Interview: Melanie Schönthier All pictures: Eleonora Raggi
Kari Opsal Maeland might look like a young, innocent lady but she is a tough rider who don´t mind taking risks. When we met her at the World Rookie Fest 2008 in Ischgl two weeks ago, we were horrified by a massive bruise on the cheek of the 17 years old Norwegian. “I just slammed in the training. Nothing too bad!", Kari laughed. This is probably what makes the difference between a rookie and a World Rookie Champion…
Onboard: How does it feel to be the best female rookie in the world? Kari Opsal Maeland: It feels pretty good, I must admit! I didn’t expect it when I went to Ischgl, so going home with the price felt both great and surprising.
OB: Did you already feel in the morning that this is going to be your day? Kari: No, I didn’t know I was going to pull it off. Everything can happen during a contest, so the only thing you can do is try to do the best you can. I’m usually a bit nervous before contests, but sometimes that’s a good thing. I ate an apple and had my Protest team manager Jody boost me up! After the contest I didn’t know what to expect, I’m always careful with thinking too much before a price giving.
OB: But we saw that you had two pretty good runs… Kari: They made one rail run and one kicker run count. So I did my rail run first and saved it with a 50-50 to boardslide on the battleship and a fs lip on the kink box. In my kicker run I think it was the backflip the judges fell for.
OB: What is so special about the World Rookie Fest? Kari: I like the thought behind the Rookie Fest. It gives young riders the opportunity to reach their goals. Instead of money prices they give away prices like tickets to other competitions or photo shoots. (Kari won a photo shoot with an Italian snowboard magazine, the ed.)
OB: Your season went pretty well in general, I think. Kari: I started the snowboard school in Norway last autumn which has given me the opportunity to train and snowboard and still get the school part done. I’ve done some different competitions this year, both national and international. Besides the Volcom PBRJ in Switzerland and the Rookie Fest I’m pretty stoked about my 3rd place in the Burton European Open in January and now my 3rd place in the Volcom PBRJ world champs in Mammoth last week. I just got home yesterday. Riding there was sick!
OB: Were you more confident as you had just won the World Rookie Championships? Kari: No. I’m very bad at believing in myself in competitions, I always keep dragging myself down. I really need to stop that! When I saw all the girls at registration I got scared! And than the riding level was totally crazy. I have never been to a competition which such a good level of rail riding! The girls especially impressed me.
OB: How did you get into snowboarding? Kari: My older brother and his friends got me into snowboarding. They got so stoked when I tried and learned new tricks, so I found out snowboarding was a great way to get the boys’ attention. It sounds pretty stupid now, though. Ha ha! Luckily I found out that snowboarding was fun even when my brother’s friends weren’t there.
OB: Any plans for the summer? Kari: Right now tons of schoolwork is waiting for me but I hope I get time to shred the last snow here in Norway a bit as well. I plan to go snowboarding on a glacier in Norway called Stryn, and on a surf trip to the west coast of Norway. Then I’m heading for Les 2 Alpes with Protest. Other than that I’ll hang out at the beach and barbecue with my boyfriend and all my friends. I’m already looking forward to next season! Hopefully I’ll travel even more and stay away from injuries.
OB: You are only 17 years old - what do you still want to achieve in snowboarding? Kari: A lot! I feel like I’ve just started! I’ll take day by day and grab every opportunity I get, and then we’ll see what happens.
OB: Thanks Kari!
Kari is sponsored by Protest, 32, Etnies, Neff and Rome.