The pressure of being a professional athlete can be overwhelming. Traveling all over the world, jet-lagged with no sense of time, pulled in different directions by sponsors, agents and fans—yet finding time to prepare for contests: the challenge is tremendous, even for the savviest veterans. Add the stress of competing and trying to win, which can wreak havoc on anyone’s mind. Not enough for you? Then include finding time for school work—reading assignments, studying for tests and completing homework. Not so glamorous now, is it? Welcome to the frenetic lifestyles of Brooke Voigt and Kyle Mack, two of the hottest young shredders on the snowboarding circuit.
Brooke, 15, busted things wide open last season, winning five gold medals in her age group at the Arctic Winter Games. She also grabbed first place at the Volcom Peanut Butter and Rail Jam at Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada.
Kyle, who turns 12 this year, has racked up honors that overshadow riders twice his age. Over the past three years at the USASA Nationals, he has placed in the top three in his age group in every event—except for a rare stumble in boardercross in 2006, when he came in seventh. In addition to winning numerous competitions this year, he capped it off with another first in the halfpipe at Nationals.
We caught up with Brooke and Kyle during a rare moment of rest to find out how they deal with the rigors of schooling, traveling and competing.
STACK: What got you interested in snowboarding?
Brooke Voigt: I started off as a skier when I was about 4 years old. Then as the years went on, I started to become a lot more interested in snowboarding. I convinced my mom to let me try it at the age of 9. I found it a lot more challenging than skiing, which is why I liked it more, and it just stuck with me.
Kyle Mack: I started snowboarding when I was 2, down my driveway and at the local mountains in Michigan. I remember getting really interested in snowboarding after watching the X Games in 2002. I was 4 years old at the time, and after seeing a slope-style event, I just wanted to learn those tricks that the pros were doing.
STACK: Do you get nervous before dropping into a run during competition?
BV: I get extremely nervous when I’m doing slope-style events, but when I’m doing a rail jam, I’m a lot more mellowed out. Probably ’cause I feel more comfortable on rails. It’s a pretty big change from just riding for fun, because there’s a lot more pressure when all eyes are on you.
KM: Of course I get nervous before big events, because I always want to do well. Free riding is a completely different mindset, because you can have a bad day and blow it off and look forward to tomorrow.
STACK: What’s it like competing against your friends?
BV: It’s really fun. I love it when my friends are all there. Sure, I’m still competing against them, but when I’m not doing my run, I’m cheering them on, and vice versa when they watch me on mine. Everyone wants to win, but even if I don’t win, knowing that my friends did great makes me happy for them, just like they would be for me.
KM: It’s hard being competitive with all my friends, because I enjoy riding and having fun with everyone. But I do take competitions very seriously. When it’s time to ride, I have to put a game face on and do my best, no matter who I ride against.
STACK: How are you able to balance school with competitions?
BV: During the winter season it gets to be very difficult. I spend a lot of time after school and during my lunch hours to catch up on work, but it’s well worth the extra time.
KM: With the help of my mom, dad and coaches. My teachers work with me and allow me to do a lot of school work on the road. So far, I have been keeping my grades up and progressing with snowboarding, so it’s working out. Also, I use the Internet to take tests and turn in my homework and other assignments when I am away.
STACK: What is it like traveling all over the world to compete at a young age?
BV: It’s really fun. I always wonder what my life would be like without snowboarding. I can’t even picture it, because I have always spent so much time traveling. I would never have had the chance to see so many great places if it wasn’t for my sport.
KM: Traveling for snowboarding is like a dream come true for me. Being able to do what I love and see different places and people is amazing. I have made a lot of friends from different states and countries, and being able to visit them and learn different lifestyles is a great experience.
STACK: How did you first get noticed by the snowboarding community?
BV: I had been going to MGT, an all-girls snowboard camp, since I was 10. I brought a video of me snowboarding to the MGT camp; and one of my coaches [Spencer O’Brien] saw my video and thought that her management company, Infamous Management Inc., might be interested. [Since then] they have helped me so much along the way with getting noticed by sponsors and getting my name out there.
KM: Tim at my local shop, TWC, introduced me to Mike Cox [Midwest Burton rep], and from there I earned my way up to the Burton Smalls team. At age 7, I was in a video called “Kids Who Rip,” which features young kids who excel in different sports. I started traveling and riding with the Burton Smalls at the European Open at age 8. I’ve also been in other local snow and wakeboarding videos.
STACK: Final question: when you’re not snowboarding, what do you do for fun?
BV: I just like to hang out with all my friends, playing foosball, going camping, riding dirt bikes, stuff like that.
KM: I still spend time on a board, either skateboarding or wakeboarding. I also play football and baseball and I like just hanging out with all my friends, spending time with my family and just chilling with my brothers and sisters.
Check out the Action Channel at STACK TV.