TSG team rider Leilani Ettel has just graduated from high school and is about to drop in to a new life as a full-time pro snowboarder.
by DANNY BURROW photos DANIEL AMMANN, PETER RAUCH, PHILIPP SIEFKEN, JULIAN PFISTER, WRT – January 14, 2020
TSG team rider Leilani Ettel has just graduated from high school and is about to drop in to a new life as a full-time pro snowboarder. Find out about her board-riding roots in Munich; competitions and qualifying for the 2022 Olympics; and what her perfect day of riding would look like.
My whole family life circles around board sports
We caught up with Leilani while she was competing in Colorado. She had just won 1st at the Futures Tour Comp and placed 10th in a World Cup comp. Not a bad start to her new era!
How long have you been snowboarding, surfing and skating?
I have been skateboarding since forever. I started surfing when I was 4, when I could swim properly. Snowboarding I started around 6, but still went skiing too. The first time I dropped into a pipe, aged 9, I started snowboarding for good.
Are your parents boardriders?
My whole family life circles around board sports. Both my mother and father skateboarded, surfed and snowboarded way back and still do. So when my little sister Kona and I came into the picture, they just kept doing what they loved and took us along.
Was Munich the perfect place to grow up loving Boardsports?
Probably yes, for living in Germany. Munich has some good skateparks, we’ve got standing waves, and the mountains are close by. The only better option might have been growing up in SoCal.
When did you start competing as a snowboarder?
I kind of slipped into competition mode when I started riding at the Nebelhorn pipe. The week after was the first German Championships and friends told me to just enter the comp. It was one the most fun contests and I haven’t stopped since.
How have you been able to balance your schedule as a sponsored athlete with school?
I know from the start I would only get days off school if my grades were good, so I basically just tried to soak everything in at school so I didn’t have to work too much in the afternoons or weekends. It got a little tough during my senior years, since I was also doing World Cups and was away quite a bit, but I still managed to finish very well.
You are now finishing high school: What are your plans for further education and competing as a professional athlete?
I really haven’t yet made up my mind on what to study in the future. But since I want to focus on just snowboarding for a while it gives me a little time. I really enjoy riding without having to get back home in the afternoons and study for the rest of the day, so I am quite stoked on that!
What do you have to do to make the cut for 2022?
I guess be Top 20 by the end of season 2020/2021 and then probably some good World Cup placings to match German criteria. Not putting too much thought on that right now, as I just want to ride with a great crew, enjoy the moment, progress and make it happen.
Out of all your results which one are you most stoked with and why?
Placing 3rd in the Junior World Champs 2017 and 2019 and also placing 2nd at the World Rookie Finals 2019 are the obvious ones. But I actually got the most stoke out of placing 7th in the World Cup at Secret Garden, China, last December. I almost made it into finals.
In an ideal world where would you live and what would be your perfect day?
It’s got to be in SoCal. Maybe surf Trestles in the morning, go to Banzai Bowls for breakfast afterwards, then head over to VANS Huntington to skate the Combi and then back for an evening glass off. A road trip to Mammoth would also be cool with a stop over at the Woodward ramp.
Is there any competitive spirit between you and your sister Kona when it comes to riding?
Not really, since we are usually in separate age groups. It was awesome though when last year at German champs she beat everybody but me and we got to share the podium.
What TSG kit would you not be without when you go snowboarding?
Obviously the helmet is the most important; the Lotus fits me perfectly. For back protection I wear the Women’s Backbone Vest; I love that it doesn’t slip around and is safe but still comfortable to wear. For knees and elbows I prefer the Arctic Knee 2nd Skin; it has just the right amount of cushion and doesn’t slip at all.
What advice would you give to a snowboarder who wants to progress their riding this coming season with the hope of becoming pro?
You can only try out new and therefore riskier tricks if you feel as safe and protected as possible; there will always be bails involved. It really gives me the creeps if I see someone in the pipe without a helmet; couldn’t give it my all without mine. And, I rather not feel every bone hurting after a regular day in the pipe.
See you on the mountain!
See here Leilani’s choice of gear to stay safe
or check out LEILANI’S RIDER PROFILE