these more. Also because FIS has never been a part of snowboarding, you know?
When you compete do you really want to win? Are you competitive?
No, I just want to do my run because I know there are many girls better than me so I can’t expect the win. So I just want to do my run.
Your double backside rodeo at the Nine Queens last year blew up. Had you thought about it for a while, or tried it before?
I tried it first time when I was 16 [laughs], in Slovakia in one contest. But when I was younger I didn’t think [laughs]. I had so many injuries so I started to think more [laughs]. So I had this trick in my head for a long time, and I always kept trying, but the first time I stomped it was in Nine Queens last year. Then I stopped doing it, I thought I needed a perfect jump for it, but then I tried it again in Aspen and then Oslo, and since then I’m not scared any more to try this trick. I haven’t got it yet – I’ve stomped it just once – but I want to keep trying.
"I tried the double back rodeo for the first time when I was 16, in Slovakia in one contest. But when I was younger I didn’t think [laughs]"
It seemed that for a while the standard kind of stayed the same, but now with the likes of you and Anna and some of the other new girls who’ve come in, it’s been pushed to a higher level and you’re learning tricks that other girls haven’t been doing.
I also think these Big Airs that we’ve started doing helped, because they were only for men before. So like in Oslo, Jamie Anderson went for a front 10. When there is one jump the girls are trying to push more. It’s harder for us, or me at least, to do hard tricks on a slopestyle course.
[Below: After a few years of kicking around the FIS circuit, the door's opened to legit contests like X Games for Klaudia of late. It's easy to see why. Photo: Ryan Scardigli]
[Above: Klaudia getting warmed up for winter at the Stubai Opening. Photos: Sam Oetiker/Mike Brindley]
You’ve started getting your name more well-known, you’ve just signed with Bataleon. Do you enjoy this attention?
No I don’t really feel this attention. I don’t feel like people know me [laughs]
You ride rails too?
Yeah I started with rails, but this season my rail riding was horrible [laughs], like in contests, because I was scared I will fall on the rails at the top and then I will not make it through the whole course, so I took it always so easy on the rails. But my rails are not the best, I have to work on that because the girls are pretty good on rails now.
What do you think of Andorra and this Bataleon week?
We have a good time. I’ve never been here before and I like this place. I think this is my first team week [laughs] so I really enjoyed it.