Waiting For The Ticket

Brett Rheeder backflip tailwhips his way to victory at the 2016 Red Bull Joyride event at Crankworx in Whistler, British Columbia.

Waiting For The Ticket Brett Rheeder's Steady Rise to Slopestyle Stardom

On a warm August evening in 2006 I finished riding my bike in the backyard and got online to see what was going on in the mountain bike world. To my surprise and amazement, I came across a live slopestyle contest that was being streamed on the homepage of Pinkbike. The event was in Whistler, British Columbia, and it was part of a huge mountain bike festival called Crankworx.

Up to that point, I’d never seen or heard the term “slopestyle,” but the longer I watched, the more strongly I connected with what was going on. It was exactly what I was striving to do in my backyard, but on a professional level.

“Come watch this!” I shouted to my family, who rushed over to watch the first of what would be many slopestyle contests we’d see together.

I went to bed that night manifesting what the next 17 years of my life would look like.

Three years later, I traveled to Winter Park, Colorado, ready to compete in my first slopestyle contest at Crankworx Colorado. The field was stacked with professional athletes, but the contest was open to qualifiers which meant anyone could sign up. I was only 16 years old, and the youngest in the field next to Colin Westeinde, a Whistler kid who was in the same situation as me—young, somewhat inexperienced and new to slopestyle competition.

We quickly became friends and started planning our runs together. I was relieved to have someone to practice with because I felt intimidated and out of my league. Colin seemed less fazed than me. After one look at the course, I realized I had some learning to do. The first feature was a rock roll into an elevated wooden spiral that led to a big drop—definitely a move that would require two brakes. I’d never even owned a bike with front and rear brakes, and it was clear that my rear brake would not suffice. My mom drove us down to Denver to buy a front brake so that I’d be prepared for the first practice the next day.

Not long into my debut practice, I was starting to get comfy on some of the easier jumps and Colin and I began to push each other. I figured it would be a good time to try my first backflip on an actual slopestyle course. I came into the jump, pulled back, rotated the flip and spotted the landing, which was already long gone. I had almost twice the speed that I needed and I over-rotated straight to my back. My head hit the ground hard, resulting in my first concussion.

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