30 Second Interview: Favourites
Snowboard in North America, Europe or Japan? Europe
Terrain Park? Mayrhofen too
Band? Ben Howard
Film? 22 Jump Street
Snowboard Film? The Video Grass movies, or Deja Vu
Drink? Sparkling Water
SM: Is it right you were sponsored by Nike as a snowboarder aged 9?
JN: Yes; it was a group of kids from all different adventure sports, and I was the snowboarder. We used to go away on little trips called “Ill weekends” and everyone would have to try out all the other different athlete’s sports.
One weekend we’d be surfing, and the next we’d be riding BMX’s. It was great, and that’s how it all started for me with Nike.
So how did Nike discover you?
I was competing in the Aims series, and got noticed. I got placed in my first comp in Scotland: I was only 8, and I got a podium place in the men’s category, and I was totally hooked.
I never looked out for sponsorship, but I got best unsponsored rider at a few comps when still only 8, and that’s when it all started happening. It was never money, but they started flowing me gear, which is obviously expensive, so it was a huge help.
Did any of this impact on your schooling?
Not really. The comps were always on a weekend so my parents would take me after school on a Friday. I’d do the comp and drive back Sunday.
I’m not sure how much they enjoyed it, but they were always really supportive! They never pushed me - if I didn’t want to do a comp, I didn’t have to. I had a lot of leeway and I’m sure that helped me get to where I am today. It can be a fine line between support and pressure; I think my parents got it just right.
So there was no pressure from Nike?
I was young, so there was no pressure to do social media or anything like that. They simply flowed me gear and I got on with my riding. Now half the game, maybe more than half, is about being on social media, and a small part of it is your riding.
How did you get into Team GB?
My mum and dad always put me off joining the team, which was a good thing. I didn’t join until after I left high school and had finished my exams. At 16 I was invited out to Hintertux to a pre-season training camp with the GB team and I really enjoyed it. I was at the right age to start travelling with those guys; it felt like the right time, so I agreed to join them.
Was there ever a time you thought you’d be anything other than a professional Snowboarder?
When you’re a kid you’re always changing your mind about things. But when I was a kid, at 7 I’d go snowboarding every day for two hours after school. On Sundays my Mum would say, “Right, no snowboarding today; it’s family time”.
I was so lucky as the slope was only 5 minutes away, right on my doorstep.
Were you happy with 6th at Sochi?
Yes; well, I had no idea what to expect. I mean just getting there is a massive achievement - in fact, it’s the hardest part. You have to compete against hundreds and hundreds of people to get into the world’s best 30. Once you’re there it’s easy - you just have to compete against 30 guys!
It was the highest standard of slopestlye that anyone has seen; the standard of riding was amazing. It was brilliant to qualify for the final in 4th place, so go straight through to the final - allowing me to sit out the semi-final, then I put down a run I’d never done before, I loved it.
So is it a game changer, having that success in Sochi?
Yes, things have changed a lot for me. There’s a lot more media attention, and a lot more opportunities out there for me.
My favourite thing to come out of it is being part of the movement that has helped people, young and old, to get into snow sports. I mean, to be part of the GB Team when Jenny Jones won her medal is very cool!
Are you aiming to compete in the next Olympics in Korea?
Yes, I’ll be 24 - so at my strongest and my peak - so yes, really looking forward to that.
Are you ever tempted to enter any of the extreme comps, such as the Freeride World Series?
No it’s not my thing. It’s possibly a fear factor, I don’t want to throw myself off a cliff and get caught in an avalanche. My worst nightmare is the thought of being stuck under the snow and not being able to move. I go and do backcountry jumps, but only in a safe zone where nothing’s going to happen, and only with the advice of people I trust.
Have you ever split-boarded?
Yes, once, and I loved it. I love the places you can access on a split-board, and it really keeps you fit.
Any ideas what you’ll do post snowboarding?
Stay in the sport, for sure. Maybe become a coach, or start running my own training camps. I’d love to work with the next generation of kids and help inspire them. There’s a real buzz after Sochi; I mean this place is packed at the weekends, it’s brilliant to see all the kids having lessons and enjoying some slope time.
If you had an unlimited budget to ride anywhere, where would it be?
I’d build a massive jump in Scotland; I’d probably have to pay for the snow to fall or ship it over from Canada! But honestly, the backdrop of the Cairngorm Mountains is fantastic, and I love the fact it’s in the UK.