WE TALK TO MARK HENDERSON, SNOWBOARD INSTRUCTOR AND FATHER OF BRITAIN'S 4 YEAR OLD SNOWBOARDING SENSATION
When most four year olds stomp, it's because they have to go to bed early; but when Travis Henderson stomps he's landing a 180 off a kicker. Hailed as the youngest ever competitor at the British Indoor Snowboard and Freeski Championships, Travis even nearly made it to the podium, coming fourth in the Under 12s. And the reason he entered was just because it was the only way he could ride the park that day!
We talk to Travis' dad, Mark, who happens to be a snowboard instructor, about his four year old snowboarding prodigy - and the Olympics 2030.
Q. So when did Travis first get on board?
Travis started snowboarding five weeks before his fourth birthday.
Q Is there a snowboard small enough?
Yes, Travis rides a 90cm Burton Chopper but his three year old sister has an 80cm Burton snowboard!
Q How often does he get to practise? Indoor snow and/or mountains?
Travis usually rides indoors about 4-6 times a week. We let Travis decide how much or how little he wants to do to keep it fun for him rather than 'training'. We try to get away to Avoriaz for a few weeks a year and this season we already have four weeks booked for him to practise. More often than not I have to convince him to come off the slope as he would love to be on the slopes all day!
Q What was his first trick?
50/50 board slide on the 6m box when he was three.
Q. What's his best trick now? And what's his next that he's aiming to achieve?
He can do so many it's hard to say which is his best. He tripods, board slides and grabs on rails and boxes. He is always trying to learn something new. Currently, he wants to learn to roll.
Q Has Travis ever hurt himself snowboarding? Does your wife worry? Do you?
He has had a few bumps and scrapes but he is confident in his riding so we trust his judgement to a certain extent. If he hurts himself on freestyle I allow him to decide if he wants to continue or come off. But he always wants to continue and perfect what he was doing.
Q. So Travis is competing already? How's he doing?
He has only entered the 2015 BRITS so far. That was a last minute entry as when we went in the morning he wanted to ride the park but the competition was on so the only way he could ride was to compete. There were eight boys in his category and, apart from an eight year old, all the other boys were 10 and 11 years old and competitive level snowboarders so we didn't expect him to come in fourth place, just four points from Bronze! He smashed it on his first run and totally deserved his fourth place.
Q. Any sponsors yet?
He is sponsored by Volt Snowboard Co.
Q Do you get many kids learning as young as Travis?
No. Travis is the youngest snowboarder I have seen actually riding and doing freestyle. Younger kids can stand and slide on a snowboard like my three year old daughter but for me it's not actually snowboarding unless they can link turns and ride confidently. Doing these tricks at his age is either extremely rare or unheard of as the BRITS stated. He is possibly the youngest competitor to have ever entered the competition.
Q. What age did you start snowboarding? Did you compete?
I started quite late compared to Travis. I was about 18. I never competed just enjoyed recreational riding.
Q. And how did you become an instructor?
I had wanted to instruct for a while as I had taught friends and family and loved seeing them learn and enjoy the sport as much as I do. Due to my main job I never managed to fit it in, Then about eight years ago I had a few weeks off and took the course and became a BASI instructor.
Q So, for you, park or powder?
Again due to my main job and the risk of injury I would have to say powder!
Q. Is snowboarding becoming ageist? The younger the better?
I would say that although Travis learned to snowboard at three years old, it was very hard to teach a child with such a short attention span. In fact, several other instructors laughed at the idea and said he would end up on skis! It took a lot of hours to get him onto the main slope and then daily tuition to improve and perfect his riding. It certainly requires a lot of commitment! As long as the person is able to learn and ride safely, age shouldn't matter. It all depends on the individual.
Q. Would you encourage Travis to become a pro-rider? Olympics 2030?
We allow Travis to make his own decisions regarding his snowboarding. It was Travis who wanted to enter the BRITS despite me thinking he was too young. He has a wise head on his shoulders for his age and if he wants to aim for the 2030 Olympics or X Games then my wife and I will be behind him a hundred percent.
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