Norwegian Ståle Sandbech is renowned as one of the most stylish and influential professional snowboarders around today, and looking at his IG feed it's not hard to see why. His 268,000 followers (and counting) are treated to daily doses of insane tricks and behind-the-scenes action from competitions and casual sessions around the world.
Sandbech has just finished competing at the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, where he narrowly missed out on a bronze medal in the men's slopestyle. Four years earlier, however, he won silver at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, before picking up a bronze medal at the Winter X Games a few months later.
These achievements, not to mention the respect and reach he now has online thanks to his social media exploits, seemed unthinkable when he was but a small boy watching his older brother's snowboarding videos. We recently caught up with Sandbech to talk about the Olympics, Instagram, his free time and more — check out the interview below.
Where did you grow up and how did you get into snowboarding?
I grew up in a town called Rykkinn, just 30 minutes outside of Oslo, Norway. I got into snowboarding after getting a snowboard as a Christmas gift from my big brother, Frode, when I was 8 years old. But I've been around the sport for pretty much as long as I can remember. My brother was a snowboarder long before me, so there were always snowboard movies around the house.
What's it like to compete in the Winter Olympics and how does it differ from other competitions?
The Winter Olympics is huge. There is so much going into it and the fact that the whole world's attention is on it, watching on TV, makes it a really big deal. It's a lot different going there with your country together as a group, with all other winter athletes. Staying together in big Olympic villages makes it a completely different experience to just being us snowboarders at a snowboard competition somewhere. It also only happens every four years, so you don’t have as many chances as you would have on a yearly competition in your career.
What did you wear there this year?
This year, I wore the new special edition Oakley eyewear collection, Harmony Fade, which was made to celebrate the journey and commitment that athletes make to become the best. I was stoked to be able to perform alongside other Team Oakley athletes from across the globe.
How was the snow and all-round atmosphere in Pyeongchang?
It was very cold there! We're used to riding and being in the cold, but this was something else. There were some issues with wind, but I think the slopestyle course there was very creative, interesting and fun to ride. I think riding-wise we saw the same as normal, there were the same guys competing as always and we were doing our best all the time. But it was for sure the highlight of the year and this was what all the riders have been building up to the past year.
How would you describe your style as a snowboarder?
Since I was a kid, my brother told me about the importance of style. So I have always tried to ride with style and creativity, but that's really up to you guys to judge.
And what about your style off the slopes?
Hmm, I try to stay cool and comfy.
What do you think about while snowboarding? Does your mind ever wander or are you always right in the moment?
When snowboarding, I feel the most free and can let go of all thoughts and just be there in the moment. Sure, I have to be focused on speed going into a jump and what tricks I am doing, but I feel like I'm kind of in-between really focused on what I am doing, and just being inside my head floating around on autopilot. It's pretty hard to describe really.
Your videos on Instagram get an insane amount of views, when and how did that all kick off?
It's been going very good lately. It's really cool to see that people like what I am doing and the videos I have been posting. It has been growing ever since I got Instagram, but during bigger events and when posting certain clips and photos it kicks off the most. After getting winning a silver medal in slopestyle at the Olympics in Sochi four years ago is probably when I got the biggest push.
Instagram is a platform where I can express myself and show what I am about. I can find inspiration there too, and follow other cool, inspiring and smart people.
How do you relax during the off-season? What else are you into to besides snowboarding?
I try to spend some time back home in Oslo hanging with my friends doing all sorts of things. We bought a sailboat a few years ago, so the last two years we have been fixing up the boat and going on sail trips. I also like to skateboard and do most kind of sports. Surfing would be my favorite, but I rarely get to go surf as I don't live close to any good waves unfortunately.
Next up; how Jaden Smith is changing the world one water bottle at a time.