Photo: Tom Kingsnorth

Cheryl Maas

There are only a handful of riders that would you could consider to be legends and in Women’s snowboarding this amount is even smaller. Cheryl Maas is considered by many to be the greatest female snowboarder of all time. From her humble dryslope beginnings growing up in The Netherlands, Cheryl has had a long and successful career that spans over 15 years that includes highly respected video parts, Olympic runs in both pipe and slopestyle and multiple contest wins. Maas doesn’t mince her words and this honest and yet outspoken individual has been known to publicly scream at judges, the Netherland Olympic Association and the IOC about their decision to hold the Winter Olympics in the gay unfriendly Sochi, Russia. She is as explosive as she gets on her board and often attempts tricks for the first time in a  contest run, whilst others plays it safe. This attitude to send it has won her adoring fans across the globe. We caught up with Cheryl as she talks broken necks, being hand selected by Peter Line, gay rights, losing sponsors and much more – by Tom Kingsnorth

You recently broke your neck but not snowboarding? How did you do it and will you be riding this season?
Yeah, I broke my neck sadly diving into a swimming pool on holiday, but I’m happy I didn’t do it snowboarding because perhaps that would have scared me to ride. I’ll definitely be riding this season; I’ll be out of the neck brace in a few weeks and I’ll get on my board as quick as possible. I’m heading to NZ at the end of September and I’ll ride a big air contest in Denmark in November, so let’s see.

You have been a pro for many years and some consider you to be a legend, what were your first steps in becoming pro?
I’ve been really lucky to come from the Netherlands and not many riders are from there, I followed my passion and it worked out. I did what I loved and it all happened by itself, I used to write letters to brands back in the day I remember I sent one to Sessions after winning a contest but unfortunately they couldn’t sponsor me. That didn’t stop me, I continued doing what I love and a year later a lot of brands were lining up to sponsor me and I turned pro.

Cheryl getting Feisty – Photo: Sani Alibabic

Is it true that Peter Line hand picked you to join Forum?
It wasn’t Forum, it was Electric as I was already on Forum at the time. I saw him and Mike Ranquet at SPC in Austria and after we hung out a bit he said he was stoked on my riding and wanted to sponsor me on Electric. I didn’t have to hear anything else, my answer was yes for sure, it was an honour that he picked me.

What has changed in professional snowboarding since you became pro?
I think the biggest change is that it’s more professional now, it’s a sport and athletic, before people would send it hard but also party hard and in daily life and just rode and skate. Nowadays everyone is in the gym six days a week, they think differently and won’t skateboard before a big contest because of the consequences. Everything is more serious as the level is so high, you really need to be on your game because of the size of the jumps and tricks. Now you can’t get away with bailing so much.

For a while you were throwing tricks that no one else could, what do you think of the progression of women’s snowboarding in the past few years?

Women’s snowboarding has grown a lot I think it’s mainly because the Big Air came into it and it helps push the progression so much, because you can focus on one trick so much more than slopestyle. The other girls are throwing down too, so that pushes and progresses you to try and beat them. In slopestyle you have to link tricks together so you don’t want to give it 100% on each trick in case you don’t land. Also the techniques of training such as trampolines, airbags and more girls coming from a gymnastic background. Those girls are just more aware with flips and air awareness. It’s not my favourite style though, but shit happens haha.

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You can ride pipe, streetrails, backcountry and park and have had notable video parts or entered big contests doing all these types of riding. What do you like to ride the most?
I don’t really care what I ride, I just love to be on my snowboard and be creative, but I really like to make video parts and get creative. To pick an obstacle and push yourself on that, there are no rules and I love how you can just work on that style and work with filmers and work out what would be best. That’s my favourite for sure.

You’ve had some hard time with sponsors recently, why do you think that is? The current state of snowboarding or more?
Sponsors haven’t been knocking on my doors as much anymore, even though snowboarding is getting popular with the Olympics and getting bigger in the mainstream again. The sponsors want younger riders that are going to be around for a while or that are really active on social media. I’m not the best with that social side of things because I didn’t have it growing up. I think riders should focus more on snowboarding instead of being on a computer or phone, so yeah I don’t have as many followers as some and that bit me in the ass a bit. Being a mom and 32 years old, people might think I’ll quit and they want to build someone up from a younger age. I think they should open their eyes and realise that people that snowboard can still get inspired by older riders that love what they do.

Talking about sponsors, we’ve noticed you riding ‘Feisty’ boards lately. What’s up with that?
Feisty is for girls, inspired by girls. It’s a brand that really wants to push girls’ board sports, with the design and development being done by girls too, so you are really part of the brand. My pro model has 100% of my input in it for design and function. It’s made exactly the way I like it.

Cheryl’s famous Sochi Olympics protest, bringing the subject of gay rights live to billions of people

You have a wife and two children now, does that make you want to travel less? Has that had an impact on the amount you snowboard?
Having a family definitely has an impact on my snowboarding but not in a bad way because I do get to travel less but I appreciate the trips more. If anything I am riding harder and getting motivated more because I want to show my girls that I am a great snowboarder and it pushes me to learn new tricks so that I can show them. When I won The Oslo X Games last year with my 2 kids there, they were really proud and it was a great family moment to see how stoked they were too. It’s been more motivating for me having children than without.

Were you nervous to go to the Sochi Olympics because of their policy on gay rights?
Nope I was never nervous to go there because first of all in my eyes I was going as an athlete and that was my focus, I expected that the Olympics would be super on it to stop anything bad happening when the whole world was watching and things could happen to athletes. Those kind of things have happened in the past there and I am sure they didn’t want that to be on tv on such a large platform so for sure they learnt from it. There are always haters in the word and they will never stop me from doing what I do. I did speak up about the issue there and I was proud of myself for doing that because it’s stupid to not allow someone to love another and love is free and should be for everyone.

Cheryl boosting in Whistler. Photo: Sani Alibabic

You are also a stuntwoman and we’ve seen you jump off high things, roll out of moving cars and much more. Is this something you will pursue when you finally quit professional snowboarding?
I don’t know, if there is ever an opportunity to do something dangerous or stupid I probably will, especially if there is a paycheck involved haha. It’s hard to know what I will do after snowboarding because I still love it so much and not ready to quit. I love riding motorbikes, skating but it’s not a huge dream to become a stuntwoman right now.

If you could change one thing about the snowboard industry, what would it be?
I’d like to bring it back more to how it use to be, it was like a family but now everyone is kind of doing it for themselves and not as a tight unit. I feel like the style is falling out of snowboarding quite a lot but then on the other hand girls are riding better than ever before. Our brains work differently than guys so in some aspects we are out charging harder than the guys.

Photo: Tom Kingsnorth

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