Originally published in the November 2017 issue of TransWorld SNOWboarding, Judd Henkes’ interview is the second of eight conducted with up-and-coming riders over the course of a week in Aspen, Colorado in April 2017. Check out Red Gerard’s interview here!
Judd Henkes is small in stature and likes to sit at the adult table. While the rest of the crew we gathered in Aspen are in the living room wrestling each others' faces into the carpet or fighting over video game controllers, Judd is sitting with the media crew, taking in the conversation. He's deliberate when he speaks. His calculated approach serves Judd well in the competitive landscape he's been a part of since his torso and helmet were the same size. Judd is a no-bullshit little dude, the type that could one day do well in the business world when he steps off this snowboard roller coaster he's firmly fastened into. — Taylor Boyd
Hanky Panky, is that what we should call you?
Actually my nickname from Dave Reynolds, the US Snowboarding Coach, is Juddy Buddy.
If you were to get a nickname, which some contest dudes have, what would it be?
Juddy Buddy Jelly Belly.
Tell us where you're from.
I'm from La Jolla, California. It's a beach town in San Diego. But I grew up riding Mammoth. There are so many good guys coming out of there like Brock and Greg Bretz. All those guys are really sick.
When did you start riding Mammoth?
My first trip was when I was four years old. My parents took me up there.
Do you even remember it?
No, I just know from pictures.
How old are you now?
I just turned 16.
So your parents just decided this is what you're doing?
No, my parents didn't do that. For all they care I could've been a poet, but I just wanted to snowboard so that's what they were going to support me in.
When did you realize it could be a reality to make your living snowboarding?
At the US Open last year. After making finals, it was kind of like, "Oh, I could probably do this." It's what I like to do.
What was that experience like?
It was really cool riding with all of my childhood heroes, and then being able to compete on such a high level with such a big crowd was insane.
So you're going to try to go to the Olympics?
Yeah. You have to do slope and big air if you go. The slopestyle team for the US is the same team that's going to do big air. But I'm going to try to go for slopestyle—big air by default. I think I'm going to probably lay off the halfpipe for the next couple years and see how slopestyle goes, then maybe get back into it, I don't know. I definitely like the foundation of riding halfpipe because there are so many transition features nowadays in slope comps, so when you have that background, it makes it that much easier to go bigger on those and be able to flip on the same axis that you would in halfpipe.
Is there a lot of pressure and expectation you're feeling regarding the Olympics?
Nah, I don't really feel any pressure towards it. I think if I go, that's a bonus.
You like that element of competition?
Yeah, I definitely like the element of competition. It's really cool. It actually makes me try stuff on rails, because when I cruise rails just riding through the park I'll only do boardslides and back lips, but when I'm in a contest it actually makes me try stuff.
If you were in the Olympics, and you had to do the big air event, what would be your trick?
I honestly don't know. There would have to be a back triple somewhere in there. Last time I tried was my first, and I fell, but I think I'm going to get it. I'll try it again.
So what is your favorite trick to do if there's no pressure to do a particular trick?
Front 10 off the toes. It's one of my favorite tricks. I just grab indy.
What about if you're watching snowboarding?
While I'm watching snowboarding, probably the trick that gets me most hyped would be just a back lip.
Who's your favorite snowboarder right now?
I'm not really sure; probably Nik Baden. Super creative.
What about someone older that you get hyped on?
I don't know; I've always liked Greg Bretz just because he's a super cool guy, and he can rip halfpipe and slopestyle.
What else do you like to do besides snowboarding?
Surfing and skateboarding. Those are two of my favorite things to do outside of snowboarding.
You guys have a pretty interesting dynamic. It feels like every crew member is a character in this funny little group.
They all have their distinct traits—even how they snowboard, too. Brock just always sends and is kind of loose, and Red is more calculated. Sometimes I don't like to ride with the group because I just like to ride. I'll just get fast laps in.