Meet Harry Kearney, my new favorite snowboarder
Winning the Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom is usually reserved for legends, so when young Harry Kearney won at the age of 18, no one knew what to think. Taking the race again this past February, Kearney proved he is for real. Meet my new favorite snowboarder…
Harry is not the kind of kid who wears some obnoxious hat and squirrels around the park like so many little parasites that infest the scene, no, the measure of Harry’s talent appears to be inherent, not contrived. Think of an eagle or hawk, they don’t try to look radical as they soar across the sky, they just rip around as they were meant to. This is what it’s like to watch Harry ride – smooth, fast and aggressive, all the while appearing damn near effortless. Riders like this, and there are only a few, (Temple, Terje, DCP) don’t even have to leave the ground for you to understand their skill level. This kid rides the mountain and he rides it fast, gaining power with every transition he glides down. Fast enough in fact to win the Baker Banked… twice. Fact is, I’d rather watch Harry make a turn on hardpack than see a so called “good snowboarder” punt a double cork. Did I mention that Harry is only 20 years old?
Beyond his very real talent, what I really like about Harry is that he is just the nicest kid ever – no pretentiousness, no real motive other than to have fun and continue become a better snowboarder and certainly no cool guy shit. As an unsponsored rider at this point, where this gets him in an industry that often markets image over talent will be interesting to see. However, with a real shift in snowboarding’s perception of itself underway, undeniable talents like Harry Kearney are going to be the ones who lead a new generation of riders into territory where “good” snowboarders are no longer defined by how many times they spin, how silly their costumes are or who they know, but rather, on how solid they are overall.
How was it growing up in Telluride?
Well it’s kind of funny because it’s a skiers mountain, there are hardly any snowboarders here still. All my friends had been skiing since they could walk so since I got here a little late I learned by chasing them around the mountain. So I had to learn pretty quick. I’m still the only snowboarder in my friend group down here. And also, the San Juan’s and how rocky it is here teaches you how to look at the mountain in a different way.
How was the transition going to Baker after riding in Colorado all those years?
I guess you can just ride with a lot more confidence. When you can send it off stuff without having to worry about rocks in the landings you get a lot more confidence. It makes it pretty fun just being able to open it up, ya know. That took some getting used to but some days up there you feel like Superman because it’s so deep. And the stability up there is a whole different story. Where I grew up it’s some of the most dangerous backcountry in the world and up in Washington the snowpack is a lot different.
How did you even end up at Mt. Baker?
I had this snowboard coach in Telluride named Jason Troth who ended up being kind of a mentor to me. After him seeing how serious I was taking snowboarding, he told me that if I wanted to be a real snowboarder I needed to go to Mt. Baker. So we took our first trip up there when I was 12 years old… and of course I was blown away. Every year we would go back and then finally, when I graduated high school, I made the move happen.
I actually spoke with Jason Troth about his coaching techniques not too long ago and he kind of explained that a lot of what he teaches is mental preparation. Has that made you look at riding differently?
Yeah, totally. He came from a background of Eastern philosophies such as Qui Gong and Tai Chi and more of the mental focus that that kind of practice brings. So he taught me and my brother, who races boardercross, about different ways to approach snowboarding, especially the competitive aspect of it. Like, finding your comfortable, even keeled place and going from there instead of getting caught up in the race and whose doing what. It’s just about being focused on my own self and what I’m doing, nothing else.
It seems like that approach makes all kinds of snowboarding more enjoyable right?
Absolutely. Even on a day to day basis of riding, if you are wrapped up in what everyone else is doing and trying to be better than everyone else you are going to ride like shit. You go out and not even worry about any of that and just read what’s in front of you and do your thing… that’s when it’s the most fun, I think. But everybody is different too. A lot of people get fired up trying to be the best. That’s just where I’m coming from I guess.
That brings us to the Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom then. You are 20 years old and have already won it twice… how is that possible?
Man, I don’t know! It’s just crazy. The first year I won was my senior year in high school and after some years of competing in everything from halfpipe to slopestyle to whatever, I saw that I was having my best success in boardercross, so I just did bunch of those competitions that year in looking forward to the Banked Slalom. I think I just got lucky that year. I was also on a race board which gave a lot of the guys some weird feelings I guess. This year though, I won on a regular board.
Do you have any aspirations for a career in snowboarding?
The way I see it, if I want to snowboard all the time and ride new places and get better, then a career, if you want to call it that, is one of the better ways to go about it. I mean traveling around and riding new places with like minded people, that sounds pretty attractive to me.