10 questions with Michaela Davis-Meehan, the Aussie snowboarder who just qualified for the Freeride World Tour!
The struggle is real on both the surf and snow qualifying series and coming out on top after a year of endless travel, sleepless nights and long cold days is no easy feat. We’re stoked that this year the lady that came out on top was Aussie snowboarder Michaela Davis-Meehan!
You wake up early to ride. It’s an hour’s hike to the summit and there ain’t no chairlifts here. This is a wild mountain. You’re not alone. There’s over 100 riders trudging up around you, all competing to be the best. At the top, you study the chutes and drops. You pick a line. Suddenly you’re at the starting gate. You know the judges will be watching every move, and everything is being recorded and sent out live to a worldwide audience.
An official calls, “Are you ready to drop?” You’ve never ridden this mountain and you’ve only got one chance to make it the best line of your life.
Welcome to the Freeride World Tour.
The Freeride World Tour is gaining traction as a seriously badass series of events. It’s a worldwide circuit of the best freeride skiers and snowboarders competing on some of the most challenging and renowned mountains in the world. One of our own Aussies, Michaela-Davis Meehan, has put in the hard yards and will be heading to the 2020 Freeride World Tour.
Earlier this year she qualified first in the women’s snowboarding category in the 2019 Freeride World Qualifying Tour. She competed in seven events and absolutely slayed in both Austria and Switzerland to come away top of the leader board. Between a busy schedule of training and work (she’s self-funded!) she took the time to answer some questions about what it takes to land a spot on the coveted Freeride World Tour.
For those who may not be familiar, what needs to happen for you to get access to the 2020 Freeride World Tour (FWT)?
There are two Freeride World Qualifying Tours (FWQ). The European/Oceanic FWQ and the American FWQ. Each year they take the overall winner of each qualifier onto the FWT! There are six women on the World Tour with an occasional wild card. To make room for the rookies on tour the bottom two of last years FWT are dropped. So to continue on the World Tour you have to finish top four. It’s a brutal process but makes it that much sweeter when you can make it happen!
You got the win at Nendaz. Can you tell us a bit about that day and what your run was like?
It was a pretty great day with pockets of powder on course as well as solid, not-so-fun snow patches. I had to make some changes to my line once I got to the top after noticing when I got closer that one of my features was not possible to hit. There was tough competition and I had to do a bit of improvisation at the bottom of my run after some sluff had fallen that I think that put me into first place!
What’s a day in the life of Michaela like on a freeride competition day?
Early start, breakfast and off to the mountain for a rider’s meeting on the event details, snow conditions, weather etc. I’ll stare at the face for as long as I can, changing my line a hundred times and then finally once I’m happy, I visualise my chosen run on the hike up to the starting gate, which takes around 40 minutes to an hour.
My first run of the day will be my competition run. I like to try and get one warmup run down the groomers if there’s time, but generally there isn’t. There can be around 120 riders competing all up, so depending what bib number you drew, it can be a long day of hanging around.
Once I’ve finished my run I’ll post up at the bottom of the face to watch any remaining riders and then call it a day. It’s a long day of hiking, sitting around, adrenaline and stoke. Then we all head to the pub for presentation and of course the afterparty to celebrate!
You were a slopestyle competitor before going to freeriding and were on the 2014 Shadow Winter Olympic Team. How are freeride competitions different?
A freeride event is like going out riding with a huge group of snowboard and skier mates. You’re all doing the same run, yet completely different lines. You’re dropping one at a time and we all get to watch, cheer each other on and push one another to go bigger and better. And then we give props to whoever did it the best. Of course, everyone still wants to win and there is a whole lot of focus that goes into it, but there’s also a relaxed, fun vibe to a freeride competition. There’s a great atmosphere and a real sense of family.
What made you change your focus to freeriding competitions?
In 2015 I was splitboarding in Italy with Former Freeride Champion Aline Bock and she mentioned I should try a freeride comp. And that’s pretty much how it all began! I had been doing slopestyle events for quite some time and was ready for something new. I’d never really heard about the Freeride World Tour before and thought I’d give the NZ 2* event a go, which I won…and the rest is history!
What board and stance do you ride?
This season I’ve been all about the K2 Wildheart! 18, -15.
What do you carry in your pack?
My comp day pack consists of a probe and shovel (both compulsory for competing), monocular, water bottle, chocolate, snowboard tool, spare batteries for my transceiver and I think that’s about it. I like to keep it as light as possible.
Read: A detailed breakdown of what to carry in your ski or snowboard backcountry pack
What will you be focusing on and doing between now and the 2020 FWT?
My main focus is to head over to New Zealand in September for some riding and training. I’ll also go over early to Japan before the first stop of the FWT to get my legs ready for the season! In between all of that I’ll be keeping fit at home with surfing, gym and yoga. I’m a self-funded athlete so I’ll also be working to make this all happen!
Any words of wisdom for those who are aspiring to start a freeriding career and get onto the FWT?
Do it! What I really love about free riding is you can make it as easy or as challenging as you want! So if you’re not too sure, just do one and ride down a big open face! With the adrenaline from competing I guarantee you’ll want to do another one and go bigger and better. Every comp run I am learning something new and want to push my riding! Also, everyone falls. It happens, even to the very best. It does suck but you can’t let it deter you, it will just give you more motivation for the next one. And when you get to the bottom of a comp run, after doing exactly what you wanted and nailing it – it’s the best feeling in the world!
I will be partnering with Mint Tours this year to run a Freeride camp late September in New Zealand! It’s for anyone that wants to try out a Freeride 2* event or even just come along and see how it all works. If you’re interested or wanting more information email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Freeride camp NZ” in the subject.
Any shout outs?
Shout out to all my sponsors: Rojo, Twelve Board Store, NFPD, K2 Snowboarding and my number one fans Ellen and Stu (mum and dad).
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions and congratulations once more!