AN INTERVIEW WITH FREESKIER JAMES "WOODSY" WOODS
James “Woodsy” Woods is the most successful freeskier the UK has ever produced. Born in Sheffield, Woodsy’s drive and ambition has taken him around the world on two skis. The Sheffield ski village local as ranked number one in the world heading into the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics but sustained a hip injury during his warm up run and finishing 5th overall.
Since Sochi Woodsy’s skiing career has taken some turns and twists but 2017 has set up well for him, now back involved with Planks Clothing and being the first ever Brit to gold at the X-Games, we caught up with Woodsy ahead of the Norway X-Games to talk about his plans for the future.
To start off, can you just tell us a bit about when and how you started skiing?
Yeah I started skiing at Sheffield ski village, the dry slope. It was up the road from the skate park that I used to go to all the time and I very much fell upon it, none of my family or friends ever skied, it was very much my own little adventure and I ended up loving it. And here we are!
Where was your first ski trip?
The first place I ever skied on snow, properly, was Wengen in Switzland in the Interlarken area, I actually went back there recently, it was sick! I was 12 years old and I ended up going to a package coach deal for five days with the ski club, it was really cool, I’ll never forget it.
You suffered from injury at Sochi, how did you overcome that and do any injuries bother you now?
Yeah, during practice at the Sochi Olympics, I picked up an injury, it was a real bummer, it kind of threw me back. To be honest it is still giving me troubles now really but it’s all part of the game, everyone’s carrying some sort of injury.
When I was there it was a very surreal experience, you’re working really hard and you know what you want to do in the event. You want to perform at the best of your ability, that is all you’ve thinking about and then you’re there, going through your safety run and something happens, it was difficult. But, that’s given me a little bit of fire in the tank for the next one. My main motivation stays the same, it is what it’s always been, that’s just to perform at my best, you know? I’ve been given the opportunity to show people what I can do and I don’t aim to disappoint them.
Can you tell us a bit about your “training”? Where do you live during the winter and what are your main focusses right now?
Well it’s difficult to call it training really, I mean it’s difficult sometimes even to call it a sport because I love it so much, it is genuinely my passion and it’s what I want to do with my life. I’m a freeskier and that is everything for me. I ski pretty much every single day, as much as I can, in the best places I can find possible.
It’s difficult to get a base, there’s so many events that are going on, trying to stay current, whether there’s competitions going on or other events in going to different resorts. But I try to ski every day, I know exactly what I’m trying to do to be able to perform at my best. I’m constantly thinking about the next trick and they kind of come through natural progression.
I spent a lot of time in New Zealand in the summer and that the time in New Zealand is a really good time for me to be learning my tricks and take them away with me, so when it comes to competitions, I kind know what I’m doing already and I’m ready to rock!
What do you think the main factor to your success in the X games has been?
X games has always been the pinnacle of the action sports world, you know? Freesports, the whole culture of everything. It’s like X Games has been sitting at the top, the cream of the cream, the whole time. So I’ve been dreaming of that since I started skiing really, since I knew what this whole industry and world was. I’ve always wanted to, like I said before, perform at the highest level and get the opportunity to show what I can do to the world, X Games has been there the whole time for me, as the goal.
All the aspirations you know, you look at, you kind of think, that’s what you’re gunning for so the X Games are a huge thing for me, and I’d say, my version of everybody else’s Olympics in other sports. I’m referencing here because we never had the Olympics, it wasn’t the biggest thing for us, X Games is the hugest thing. So, every time I get there, I get given the bib, I just remember how grateful I am just to be on that start list you know, just to be one of those guys that’s invited to this event. To be able to be there, that is literally my dream come true.
What’s the main factor in your success in the X Games, what is it that you’ve done that’s helped you to get to the top of the podium?
Well I love skiing and I’ve always been very passionate about doing my best, in whatever situation that is really. I mean skiing is the thing that I suppose I’m best at, so kind of sits highly on the importance I suppose. Yeah I don’t really know what’s changed, nothing’s changed it’s all been, it still is a massive journey you know, life is I suppose. But I’m always trying my best, practising, spending a lot of time in New Zealand giving these tricks my best effort and skiing around the mountain, getting as good as I can all the time, and I guess this time it all came together at the right time!
Are you doing any last minute prep for the upcoming X games in Norway? Or is it just business as usual?
I suppose that everything is pretty much business as usual, I mean, like I said before I love skiing, I’m always trying to get the best opportunity for my skiing, like wherever I can be; the best place the best facilities is where I’ll be shredding. I’ll be getting ready about a week or so out, it’s sort of going to go the world cup finals in Switzerland, X Games Norway and then the world championships, so I’m going to spend the week before – that’s going to be a hectic time, I don’t need to learn anything, I just need to stay current with my skiing, make sure my boots feel good, make sure my skis feel good under my feet.
I don’t want to take much time off, I want to stay very current in my, sort of feeling when I’m on the mountain. If that makes any sense to anybody? So I’ll go out to Laxx the week before that world cup final and then once I’ve done the first competition I’ll just be head in the game, ready to rock, back in Norway for X Games.
Are there any other ultimate goals that you’re yet to achieve? Still things on your list for your career that you want to tick off?
As far as goals are concerned, for my skiing career, I really want to carry on enjoying what I’m doing. I feel like I haven’t reached my potential yet, which is a great place to be. I think there’s a lot more I can give, talent wise, that is my biggest goal.
I really am quite excited about South Korea, I want to qualify for South Korea, I do want to go and represent Team GB and I really like to go and do a run that I’m really proud of. Not putting a downer on myself in Russia, but that wasn’t everything I wanted to show everyone. It’s a bit of a novelty to do an event that your grandma knows, so that’s a good goal. But really my goal was to get the opportunity to compete at X Games and everything from then on out is a bonus. I’m a professional skier now, I travel the world, I ski every day that I want to ski, if I don’t want to ski I go surfing, I can’t imagine any life that would be better than this. So my alarm says another day in paradise, when I wake up and I really really mean it.
You’ve already told us a bit of your plans for the season, is there anything else going on this season, what are you up to over the summer?
Once the main part of Northern hemisphere winter is over, I’m going to do a lot fun stuff in the Spring, a lot of my friends run small events throughout Europe, so I’ll bounce around, probably carry on bouncing around all of these little events. Then I’ll go, probably have a bit of a break from skiing, have a little bit of summer to collect my thoughts and get fired up again, I’ll head down South to New Zealand, try and spend as much time there as I possibly can while the winter’s on.
I love New Zealand, and I love Wanika, I suppose I spend the most amount of time there, two or three months in a row, so that kind of feels like a home. I’ll get down there, ski every day, get used to it, get biking, get surfing, just get generally stoked for the northern hemisphere winter and get my tricks dialled for the old 2018 Olympics.
We’ve been following your Planks tour around the Alps, it looks like great fun! It must be great to be able to get out and meet new people and ride in different places, have you found any new favourite spots?
The whole Planks tour has been brilliant you know, I’ve been sort of involved with Planks and the crew since it started, I’m so grateful to be back on board, riding for planks now. Especially with how well they’ve been doing and that’s the main focus right now of this tour, is to come and see all of the stores, check them out and meet the people working there which is part of this brand I’m heavily involved with now. I’m really proud to be of Planks and since this tour I’ve met a whole bunch of new people, and a load of the seasionaires in the different resorts and that feels great, kind of stoking people out and getting to shred with them. I got to go back to Morzine and Tignes which are both places that I have spent time in the past, but not for a long time. It was surreal getting back, checking where these places are at, seeing the brand new Planks stores. I got to go to Meribel, which I’ve never been to before, it was rad and I got back in touch with all the people who love skiing for what it is. You know, it’s not high-performance thing for these guys, it’s really just the life that they love and it’s the life I love as well, it’s kind of a nice little snap back to reality, get my feet back on firm ground and remind me why I’m doing this
We’ve also been lucky enough to have a look at the gear you’ve put together with Planks for next season. Have you enjoyed using your creative flair in a different way?
As I said before, I’m really grateful to be back involved with planks, my career has taken so many twists and turns and now I feel like I can really invest myself back into Planks. It’s a massively growing brand and I can come in and really actually help out. One of the things was getting involved with what the clothes actually looked like, and I can ride in stuff that I genuinely want to.
Recently when I got on board with planks so we sort of looked at all the designs and I picked the stuff I really liked, the guys went away and created the woodsy signature series which is going to be coming out, soon. So that’s really exciting and I’m really excited to putting more time and energy into really creating the products that I want to ski in and obviously the styles and the fashions in all of this is ever evolving and I think Planks is a brand that is very much on board with that, and I’m excited to see what we can create and come up with as time goes on.
First tricks to nail for beginners? Top tips for starting out in the park?
I think the most important part of the whole freeski and snowboard sport culture and lifestyle is to put yourself out there a bit, go and make some friends, meet some people and get into the park as well. Enjoy it, make sure that it’s something that you love to do, because there’s going to be something that you love, this is the thing that I love and the thing I’d like to see people getting into the most. And very much know your limits, because it’s all about pushing those limits but you have to know where they’re at to start with. Starting off slowly, cautiously, figuring yourself out, understanding the features that you’re hitting and getting to know it and that’s why having the friends around you, and making friends with new people, whether they’re infinitely better than you at the moment or nowhere near as good you know, it doesn’t really matter. It’s about putting yourself in an environment that’s good for learning. Not everybody vibes wit sitting in a classroom and learning there, some people are outdoorsy people and some people love all that stuff, they’re textbook people. With this stuff you’ve got to get yourself into an environment where everyone is pushing each other, were you’ve got people with outside knowledge who’s watching you. That’s my biggest thing, find some mates and go do this.