SPORTS BABE OF THE DAY PRESENTS: JJ Thomas, Retired Olympic-Winning Snowboarder, Private Coach to Louie Vito, and Co-Founder of YEA. NICE, @jjthomas_ on Twitter
I was so stoked to interview Jarret John Thomas for BDB! Wait… who? Fans would likely know him as JJ Thomas, an epic professional Snowboarder who considers Colorado (home of Coors Light) “home”, and has a great eye for style… and a good instagram shot!
Though he has some solid wins on the board from The Dew Tour, X Games, FIS World Cup, and Vans Triple Crown, he’s probably best known for competing in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and taking Bronze for Team US in the Men’s Halfpipe Competition. Along with Powers and Kass, Thomas completed the first sweep for Team US since 1956 – which is kiiiiind of a big deal.
Encinitas, California is now hosting this retired-boarder, as he works as the Co-Founder and Marketing Director for YEA. NICE. One more thing – did I mention that he’s also Olympian Louie Vito’s private coach? I didn’t? Well, he is.
As if you needed anymore reason to check out his interview, he gives some really good advice on how to battle a hangover! Meet Olympian, Boarding Coach, and YEA. NICE Co-Founder, JJ!
25 Questions with JJ Thomas
1) JJ, when did you decide that boarding was for you? Did you fall in love with it right away?
I was being prepped to be a high school basketball, baseball, and football player. Then I found snowboarding, and I quit them all in my Freshman year of high school.
Growing up, people were always like “When you get to high school, you’ve gotta pick your sport”. Really, I probably enjoyed basketball the most, but then I found snowboarding and got fully hooked when I was 12.
By the time I made it through middle-school, my mind was made up! All I could think of was snowboarding. I lovedd sports and activities, and being outside doing stuff… then I found snowboarding and nothing else mattered. Nothing. School, Girls… nothing. Just snowboarding. That was it. I threw everybody a curveball, and picked snowboarding.
2) When did you realize you could make a career out of it?
At the time when I picked it up, it wasn’t even in the Olympics yet. It was kind of just a fun thing for me. I made up my mind when I was 13. I went to nationals and won, and I told my Mom “I’m the best halfpipe rider, and I’m 13… I’ll go every year and keep winning, and be pro!”. It got real when I was 15; that’s when I won my first professional contest, and got a little money. It was like $2,500, which was decent money in the nineties! I was really into it, and that’s when I was like “Ok… I’m gonna go for this”
3) Since it wasn’t recognized in the Olympics when you started, who was your role model? Who did you look up to when you were learning how to board?
Oh yeah, that was kind of the thing growing up in Colorado… at the time, the whole professional snowboarding team was based in Colorado in the mid-to-late nineties, so I had so many guys to look up to! I could name 20 old professional snowboarders living in Colorado that I wanted to emulate. At the time, there were so many people to look up to, and I knew who I wanted to be around in 10 years. I was like “I’ve gotta be one of these guys”. Todd Richards. Frank Wells. Todd Franson. Those guys were Colorado snowboard legends.
4) Now Snowboarding is a major part of the Winter Olympics, and there are competitors out there that are looking up to you! What advice do you have for the US Team Rookies, who will be experiencing the Olympics for the first time at the Sochi Games?
Stick with whatever you did that got you there, and just rip it. Do what you do, and tear that place to shreds. Oh, and the most important thing… don’t party until AFTER the Olympics. Just wait.
5) Speaking of the upcoming Olympics, you’re privately coaching Louie Vito! Now that the season for Men’s Pipes is open, what is your regime like when it comes to coaching?
Well… You would wake up, eat, and then we have a 2 hour practice. Every day we have two-hour window, and we do intense training the whole time. Then we get right down, eat some food, and start recovery. There’s video review, interviews, a couple media things you’ve got to do for your sponsors. It’s important to stay on top of emails, and stuff like that. Even though it’s only two hours on the hill, you’ve got to wake up before you go, eat right, and you need to get your rest in – get horizontal for 30 minutes, to an hour, and then take care of media. Days go quick.
6) You mentioned it’s important to eat right and get your rest and recovery in, but I’m super curious… in an extreme sport like snowboarding, how do you balance pushing your limits while still staying healthy and injury-free?
That’s the holy grail question right there! That’s the name of the game… the people who figure that out, have long good careers, ya know? It’s a balance. You have to push yourself. The name of the game is surviving week in, and week out. It’s like the NFL.
If you get too complacent, then you get passed by. There’s definitely a very fine line for the balance with our risk factor. We have to push more than other sports, especially in freestyle boarding.
7) You seemed to find the balance! You’ve made some huge tricks look pretty effortless. What was the hardest for you to learn?
Ummm… snowboard wise? probably in ‘07-’09, I fully had to change my style, because the kids that were coming up were bringing whole new styles. They started spinning off-axis and grabbing their boards a lot more. Guys from my era, we didn’t have to do that! We were in the primitive stages. Making that transition to go from the 2010 Olympics, that was the hardest part, but also my most rewarding. I had to change my riding style to have a transition to be able to hang with the youngest stars of the sport. That was really hard and took a lot of work… that was the craziest thing I had to do, and it was like a season-and-a-half of work to do to get there.
It’s such a fast moving train of progression and youth – what I found, the best thing to do was to hang out with kids that were 10 years younger than me! I’d ride with them, and we’d work on it together. It was cool.
8) Would you say that making that change is one of the things you’re the most proud of in your career?
Yeah. Being able to contend with those kids four years ago, who are now still the leaders in the sport… that’s something to be proud of. I was stoked to be able to hang with those guys, and be a part of the new regime. If you look back from my era, I was the last guy to go that far in the end… that’s when I kind of retired. That’s what gave me that contingent; knowing at the end of the road, I had my peers beat, even though at the beginning and in the middle, we would go back-and-forth and I’d beat them, and then they’d beat me. At the end of the day when we were in our upper 20s, I owned all of my peers. That was cool. Not to sound cocky, but it’s cool ya know. They had their time, they had me beaten to a pulp, they had their years, and then I beat them to content with the new kids.
9) When all of this was going on, were you at all superstitious during a ride? Did you have any special rituals you had to do before boarding?
Yeah I was all kinds of weird. If I had a song that I rode good to, I’d listen to that song until I bailed. Once I had an outfit or a board I was good on, I would never wanna change it. I was pretty bad…
10) When you were competing, who was your biggest fan?
My Dad – he came out a lot. He was like the loud embarrassing dad at the ball game, ya know?
11) Haha, that’s fair… I think all parents have to show their support in the most embarrassing way possible! So is there anyone you’re a big fan of? If you could trade places with any pro athlete for the day, who would it be?
Probably Adam Scott. I just want to drive a golf ball like that, and have a swing like that. What does it feel like to drive the ball that far down the fairway?! The only thing I’d take out, is his putter. I hate that chest putter he uses. Everything else? I’d love to see what it feels like to win golf tournaments like that.
12) So If you could hang out with anyone for a day, would it be Adam Scott?
Here’s what I’d do in my dream scenario:
Surf sesh and breakfast with Kelly Slater
Nine holes in the evening with Tiger Woods
Cocktails with Obama at night. I’d try to persuade him to get up to something with me. I know he probably couldn’t snowboard, but worst case scenario, I’d like to chill with the guy. Play some basketball.
13) Ok, if you could nominate someone to be a Sports Babe of the Day on Babes Dig Balls, who would it be?
I’m a golfer, and a surfer so my first thing is Kelly Slater… yeah, or Adam Scott.
14) We’ll get on those interviews for you! Anyway, apart from your career as a pro-boarder, and as a private coach to Louie Vito, you’re also the Co-Founder and Marketing Director for YEA. NICE. I’ve got to ask, who’s the coolest person you’ve seen wearing your brand?
The funny thing with me, is that the coolest people wearing it… to me… are the cool kids at the bar! Not even necessarily someone famous or something like that – I get just as stoked seeing random kids at the local bar, that I don’t know, but who look like they’re in a good crowd. When I see that kind of guy wearing our hat, that always blows my mind.
As far as recent famous people – Ryan Good. He was Bieber’s Style Coach… he styles Usher too.
15) So with so many cool things going on in your life, I know you’re on-the-go a lot! Where’s your favorite place that you’ve traveled?
Probably New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Norway.
As a pro snowboarder, we’re always traveling. You have your favorite places, and there are no bad places, but those are the ones I get excited for.
OH! Let me add Nelson, British Columbia! that’s a good spot. I need to go back there.
16) Do you ever travel back to where you were born in Alaska?
No, I’ve never even been back since we moved when I was five. It’s crazy, because it’s apparently home to the world’s best snowboarding, and I just haven’t made it back there.
17) So where do you consider “home” since you moved when you were so young?
Colorado! West Denver, where they make Coors beer. That’s really my home base. Colorado is my true first and foremost home state. When I was 18, I moved up to California. Ya know split up lifestyle, beach and mountains. Colorado is my base though.
18) So say you were traveling somewhere, the plane went down, and you were stuck on a deserted island… though we’re praying this doesn’t happen to you… what 3 items would you definitely want to save from the crash, assuming food and water was available on the island?
My iPhone for sure, and then I’d want my kindle so I could read. I really like reading. Then I’d have my camera – either my FUJI x100S, or my GoPro. Whichever. Probably the FUJI though.
19) If we looked in your suitcase, what’s the most surprising thing we’d find?
Probably my putter. I put a putter and golf balls in my snowboard bag. I’d play on the carpet in hotels, and that always tripped people out.
20) With all the traveling, you probably did your fair share of partying, right? Part of working hard, is playing hard, so do you have any hangover remedies you can share with us?
Yeah, actually… what I found, for starters, is that partying is an artform. It’s an absolute artform. What I found to work best for me, was he basics: stick with one choice of poison for the night.
I tend to drink either vodka soda all night, or Don Julio and soda, with a splash of pineapple. I pick one, and I’ll stick with that ALL NIGHT. Get good stuff, not cheap stuff. And try to avoid sugar. When you get home, give yourself an hour to get as much healthy food and water in you. That’ll save yourself the next day. Cleaner spirits like vodka and tequila, followed by green tea the next morning. Pots of it. You’ll survive. May not be pretty, but you’ll survive.
21) So if you were having a rough day after a night out, or just a bad day in general, what’s one thing that could turn your mood around – instantly?
A phone call from a business partner with some good news! that would turn any bad day around.
22) Speaking of good news from your business partner, a lot of people look to you for guidance, and look up to you for motivation. Is there anything you’re insecure about, that no one would guess about you? You’ve been on a pedestal so often for being an athlete, a coach, a co-founder of a brand… what gets to guys like you?
If anything, we probably get down and insecure more than people that are 9-5ers. We’re under such scrutiny as athletes, and you’ve gotta have a tough skin for that. I learned that young. I’ll never forget when I was 17 or 18, and I got fired by my first sponsor – who was my whole sponsor at the time -and when you’re a young kid, and you get fired from Burton, that’s it. Ya know, some kids would just retire then and there. My team manager told me he thought I’d peaked.
That pissed me off, but it motivated me so much, that I went out and won the X Games, and an Olympic Bronze that year. I learned right away that signing up for sports is brutal; you get told you don’t have the personality, or you don’t have the look, or you don’t have the this-and-that. It’s nonstop. At the end of the day, be who you’re comfortable being, and do what you want to do.
23) While we’re talking about being comfortable, is there anyone you’re getting close and comfortable with these days? Are you single? Dating?
24) So for anyone curious, what do you think is the most sexy on your girl?
I donno, girls wear so much stuff… I don’t even know! that’s a tough question. With girls, it’s the whole outfit, ya know? You’ve got your shoes, leggings, tops… Typically my girl looks good when she’s wearing black. When she’s got the dark thing going, she looks pretty damn good.
25) Alright… so… what do you feel the most sexy in?
Probably just my everyday attire. My jeans, my Nike snowboots… ya know. Normal shirt, and a YEA. NICE beanie.
Chocolate or Vanilla Ice Cream
Original tart froyo!
Beer or Wine
Rap or Rock
50/50 – I dabble in both pretty heavily
Smooth or Crunchy Peanut Butter
Cats or Dogs
Cats – I like dogs too, but…
BlackBerry or iPhone
Twitter or Facebook
Sun or Snow
Coffee or Tea
Salty or Sweet
Ouuu… damn. Salty, but only because I’m trying to kick my sugar addiction.
RomCom or Horror
RomCom. I hate horror movies!
Piercings or Tattoos
Boxers or Briefs
Talk or Text
Who has more fun, blondes, or brunettes?