Very few women (or men, for that matter) can come near the style on this seven. VIDEO: Vernon Deck
In many ways, Cheryl Maas shares much in common with the trademark cats on her pro model boards, boots, and apparel. Independent in nature, they both shy from the limelight, preferring to let their deft skills speak without saying. Most importantly, as Cheryl reminds us, “they always land on their feet, no matter how you throw them up in the air.” Olympian, TTR World Title, US Open Champion—the list of major contest wins goes long, but it’s her ability to film everything from rails to backcountry that has set her apart for almost a decade. 2011 shows her to be healthy, motivated, and looking to push her snowboarding even further. At just 26 years old, Cheryl’s got that look in her eyes and that chip in her voice once again—great news, for us all. Which begs the question: If Terje is the Sprocking Cat, does that mean Cheryl Maas is the Sprocking Kitten? — A.H.
Hometown: Uden, Netherlands
Home Mountain: Dry Slope
Currently Reside: Biarritz, France
Sponsors: Nitro, Volcom, Nixon, Vans, Celtek, Rockstar Energy Drink
Set-Up: Nitro Cheryl Maas Pro 153, Goofy, 21 and –18
Adam Hawes: Let’s start with the back 7 video [above].
How does one go from growing up on a dry slope to sending it in the backcountry?
Cheryl Maas: I don’t know! I guess I was really lucky, in a way. First, to have the dry slope in my town, and second, finding something I love to do so much. I went there every day! The transition to snow was pretty hard, actually. I was good on the dry—doing 540s already. When I went on the snow, I could barely make a turn! [Laughs] I was just falling all over. You kind of have to start again. I kind of knew how to do tricks, but I just needed to figure out the difference. But as soon as I saw the snow, I was sold. I was like, “This is the best thing ever, just to slide down a hill!” In Holland, there weren’t that many good riders. A few, but not too many girls. That was my chance to go out.
Were you one of the first females that got into the dry slope scene?
Here in my area, for sure. I started riding when I was eleven. There were only guys around; only one older female did the Dutch Championships on dry slope. It took me four years to get ready and enter. I was fourteen by the time, and there was only one other girl in all of Holland around my age. So, I was second in Holland! [Laughs] That kind of inspired me to keep riding—become the best in Holland when there were only two girls! And I actually did! I was always interested in real snow competition, so I competed with a few older Dutch girls. That was kind of my transition.
Fast-forward to now, and you’re a halfpipe Olympian.
I was riding slopestyle at the time, when I met some of the girls that I filmed with for Dropstitch, one of the first girl movies we did. I was just messing around in the pipe and they said, “Whoa! You have some talent, you should ride more pipe.” I really liked jumps more, but they were like, “Well, you’re the only one from Holland. It would probably be easy to go to the Olympics!” And I was like, “Hmm … yeah, maybe you’re right!” [Laughs]
It was maybe less than a year before the 2006 Olympics, so I had to hurry up and qualify. I trained all in one year, attempting to qualify on my own. In the beginning, I had called my Federation and said, “Yeah, so I want to go to the Olympics. I want to ride halfpipe.” Their said, “Excuse me, who are you? You can’t just go to the Olympics.” They were laughing at me. I wasn’t too happy with the Dutch Federation after that … I left them years ago. In Holland, the Ski Federation handles the snowboarders. I told them to just sign my papers or whatever they needed to do for me to try and qualify, and I’ll do everything alone, by myself.
My first halfpipe competition was in Chile. I wasn’t that experienced in the pipe, and fell on both of my runs. When I got home, the first thing the newspapers wrote was, “Cheryl Maas: 0% Chance To Go To The Olympics”. It’s true! [Laughs]
That kind of pissed me off. After that, I went against the whole Dutch Federation and newspaper thing. I did my own thing—trained, riding, competitions—and finally got the results that I needed. I was actually the first athlete from Holland to qualify for the Olympics that year! Suddenly, the newspapers wanted to interview me. But I said, “Well, I don’t really want to talk to you.” I was still mad about how they and the Federation had treated me at first. I said to the newspaper, “I’m going to the Olympics as a tourist.” A lot of the Dutch people got annoyed with me, saying things like, “How could she take money from the federation?” But once they found out I wasn’t taking their money, and was doing it on my own, nobody could say anything about me! [Laughs] It’s kind of funny to deal with that whole situation, and how people look at snowboarders in Holland. It was a good way to show that we’re not just party people, going crazy, doing drugs, and having piercings everywhere. But again, just because I did have a nose ring, they were like, ”Oh, you’re one of those people. I said, “No. I’m just a snowboarder having a good time.” [Laughs]
Did you and the Dutch media ever patch things up, or has there always been of a riff there?
I’ve never been the person to jump to the media or want to be the center of attention. I mean, I really like to have my snowboarding shown in the core media, because they know what they talk about. Normal media looks really strange at snowboarding, like we’re all drunk-ass party people that want to be rock stars. But still, the most viewed Olympic event in Holland was the halfpipe when I was there! I’m not the person to be in the media or go on TV; I want to do my own thing and enjoy it.
Regardless, are you a celebrity in your home country?
[Laughs] No, no. Definitely not! But I choose not to be. I mean, you could definitely do that. You could show yourself everywhere. When the Olympics were on, people would recognize me because I was in the paper, and there were a lot of photos everywhere. But I never really accepted any of the programs that asked me to come and be on TV. They’d ask me, “Oh, do you want to be on this sports program?” and I would say, “No, thank you.” I’m just not that person. I want to be recognized for my good riding and the sport I’m doing, that’s all.
Why do you think the girl snowboard population is growing these days?
It’s more accessible now. When I started—especially in Holland—there were no snowboard schools. I had to drop my studies and go for snowboarding. I gambled that this would pay off and I would someday make a living. Nowadays, there are a lot of young girls that get more support from their schools and get a sports education. It’s great, and has changed the scene. There are a lot more young girls who can travel, while still doing their studies—keeps their parents happy, and will be good for later.
Last time you and I talked, we spoke about how hard people like Janna Meyen and Tara Dakides used to ride. Their parts from 7 or 8 years ago could still stand up to today, even.
Yes, definitely. Janna Meyen is still, in my eyes, the best female snowboarder out there. She can rock up to any competition and be guaranteed a podium spot. She’s so good and she can sell it. Big respect for her. Its insane how good she is … she’s way out of the league for anybody.
I think it takes a certain type of girl to ride that hard. You gotta be really tough to push it that far. I don’t think there are that many girls out there for the sport—any sport. There are only a few each time around that can really be that tough.
Will we ever see you dancing on the snow with “the girls” or anything like that?
[Laughs] No! I really like to ride with the guys. That’s what inspires me. I’m not like, “Yeah, girl power!” I just want to snowboard. I don’t care who I’m riding with, I just want to have a really good feeling when I’m on my board and do sick tricks. When I see some of the dudes’ drive, they have a better flow than most of the girls. So, I want to ride with the guys.