Halfpipe, Slopestyle, Filming-What’s Left?
By Annie Fast

This past winter, Natasza won both the Burton European Open slopestyle and yet another Roxy Chicken Jam. Both are impressive accomplishments in their own rights, but it’s what she did between events that really sealed her spot at the top-the most coveted achievement of all: the ender in Misschief Films’ Ro Sham Bo.
Natasaza first strapped in at Whistler in 1992; she’s been snowboarding and competing professionally since ’98. She’s already had a complete career in the halfpipe, competing in both the ’98 and 2000 Olympics (both times after blowing her ACL), winning the 2000 and 2001 U.S. Open halfpipe and the title of Best Halfpipe Rider in the 2002 TWS Riders’ Poll. But now she says that she’s doing what she always wanted to do: filming her own part and competing in slopestyle. A shy and reserved rider, Natasza sent in her journal from her first year snowboarding and suggested we read it get to know her better. We fired back with some questions. It’s an old-fashioned interview-surprisingly, her first in TransWorld.

Your winter of ’92/93 journal is filled with notes from every single day riding, starting with “Day 1, Whistler, I tried to teach myself in the parking lot.” There’s some funny stuff like buying your first pair of boots: “Day 3, Seymour, Riding in Airwalks is better than riding in ski boots.”
You rode 44 days that first winter and even hit up Blackcomb Glacier that summer, meeting all the pros like Nicole Angelrath and Jeff Brushie, and, it looks like by then, clearing ten-foot fence ollies (day 33). What was your first year like?
My journal is kind of embarrassing, but it really shows my passion and dedication and my true love for what it is I was doing. I went alone a lot because I didn’t know anyone else. I went because it was fun and so damn cool and there was this whole lifestyle. Snowboarding was totally something I felt connected to right from the start. I wanted to be a pro snowboarder before I even went snowboarding, and I knew I could pick it up and it would be a big part of my life.

Did your family support what you were doing and do they still?
For sure. My family is just my mom, my dad, and my sister. My dad moved us out to Canada when we were small because Poland was communist. He wanted to get out and he had a means to leave, which a lot of people didn’t back then because you had to have permission to leave the country. With such a small family, you have to be close, because all the rest of them are in Poland. I’m glad I’m so close with my parents and my sister.

How long have you been a pro rider?
I’ve been riding for Burton since ’98, and that’s when I turned pro. I was riding for Option two years before that.

By 2002, you had racked up all of your pipe victories and accomplishments. When and why did you make the transition from pipe into slopestyle and filming?
When I first started snowboarding, I wanted to film, and that’s what inspired me to want to become pro. I knew I wanted to film and do photos from watching The Hard, The Hungry, And The Homeless and looking at the mags. Then, going into it, I realized that girls can’t get that much stuff done-no one wanted to watch them, and no one wanted to publish the photos. Contests were the thing that girls were doing at the time and I didn’t really want to do them, but then I realized that’s what you’ve gotta do to be in it.
So I just went in and competed, and after a couple contests, I got addicted to it. I was like, ‘Wow, this is really fun,’ but after a few years, I realized that I was getting bored with contests and riding pipe because I didn’t have any more goals. I had accomplished so many of my goals that there wasn’t anything I wanted to achieve anymore.

And just at that moment the opportunity to film came up?
Yeah, I was done with competing and I felt my boredom setting in and my motivation to snowboard and to prress leaving me. Then, all of the sudden, there was the opportunity to film, and at the same time, slopestyle contests started getting popular, too. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do since the beginning, so I was stoked.
When I snowboarded, I didn’t want to snowboard pipe, I wanted to snowboard jumps-like backcountry jumps. So, now slopestyle was the “it” thing, and there was prize money in it, and girls were doing it and getting better-I was super pumped. The motivation came back, but then there was that whole thing with Burton that happened at the same time where I got hurt, and then the budget was getting cut so a lot of teamriders got cut.

Did you have a whole year of not being sponsored or was it just a short time?
I only had a couple of months in the spring and summer, and then fall came and there was a budget for me and I was back on the Burton team.

How did that affect you?
Well, I got cut and then I realized, ‘Oh, now I’m not getting paid to snowboard anymore, but I still really really, want to do it and this isn’t fair.’ But I realized also that, ‘I’ve saved a lot of money from contests, so I can just pay my own way to snowboard-it doesn’t matter.’ That made me happy because it changed my perspective, and that’s how I realized that I really have to ride for myself.

How did that change the way you dealt with pressures from sponsors?
When I was younger and less experienced, I felt pressure from sponsors and the team managers. I really cared about what people thought about me and how I snowboarded. That, in the end, is so much pressure on you that it takes the fun out of snowboarding and it makes your riding suck-for me personally. There might be people out there who love that pressure and can use it to their advantage, but for me, it just made me feel stressed out and scared. It made me feel like if I went out snowboarding with Burton on a photo shoot and there was an 80-foot jump, that I’d have to hit it and I’d have to kill myself for that sponsor just to make it and to stay.
Now my attitude about that has totally changed. Now what my sponsors and other people think is the last thing I think about. What I need to know when I’m snowboarding is what I want to feel, what I want to snowboard, what I want to do. Now I make goals for myself coming from my heart and my mind-like realistic goals that I know I can obtain. I’m not trying to bust my ass to reach some goals that someone else has set for me, but my own goals. Which in the end, means that I’m having an easier time attaining them ’cause they’re attainable. I know what I need to do to achieve it and I’m having fun.

When we were in Switzerland a couple winters ago, you said that you feel like you get overlooked sometimes. Do you still feel that way?
Sure, but it doesn’t bother me-I don’t care. But yeah, I think it is a fact.

Why do you think that is?
I think that I’m not the kind of personality that is in people’s faces all the time, and I’m very modest, so I don’t hype myself up to people. The only time I expect people to ever give me any kind of compliment is when they actually see me snowboard, not if they hear me talking about how great I am.

So you want to let your riding do the talking?
Exactly. And I don’t push myself in the spotlight, like some people need that attention-and then they get it. But I don’t really want it-I’m kind of scared of it, so I try to stay out of it. If I’m not getting the attention I deserve, it’s mostly because I’ve been avoiding it for my own fear of being in the spotlight.

Have you ever thought about getting an agent?
I’ve had an agent, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t like that I had to go through someone else to deal with snowboarding, and it made me feel like I wasn’t riding for myself. I didn’t want to have an agent, so I quit.

What achievements are you most proud of in snowboarding?
I like that I’ve learned the tricks that I know-having progressed. That’s the biggest one. I’m super stoked on my video part in Misschief Films’ Ro Sham Bo and the cover of Snowboarder, and then winning the U.S. Open pipe in 2000 and 2001. Also, meeting people and traveling to different places, having my mind opened, and learning that there’re interesting things in life other than snowboarding.

Are you against having contest footage in your video parts? Right now, it’s not in there, and that’s part of snowboarding-especially women’s snowboarding.
Well, if you manage to do something special in the contest, different, or something really beautiful in the lens, then I would put it in. In quarterpipe contests, you can get some pretty sick stuff, or in a pipe-so I wouldn’t cut it out.

How about as far as filming goes, do you someday want to have a part in a “men’s” snowboarding movie? Is that a goal of yours?
Well, it used to be a goal of mine when I was younger and cocky and thinking I was the shit, and that I could make it in a guys’ video. But now I’ve just lost that cockiness and that arrogant attitude. I don’t care anymore what video I’m in as long as I’m doing what I like to do, and as long as it’s fun. That’s why I like snowboarding with girls for a girls’ video. I wake up every day and I’m psyched and happy to snowboard, as opposed to not sleeping the night before because I’m so shit scared of that 80-foot gap that I’m going to have to hit the next day. It’s in my control-I get to call the shots. I love it.
I don’t think I’m cruising, either. I’m not taking the backseat on this pro snowboard ride and getting by with backside 360s. I feel like I know what I need to do to progress-and progress women’s snowboarding-and I’m doing it. But I don’t have to do it in the venue of men’s videos. I can do it on my own. And I don’t think I’m ripping off women’s snowboarding. I think I’m contributing quite well.

You’ve got sevens every way except switch backside. Are 720s all four ways a goal of yours in a contest?
It’s more for video and more for me knowing that I’ve done it.
It’s such a juggling act trying to do well in contests and trying to do a good video part. I give a lot of credit to Jussi Oksanen and Shaun White who can do that-who can film sick video parts and then roll up to a contest and win. That’s really amazing and special. I want to be like that.

Do you have any more contest goals?
Yeah, to not suck at the U.S. Open and not blow it at the X Games in slopestyle. But as for pipe, I’m never going to enter another pipe contest unless I’m 50 years old and I enter the legends category for the hell of it.

You seem more outgoing now. There were stories about you doing karaoke and partying more last winter. Is this an intentional thing?
I’m older and less intimidated by situations and by people. I’m intentionally pushing to put myself out there more. And I enjoy being with people more and doing fun stuff like karaoke that makes you super shit-in-your-pants scared, but in the end you feel good that you did it.

You’ve been at this long enough to know the game. What do you know now that you wish you knew in the beginning?
One thing is to listen to your intuition. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Be more sensitive and in tune with that, because that’s what is really going to keep you out of trouble-to keep you from getting killed or injured. I’ve had two ACL repairs-if I had known that, I might have alltogether avoided blowing my ACLs.
Going against your gut feeling, or even just being stupid-snowboarding for ten hours, not eating, not drinking, yet still wanting to snowboard-that sounds crazy and obsessive, but you get hurt when you do that kind of stuff.

You made a comment the other day that you think you never really blew up, do you think that’s true?
I think I’ve had expectations. I think I’ve had team managers telling me, ‘Okay, you do this and you do this, and you’re going to blg progressed. That’s the biggest one. I’m super stoked on my video part in Misschief Films’ Ro Sham Bo and the cover of Snowboarder, and then winning the U.S. Open pipe in 2000 and 2001. Also, meeting people and traveling to different places, having my mind opened, and learning that there’re interesting things in life other than snowboarding.

Are you against having contest footage in your video parts? Right now, it’s not in there, and that’s part of snowboarding-especially women’s snowboarding.
Well, if you manage to do something special in the contest, different, or something really beautiful in the lens, then I would put it in. In quarterpipe contests, you can get some pretty sick stuff, or in a pipe-so I wouldn’t cut it out.

How about as far as filming goes, do you someday want to have a part in a “men’s” snowboarding movie? Is that a goal of yours?
Well, it used to be a goal of mine when I was younger and cocky and thinking I was the shit, and that I could make it in a guys’ video. But now I’ve just lost that cockiness and that arrogant attitude. I don’t care anymore what video I’m in as long as I’m doing what I like to do, and as long as it’s fun. That’s why I like snowboarding with girls for a girls’ video. I wake up every day and I’m psyched and happy to snowboard, as opposed to not sleeping the night before because I’m so shit scared of that 80-foot gap that I’m going to have to hit the next day. It’s in my control-I get to call the shots. I love it.
I don’t think I’m cruising, either. I’m not taking the backseat on this pro snowboard ride and getting by with backside 360s. I feel like I know what I need to do to progress-and progress women’s snowboarding-and I’m doing it. But I don’t have to do it in the venue of men’s videos. I can do it on my own. And I don’t think I’m ripping off women’s snowboarding. I think I’m contributing quite well.

You’ve got sevens every way except switch backside. Are 720s all four ways a goal of yours in a contest?
It’s more for video and more for me knowing that I’ve done it.
It’s such a juggling act trying to do well in contests and trying to do a good video part. I give a lot of credit to Jussi Oksanen and Shaun White who can do that-who can film sick video parts and then roll up to a contest and win. That’s really amazing and special. I want to be like that.

Do you have any more contest goals?
Yeah, to not suck at the U.S. Open and not blow it at the X Games in slopestyle. But as for pipe, I’m never going to enter another pipe contest unless I’m 50 years old and I enter the legends category for the hell of it.

You seem more outgoing now. There were stories about you doing karaoke and partying more last winter. Is this an intentional thing?
I’m older and less intimidated by situations and by people. I’m intentionally pushing to put myself out there more. And I enjoy being with people more and doing fun stuff like karaoke that makes you super shit-in-your-pants scared, but in the end you feel good that you did it.

You’ve been at this long enough to know the game. What do you know now that you wish you knew in the beginning?
One thing is to listen to your intuition. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Be more sensitive and in tune with that, because that’s what is really going to keep you out of trouble-to keep you from getting killed or injured. I’ve had two ACL repairs-if I had known that, I might have alltogether avoided blowing my ACLs.
Going against your gut feeling, or even just being stupid-snowboarding for ten hours, not eating, not drinking, yet still wanting to snowboard-that sounds crazy and obsessive, but you get hurt when you do that kind of stuff.

You made a comment the other day that you think you never really blew up, do you think that’s true?
I think I’ve had expectations. I think I’ve had team managers telling me, ‘Okay, you do this and you do this, and you’re going to blow up.’ People had faith in me-I was going to blow up.
I think riders all around me have had that one year where they blow up, and I never had that ’cause I always was good, just not good enough, just a little bit less good than the other girl who did blow up that year. I think I was holding myself back because I felt like sometimes people blow up and then that’s it-they fizzle out. I didn’t want that to happen. Or maybe I did have that year and I didn’t even realize it.

Do you like where you’re at right now in your career?
I’ll give you my analogy that I just thought of-I feel like all of the last years of snowboarding have been me trying to bake a cake, and now this year and a little bit last year, it feels like I’ve sat down to the dinner table and I’m eating the cake. It’s a big cake and it took me a really long time to bake it, and it’s going to take me a long time to eat it.

Who do you have to thank?
Basia, Kris, Agata, Yuho, Ariel, Tara, Maelle, Markku, Susie, Amber,
Fabia, Heida, Runar, Chaka, Rene, Adam, Dave, Blotto, and Curtes.
No thank you to bank fees, airlines losing my luggage, other people using my towel, building backcountry kickers with lazy people, and going into the backcountry with people who don’t have a transceiver or don’t know how to use it.

May I have another piece of cake, please?


(Pull quotes)

“I wanted to be a pro snowboarder before I even went snowboarding.”

“The only time I expect people to ever give me any kind of compliment is when they actually see me snowboard, not if they hear me talking about how great I am.”

“I’m not just taking the backseat on this pro snowboard ride.”

“I’m never going to enter another pipe contest unless I’m 50 years old and I enter the legends category for the hell of it.”
o blow up.’ People had faith in me-I was going to blow up.
I think riders all around me have had that one year where they blow up, and I never had that ’cause I always was good, just not good enough, just a little bit less good than the other girl who did blow up that year. I think I was holding myself back because I felt like sometimes people blow up and then that’s it-they fizzle out. I didn’t want that to happen. Or maybe I did have that year and I didn’t even realize it.

Do you like where you’re at right now in your career?
I’ll give you my analogy that I just thought of-I feel like all of the last years of snowboarding have been me trying to bake a cake, and now this year and a little bit last year, it feels like I’ve sat down to the dinner table and I’m eating the cake. It’s a big cake and it took me a really long time to bake it, and it’s going to take me a long time to eat it.

Who do you have to thank?
Basia, Kris, Agata, Yuho, Ariel, Tara, Maelle, Markku, Susie, Amber,
Fabia, Heida, Runar, Chaka, Rene, Adam, Dave, Blotto, and Curtes.
No thank you to bank fees, airlines losing my luggage, other people using my towel, building backcountry kickers with lazy people, and going into the backcountry with people who don’t have a transceiver or don’t know how to use it.

May I have another piece of cake, please?


(Pull quotes)

“I wanted to be a pro snowboarder before I even went snowboarding.”

“The only time I expect people to ever give me any kind of compliment is when they actually see me snowboard, not if they hear me talking about how great I am.”

“I’m not just taking the backseat on this pro snowboard ride.”

“I’m never going to enter another pipe contest unless I’m 50 years old and I enter the legends category for the hell of it.”