After big Burton performance, Retzlaff competes in first Grand Prix
19-year-old sought out Vail in hopes of going pro – so far, so good
VAIL — Last week, David Retzlaff received word that he may want to head out to Mammoth Mountain in California, where one of the biggest events in slopestyle snowboarding, the U.S. Grand Prix, was getting underway. He hopped a flight and made it just in time to learn he had earned an invite to his first ever Grand Prix competition. Ski & Snowboard Vail coach Chris Laske said he had never seen the young slopestyle rider put down such an impressive practice run. “Dave was riding on another level, for sure,” Laske said. But after the week Retzlaff just wrapped up, that wasn’t surprising to see. The 19-year-old appeared in the biggest event of his life, the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships, on Feb. 27. A few days later on March 1, he filmed a run on Vail Mountain which Burton selected into the final five of their “best line” contest, where competitors were invited to record an unedited run and submit it for a chance to win $10,000. Burton Snowboards shared Retzlaff’s video on its Instagram page; the post received more than 72,000 likes. “I gained like 200 followers right there,” Retzlaff said.
SENSE OF BELONGINGWith fun and a celebration of snowboarding the theme of the Burton US Open, Retzlaff said just participating in the event was a dream come true. Watching it on Red Bull’s live stream, however, you might not have recognized it was so special for Retzlaff. Despite the fact that it was by far the biggest stage he had ever been on, Retzlaff was able to blend right in. He has watched the replay a number of times following the event. “Looking at the tricks that the other people were doing, I was doing some of those same tricks,” he said. “You don’t want to stand out for not doing big stuff, so it made me feel like I belonged there.” Retzlaff landed a technical rail trick, starting and ending in the unnatural switch stance, and also put a switch double cork 1260 to his feet, another difficult trick. Announcer Sal Masekela also commended Retzlaff on his ability to go huge off the feature that was giving the competitors the most trouble, the “mandatory side hit,” as it was called, which forced riders to hit a quarter-pipe style jump onto a standard landing, a feature which is often an option at slopestyle contests but not usually a must-hit transition.
NATURAL PROGRESSIONHeading into the Grand Prix in Mammoth on Thursday, there was no option around the side hit once again. “There was the mandatory halfpipe transition there, which was cool to see,” Retzlaff said of the Mammoth Grand Prix. “You just gotta get comfortable on it and see what you can do.” After figuring out the course and putting together a couple impressive practice runs, Retzlaff was landing a series of tricks that could compete for finals in his first-ever Grand Prix, Laske said. “Unfortunately he just had a slight revert on one of his landings, and that affected his score quite a bit,” Laske said. “But it’s great to see him riding so well with so much confidence, I think being at Burton really helped with that.” A similar set of circumstances beset Retzlaff at the US Open the week earlier, and he wasn’t able to achieve his full scoring potential. But being out of the competition for finals allowed Retzlaff to task coach Casey Lehmicke with folocam duties for his best line submission.
“It was a blast,” Retzlaff said. “I wish more big competitions would do stuff like that, because that makes it so much fun when you don’t make finals, it just gives you something else to work toward.” Retzlaff moved to Colorado from Michigan five years ago, seeking out Laske’s program after watching him coach another Michigan snowboarder, Kyle Mack, into the top level of the sport. While some athletes in the slopestyle scene are practically veterans by age 19, Retzlaff appears to be progressing at a normal rate for an athlete, taking his skills to the next level as he approaches his second decade on the planet. “He’s right on track,” Laske said of Retzlaff. “Not trying to rush it and just letting his skills progress naturally.” The next step in that process? “I’m hoping to get on the U.S. Team,” Retzlaff said.
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