At the 2013 snowboard cross NORAM Cup event Sunday in Copper Mountain, Colo., Nevada City based snowboarder Evan Strong crashed in spectacular fashion.
On his second run, Strong took a spill that landed him flat on his back, as his head whipped against the icy terrain. Instead of just lying there and excepting defeat, Strong rolled his feet and board over his head and in a matter of seconds and was soaring down the hill again.
“I could have easily just laid there in the past,” Strong said.
But Strong’s not the type that cowers under adverse circumstances, he’s the type that rises above them.
The professional snowboarder, avid mountain biker, rock climber, skateboarder and restauranteur, lost his left leg a few inches below the knee nine years ago when he was just 17 years old.
Strong was struck by an SUV going 65 MPH while he was riding a motorcycle in Hawaii.
But the native Hawaiian never let his injury slow him down, having gone on to be a highly decorated snowboarder and hopeful paralympian.
Since losing his leg the eternally optimistic young man, who resides in Nevada City, has won the 2012 para snowboard cross world championship, the winter X-Games 15 gold medal in adaptive border cross, is an eight-time World Cup gold medalist in para snowboard cross and is currently training for the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.
Snowboarding events were added to the Paralympics just six moths ago, and when that happened, it caused Strong to change his whole approach.
“It’s full swing seriousness,” he said. “The last couple seasons we’ve been racing without a definite long term goal. Now it’s there, it’s real, it’s tangible, and many people want it and are so hungry for it. Now you have to mentally ramp up yourself and prepare, and prepare and prepare, so your not caught off guard.”
Part of Strong’s new approach is implementing kettlebell training with Form is Function owner and trainer Eric Kenyon.
Strong and Kenyon began working together twice a week in December to prepare for the upcoming snowboard cross season. Preparation that has already paid off as evidenced by Strong’s ability to bounce back from his recent crash.
“That crash I had, it was pretty rough,” he said. “But I’ve definitely gained resiliency. Of course there’s the offensive strength that I’ve been experiencing, but I noticed in that crash the defensive strength I had.”
Despite the nasty crash in Colorado, Strong still placed second.
Since training with Kenyon, Strong said he has seen the workouts translate into several aspects of racing.
“Where I normally shine in boarder cross is on the rollers,” he said. “If you do it wrong you can break your spine, if you do it correctly you can accelerate through them. Doing a lot of (kettlebell) swings is the same motion. It’s like pre-olleying over the peak and exploding out the back, and I’ve really noticed improvement there. I definitely feel stronger and more explosive out of the gates, and just faster in general. Now I’m just trying to catch up in my head the speeds I’m now going.”
Kenyon, who works and trains all types of clients from the elderly to the acrobatic, said Strong isn’t his first experience with snowboarders.
“When I first started this thing (Form is Function) in San Francisco, I had a bunch of friends who were amateur (snowboarders), and they gave me great feedback, plus there was a mob of them for me to observe consistent results,” Kenyon said. “One of the things they said was they felt a little faster, a little more stable, but the big thing for them was the next day when most are groaning, they were ready to go, ready to rock the next day. It knocked their recovery time down to nothing.”
When Kenyon and Strong first began their work together it was a lot of weight training, but now, as the snowboard cross season is in full swing, they work on recovery.
“We are doing restoration for a wounded warrior,” Kenyon said. “Before the season we were doing intense weight training multiple times a week. After the season it will be more of the same and building on lessons learned.”
Kenyon and Strong both said they hope to add some weight to the slender snowboarder’s frame after the season concludes.
“When the season is over we want to put a few pounds of muscle on Evan,” Kenyon said. “Because, as he has explained to me, the heavier racer goes faster.
“We can easily put five to 10 pounds on him, and it will be a very functional five to 10 pounds. It will represent a strength increase of close to 40 percent, his weight will go up four to eight percent but his strength will go up 30 to 40 percent. It will be the most functional 10 pounds you ever had.”
Part of the postseason regimen will also be building Strong’s body armor.
“Armour building is building up the size and strength of the muscles that cover your viscera and your ribs to protect you in collision sports,” Kenyon said. “And Evan’s sport is a collision sport, that’s why they wear actual armor. They are colliding with stuff, features and each other.”
With each session, Kenyon keeps tabs on Strong’s progress, introduces new stretches and ways to recover quicker as well as discussing nutrition and handing out homework assignments.
So far the kettlebell training is having an immediate impact said Strong, who has tallied a first-place finish and a second-place finish, even after falling, through the first two races.
“I didn’t like getting second-place,” he said. “It didn’t eat me up or anything, but I want to come out swinging in Russia.”
Strong has four races left this season, three of which are World Cup events, with the next coming up at the end of February in Sochi, Russia, followed by one in Slovenia, one in Canada and finally a NORAM in Colorado.
“My main goal is to be smooth and consistent and be healthy,” Strong said. “This is just a qualifying year for the US national team. This is not the big show. The big show comes in 13 months in Russia for the Paralympics, so I just want to get these consistent clean races under my belt but not be injured.
“I feel really confident with the training that I’ve been doing and that I will be doing, and that I will be able to be strong and stay healthy.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.