Hump Day Wins the Open with Spencer O’Brien
Bred in the wilds of BC, a dominant force in the slopestyle scene, and pretty handy in the kitchen, Spencer O’Brien is pretty much any snowboarder’s dream girl. Most recently, she won the US Open Slopestyle without even having to compete in finals, and took home a cool 45k in real American dollars. But just because you “don’t care about contests” don’t stop reading! Spencer is not just another contest jock. She, like you and I, is a snowboarder. She’s just making a lot more money and getting a lot more TV time out of it than the rest of us. And if you’re mad at her for that well, sucks to be you.
Are Canadians taking over snowboarding? You and Mark McMorris just won the Open, and it seems like Canadians are kinda ruling right now.
(laughs) Yeah, the Canadians are kinda killing it in Slopestyle this year. Mark and I have been having a good year. Mark especially has been pushing men’s slope to another level. I’m so proud of that kid and so stoked on his riding. Also Brooke Voigt and Darcy Sharpe, who are young Canadians, took the rookie award [at the Open] and Brooke got third. It’s really cool to see the resurgence of the Canadians. We’re not so sick in half pipe but at least we have slopestlye!
Yeah in backcountry we have Leanne and Marie and Annie and the list goes on.
Why do you think Canadians are so good at snowboarding?
I think winter sports are just kinda Canada’s culture. It’s cold up there, it’s winter and it’s kinda one of the only things to do that time of the year. It’s just second nature to us, that’s what you do during the winter with your family — you go ski or you go snowboard. Throughout snowboard history it’s kinda bred really good snowboarders.
As a Canadian, how to you feel about Avril Lavigne marrying the Nickleback guy?
That was honestly the weirdest thing ever. I thought it was a joke. Actually, I was shocked, she definitely didn’t get her skater boy, which is a shame.
You just won the US Open, which is amazing, but are you bummed it was by default?
Yeah, I’m kinda bummed it was by default, it’s never how you want to win a contest. All the girls have been riding so well this year and I knew it was gonna be a really hard final. I had a run planned that I would have been really stoked to have gotten to try, but we do a winter sport and sometimes that’s just the way it goes. It was really cool that the event took our safety into consideration and made that call, because I think it was the right call, given the circumstances.
With the Olympics coming up, you’re trying to go right? Anyone you’ve got your eye on to beat?
I’m excited for Sochi. I think it’s gonna be cool. It’s kinda weird to work towards something for such a long time and plan that far ahead. I’m definitely looking at what all the girls are doing right now. Jamie [Anderson] and Enni [Rukajärvi] are definitely the two best female slope style riders we’ve ever seen. Definitely looking at those girls, and there’s some up and coming girls too. Silje Norendal is riding really well this year, Aimee Fuller with a double back flip, Miyabi Onitsuka is 14 and just destroying it and almost making finals. There’s a lot of young girls coming up right now and I’m kinda getting scared. I’m getting old (laughs) Me and Jamie were talking about it that we’re like veterans now and it’s so weird because we’ve been doing it for so long together and it’s funny to see all the young girls now.
What’s the dynamic between you and Jamie like? Are you guys friends or is it super competitive?
Me and Jamie are super good friends, she’s one of my favorite girls on tour. We’ve known each other since we were 16 and 15. It’s been a long journey with her and I love competeting against her. She’s such a good rider and so talented and consistent. I think without her I wouldn’t be the rider that I am right now. I love that we can be at the top of the course and be friends. It’s not super gnarly and there’s no rivalry, I don’t think.
Until she falls…
(laughs) Until I win by default!
So you’re a big proponent of women not hitting smaller jumps in competition. I read your blog, but since we can assume most Yobeaters didn’t, why don’t you think women should have smaller jumps to hit?
When I first started competition professionally, every event did have a ladies side. Smaller jumps, basically for the chicks, it was called the ladies tee. Girls didn’t have to hit it, but a few women did. A few girls would always hit the big jumps and I made that choice early on that I wanted to hit those bigger jumps and that’s where I wanted to take my snowboarding. When the events kinda of eliminated that, I saw such a huge change in the way girls rode and to see where it’s come since that elimination to where it is now, I’m so proud to be riding slopsestyle with those girls. I just think putting small sides back in would be a step backwards and that’s not what I want to see happen to slopestyle.
Do you care about the people who say things like “competition isn’t snowboarding?”
Yeah, it bums me out when people day that contest snowboarders aren’t real snowboarders or that’s not what snowboarding’s about. I mean, we’re here at the US Open, it’s the 31st year. This event is a part of the soul of snowboarding, just like Baker Banked Slalom is. I started snowboarding because I love it, and it’s the same reason I do it today. It’s not for money and it’s not to win a contest, it’s because I like to do it. I think as long as that’s why people are doing it, you’re still a snowboarder. Screw anyone who says that I’m not a real snowboarder because I ride contests!
I think we’re really lucky. I think contest snowboarding has it’s place. It gets our sport out there so more people can make money filming or doing their own thing. I think that part of snowboarding is so strong. It keeps our sport so unique. You need both ends of the spectrum to keep it how it is.
Let’s talk about something I and the masses really care about. I heard you were on the Food Network?
Yeah, it was 2008, I was on Dinner: Impossible, which is a show on the Food Network. I’m a huge Food Network fan so when I got that opportunity I was more excited about that than anything else in my entire life.
Were you a judge or what?
I actually got to cook with Chef Robert Irvine. They put me and Jamie to work. It was pretty funny. Gretchen hosted it because she’s from Aspen and his challenge was to make an extreme meal for the athletes in the riders tent at X Games. We had a shitty kitchen in the snow, everything was melting, the ovens wouldn’t get hot. It was all about challenges, but it was really funny. I had to BBQ chicken for two hours. But it was super fun and a really cool experience.
I’m so jealous, every time I see someone from action sports on Iron Chef I just wanna know how they go on there!
I want to be a judge on Iron Chef more than anything in the world. That’s a life goal, for sure.
A lot of people peg you as a contest rider because that’s where they see you, but you ride backcountry and stuff too, right?
I love riding backcountry. I haven’t gotten to do it as much as I’d like in the last few years. I kinda took a step back to concentrate on contests, but it’s something I wanna do more of. I want to film a video part and I want to get back there. I see Leanne and Annie and Robin and all those girls out there and it makes me so stoked what they’re doing out there and I want to be part of it. I just kinda wanna finish my goals in competition first and then move into that chapter.
What’s your ultimate goal in competition?
I guess it would be pretty cool to win the Olympics. I wanna go to the Olympics at least. I think that’s gonna be a really cool experience. I still haven’t won the X Games either, so that’s a big one on the list. There’s some tricks I really wanna learn and some runs I want to do. If I can have a part in progressing women’s slope style, that’s really cool.
People love to talk about women’s snowboarding vs men’s snowboarding and that women are so far behind. What’s your take, will women ever “catch up,” or does it even matter?
I don’t think at current time women’s snowboarding will ever be on the same level as the men’s. If you look at men’s snowboarding from 6 or 7 years ago though, we’re really close. We’re behind, but we’re always progressing and always catching up. It’s such a hard thing. I feel like we’re always being compared, but in other sports that comparison isn’t really made. I just see where women’s snowboarding is going right now and it makes me really stoked. To see what Kelly is doing in the pipe and to see her going 15 feet out and doing front tens. I didn’t really think I’d ever see a girl do that. There’s a lot of exciting things and it kinda sucks to compare the two. Men’s snowboarding is insanely exciting right now. I just try to see the positives in where women’s snowboarding is going and keep the progression going.
You have an energy drink sponsor, right? What do you think is gonna happen when energy drinks can’t market to youth anymore and aren’t dumping money into snowboarding?
I think we’re gonna see a lot of people making a lot less money (laughs). A lot of paychecks are gonna get a lot smaller. I’m interested to see where that goes. I’m stoked to have the support, it’s great. Maybe it’s just a matter of some ingredients getting changed, we’ll see. But it’s still snowboarding, party like a rockstar! Oh my god, I can’t believe I just said that. (Laughs)
Ha! Seems like a good time to ask who pays your bills?
Nike, Rockstar Energy, APO snowboards, Whistler/Blackcomb, Clast Neckwear and Nixon.