Teenage snowboarder shreds New Zealand international competition
By Kelsey Lauer 8/31/09
Sliding down a hill on a snowboard is one of Matt Brengmans favorite things to do -- although Brengman, 17, prefers to do a little more than just slide.
I like spinning upside down, he says. I would say my favorite trick is a backside 360. You just drop your shoulder and then reach back behind your foot so you grab your tail, and then you do a 360 and land back down. Ive done better tricks, but that ones my favorite.
In April, the Traverse City resident took first place in slope-style snowboarding at the U.S.A. Snowboard Association National Championship at Copper Mountain Ski Resort in Colorado, beating out 60 other 16-and-17-year-olds from around the nation.
In August, Brengman followed the snow to New Zealand for a month-long training camp and to compete in the Burton New Zealand Open which was held Aug. 11-15. He placed 41 out of 89 riders. It was his first-ever international competition, as well as his first experience with a coach. Until now, the 17-year-old has been entirely self-taught.
Ive been snowboarding for eight years, he says. I started out on one of the snowboards with the string handle, and then I did recreational until two, three years ago when I started competing.
The slope-style snowboarding that Brengman participates in is only one of several commonly practiced around the world.
Well, theres recreational snowboarding, where you just go down the hill, but then theres half-pipe, which is what you see like with skaters where they go back and forth, he says. Slope-style is what I do, jumps and rails. Then theres motocross, where you race against people and theres a bunch of different kinds.
There are several different ways to score slope-style, according to Brengman.
Sometimes you have three runs and theyll add all your scores together; they do each feature, and then most of the time, you have two runs or three runs and they pick the best run out of that.
Although Brengman says that he enjoys slope-style, he also enjoys goofing around with his friends on occasion as well.
Most of my friends ski; theres a couple that snowboard, and we feed off each other. Theyre pretty good. I snowboard with my brother and he skis; all of my friends ski, pretty much. Its fun.
Winning at the USASA National Championship was probably the highlight of his career so far, Brengman says.
I was just going in not knowing how Im going to do and then at the end, I thought I was going to be in the top 10 at least and then I ended up being first, he says. Right before nationals, we were at Breckinridge and they ended up getting the best snow that day their best day of the year. We went and rode the upper bowls and the lower bowls and all the powder. It was fun.
But in the past, the USASA National Championships havent been all fun and games for Brengman. In 2008, he placed 27th out of 81 competitors in the 14-15-year-old division -- despite suffering from altitude sickness.
Last year before nationals, we went up to the top at the Copper Mountain bowl, and I got altitude sickness the day before my competition, Brengman says. And so I woke up the next morning not feeling good. I went out and did it, but I got 27th because I couldnt really do anything. I just hit the jumps and aired them.
This year, he came prepared with altitude pills and arrived a week early to adjust to the change in elevation, a precaution that obviously paid off.
This winter, Brengman will travel to several different states to snowboard as part of the U.S. Snowboarding Revolution Tour, which the U.S. Snowboard Association identifies as the top event in the country for juniors.
From December to the beginning of March, Im going to Colorado with the same people (that I went to New Zealand with), he says. In this year, since Im leaving during the second trimester, I have all five classes (at Traverse City West Senior High) first tri, and all five classes third tri and then none in the middle.
In the next few years, Brengman says that his ultimate goal is to be able to turn pro.
Hopefully after this year or the next year or the next, Ill move to pro. You have to be able to do most of the tricks and compete at their level in their competitions and place very well.
One example of those tricks is a double-flip nine, which Brengman accidentally performed at Breckenridge Ski Resort last year.
Its like when you come off axis and you go back to axis and come off axis again and then you land, he says. I didnt mean to do it, but I did. I have to learn those now.
And he knows where he wants to go, too.
When I turn pro, I hope to be (based) either in California around Big Bear or Lake Tahoe, or in Summit County, Colorado, where Breckenridge and Copper Mountain are, he says. Both locations offer some of the best snowboarding in the world.
As for the travel, he adds, I want to go to Switzerland, to Norway and Sweden, and to Canada. Ive never been to Canada to snowboard.