07/03/2014 | by Alex Burd
James ‘Webbo’ Webb is a well known Professional UK Skier, team GB member and 2008 British slopestyle ski gold medallist. Unfortunately, James didn’t make it to the Olympics this year but he still found time in his very busy and exciting schedule to sit down with us for an hour and chat about Sochi, ski culture, night time quarry jumping and his plans for the future.
Read this interview with James to discover more about this rising British ski star.
MPORA: So, first and foremost, the Olympic Skiing Slopestyle took place today and yesterday, what did you make of the two competitions?
JAMES WEBB: I thought the comps were pretty awesome, it was just so good to see our sport up there in the Olympics and all the hype around it. I thought the judging was interesting at times but every comp varies and the riders just have to work with it
I’ve seen on your twitter that you had some issues with the judging at Sochi, what do you think the problem was?
I guess it always comes down the criteria that is selected for that particular comp. They could have been looking for something totally different than other FIS comps (FIS – International Ski Federation) and if the riders didn’t realise this then it can appear that the judging was wrong. I wouldn’t be able to go into more detail without knowing exactly what they were looking for. However I do think the medals went to the most deserving on the day, so they got that right
Have you heard any funny stories about Sochi from friends over there?
Well its been very funny this whole thing about possum (Kiwi snowboarder Rebecca Torr) on tinder, she’s a good friend of ours so we’ve been hearing a lot about that. Also it’s been great getting snapchats from Murray and Kilner and seeing behind the scenes of the opening ceremony and the free Mcdonalds the athletes get! We keep in contact via a whatsapp group called the GFCNL. Also we got Murray to say one of our GFCNL favourite words, ‘NASTYYYYY’, while commentating this morning.
The Olympic Slopestyle course has been criticised by snowboarders, was it good enough for the skiers?
Skiers and boarders always like different features, the kickers looked like they had a bit of whip to them which skiers to tend to prefer. It looked like everyone was getting the tricks they wanted to do so I think it was a good course yeah. I liked that although the Olympics and FIS events have got a lot of stick from riders for being a bit rigid and unimagainative, the rail set up was really creative
So, you just missed out on Sochi this year, will you be aiming to go the Olympics in 2018?
I’m trying not to really think of that for the time being, it’s a long way off and I’m not getting any younger! Of course, if in a couple of years, I’m where I want to be with my riding then I will give it 100% and try out for the team. For the time being I just want to focus on getting my riding back up to scratch, learn lots of new tricks and do some filming, it is a goal but it’s in the back of my mind for now.
Yeah thats understandable, 4 years is a long time! How do you think fellow Team GB skiers James ‘Woodsy’ Woods and Katie Summerhayes have performed?
I think they did extremely well. I’ve known them both for years and I’m very proud of them. Woodsy has had a few issues in comps recently so to qualify for the finals in 3rd and then come 5th behind 4 of the best slope skiers ever is such a huge acheivement, especially carrying a slight injury. Katie has only just come back from two surgeries and a long time out so to make it to the games was incredible let alone qualify for the finals in 3rd and finish top 10. They are both young and I’m sure they will be in the next games bringing home some hardware.
What do you think of the current standard of British skiing?
I think British skiing is on the up, we’ve had two finalists. Woodsy and Katie hold their own against the best and often come out on top. We just need to keep that up and inspire more youngsters to come through. Obviously we aren’t known for having much success in winter sports but after this i think there will be a bit more recognition.
Do you think team GB will ever get on the final podium? WIth more new facilities and more kids taking up winter sports do you think we have a chance? Or will the rest of the world always be better?
I think we have a great chance now, with all the exposure being gained from the games and Woodsy, Katie, Billy, Jenny, Jamie doing so well I think there will be more support, funding and demand for facilities. We have several clubs around the country coaching freestyle including the Southern Freestyle club where I am the head coach. If we can keep being so progressive, get results and hopefully pull in the interest of the public plus obviously some money it could happen.
How did you get into skiing?
When I was about 13 some school friends parents wanted to do a trip to Andorra. My dad used to ski so he was keen and he took me down the John Nike dry slope in Bracknell. After about 6 lessons I was a pretty confident skier. I loved the trip so much that when I got back I would ski at Bracknell every week. I then joined the local race team and started going to freestyle nights. there were no skiers at freestyle just boarders so I learnt from watching them. Sam Cullum was a big influence when I first started and we rode together once a week for a long time. The local boarder suggested I tried a comp (i guess they saw some potential), so i went to Sheffield ski village and took part in one. This is when I first met Woodsy and the whole crew. I won my age group and haven’t stopped since!
So you complete in all disciplines, pipe, big air, slopestyle, which is becoming rare as skiers specialise. Which is your favourite?
Slopestyle is defo my favourite. There is just so much more freedom in this event, I love jibbing rails and being creative as I come from a dryslope background and I love getting in the air so slopestyle fits the bill. I have also been most succcesful in slopestyle. I won the slopestyle British champs in 2008 and I think that’s the last time I beat Woodsy!
What do you make of the current state of freestyle where people are throwing huge corks and rotations?
I have mixed feeling about it. I like that the sport is progessing and new things get thrown almost every comp but i feel things can get a bit boring when it’s just double, double, double and now it can even be back to back triples. It’s obviously awesome but I miss the days of just big stylish slow spins. I know it has to happen for the sport to evolve but I sometimes wish it would slow down for a bit! Also you feel the pressure to keep up and its’s pretty scary!
What’s it like being sponsored by Animal?
I have been with Animal for a long time now and they have always been very supportive and it’s like being part of a big family. They sponsor riders from so many different sports, so i’ve met loads of cool talented people. They make great gear and a lot of it. They provide me with everything from my outerwear to my casual wear to things like eggcups! i think one of my favourite things is that i get to represent a British brand.
You’ve also MC’d ski events in the past, could you see it as a career one day or is it just something to do for fun?
Yeah It’s something a bit different and i’ve enjoyed it a lot. I’ve mc’d two of the Beach Break festival student comps, the British championships, the London Freeze and multiple dryslope events. It’s something I would like to continue doing for sure and yeah if it turned into a career that would be awesome. I would like to have joined Tim and Ed at the Olympics!
So last few questions, Have you jumped into any asbestos filled quarrys lately and could you tell us more about that story?
Mate that was so much fun! Our friend Rob (who also tried for the pipe at the Olympics) lives in Barry, Wales (Home of Gavin and Stacey) and he’s into all sorts of crazy things like cliff jumping and swinging off huge bridges with climbing equipment. One weekend we went down for a night out in Cardiff and he suggested we go jump off this cliff. We were all game but we didnt know till after that it was an asbestos quarry..
Yeah i’m off to Helsinki with a crew of skiers to shoot some urban, its the first time I’ve ever done it and I can’t wait. We’ve got a huge list of spots to hit and I’m super stoked. We are driving around and living in a big RV and hopefully we will head up north and see the northern lights as well!
Any other plans for the future?
After that I’ve got a potential shoot with the Animal team out in Chamonix. Then off to Laax switzerland with Murray Buchan, once he’s back from Sochi to do some training and then I’m off to Tignes to run a camp for the kids taking part in the British championships with my Animal team mate Becky Hammond. I’m trying to keep busy and as much time on my skis as much as possible.
Who are you sponsors again?
Atomic skis/boots, Animal clothing, lazer helmets, Bawbags underwear, Ski Bartlett shop, Technique ltd, Ogio luggage, Alpoholics chalets and Butta wax.
Any closing words?
Just thanks for your time! I’m always happy to talk to anyone about skiing and pushing the sport in the UK as much as possible! I hope that we see a boom off the back of the Olympics. It’s such a great sport and it deserves some recognition!
James Webb is an Animal sponsored athlete, head over to www.animal.co.uk to find out more.