Even at the age of 15, snowboarding sensation Kyle Mack knows his success in the sport would be a long journey.
The Michigan native first hopped on a snowboard when he was three years old, and has never looked back. Mack now holds the third-place ranking in the World Snowboard Tour standings, and his name is picking up steam. Many were taking notice of Mack two years ago, and the comparisons to legend Shaun White continue to grow.
Indeed, the world of snowboarding may have a bright star on their hands.
Mack possesses a unique versatility on a snowboard, being able to compete at a high level in multiple events including slopestyle and halfpipe. So far, Mack has no plans to specialize in any one particular event.
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According to Mack, his recent progress in slopestyle has been encouraging, and he looks to continue improving upon his results.
His rise in the snowboarding world has been well-documented as he made three Dew Tour finals appearances in 2012, followed by second place finishes in both the big air and halfpipe events at O’Neill Evolution, as well as top 32 finishes in both halfpipe and slopestyle at the Burton European Open and Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships.
Because of Mack’s strong showings in competitions, he was named to the U.S. Snowboarding Rookie Team as well as the 2013 U.S. Snowboarding FIS Junior World Championships Team for both slopestyle and halfpipe. On Mack’s radar at the moment is doing well at his upcoming events to boost his chances of making an appearance at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“I’m eligible to make the pipe and slope [events] for the Olympics,” Mack said. “My main goal is to try [to qualify for the Olympics] this time and really go for it next time.”
While the halfpipe event has been part of snowboarding at the Winter Olympics since 1998, slopestyle will finally be making its Olympic debut at Sochi after being one of the most popular events at the Winter X Games.
Like with all athletes, Mack has been keeping tabs on his competition, including 17-year-old Japanese snowboarder Taku Hiraoka. Hiraoka represents a new wave of young snowboarding talent from around the world, which also includes 14-year-old Ayumu Hirano, who took silver at the Burton U.S. Open in halfpipe behind White.
“[Other young boarders] do push me a lot,” Mack said. “I realize, ‘Now I have to push up my game.’ That does help me a lot, when people kill it. I look up to a lot of those riders.”
Mack’s involvement in the snowboarding came from being involved in a tight-knit community that simply loved the snow. He started on a pair of skis, but at the age of three, he decided that he would rather board and so his dad helped him onto a snowboard and down his snow-plowed driveway.
As he grew older, Mack recalls hitting the slopes with family and friends every weekend, and just having a good time. He grew up in West Bloomfield, an affluent community outside Detriot, and his local boarding scene included Boyne Mountain, Otsego Club and Alpine Valley.
His transition into the competitive scene began when he started to go boarding in Colorado more often, where he was picked up by the Burton team. Being part of the Burton Smalls provided recognition and gave him access to the best competition, including a chance to compete at the U.S. Open. Mack’s talent and results kept Burton’s interest and he is now part of their professional team.
“The people that have provided the most influence would be my friends and people from the Burton Smalls,” Mack said. “But even young kids who don’t ride professionally that I board with [provide a source of inspiration].”
The support network that Mack’s family, friends, and school provides has been invaluable in helping him reach his goals, both in and outside of snowboarding.
“My parents have been a huge help,” Mack said. “I travel a lot, and they’ve always been my chaperone. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Away from the slopes, Mack has been committed to his academics, finding ways to complete his assignments and get good grades despite his busy competition schedule. At Brother Rice High School, Mack’s teachers have been accommodating and flexible, usually providing Mack with a week or more to catch up on his assignments.
“Right now, it’s a big part of my plans to finish high school. I don’t know where snowboarding is going to take me,” Mack said. “I’m going to keep college in the back of my mind right now.”