How to become a professional snowboarder
Lesley’s advice for anyone wanting to follow her footsteps is simple: Love snowboarding.
Love snowboarding above all else
“It’s got to come first, before anything else” she says, acknowledging that so much traveling and dedication to sport can put a strain on personal relationships. “You’ve got to find a balance and hope that it’s not always the same thing that gets neglected” she comments.
The worst part of being a pro-snowboarder is all the packing and unpacking, but when you love your job it’s a small price to pay. ‘The best part is being out on the snow,’ she says.
Snowboard as much as possible - do a season
To get into snowboarding Lesley advises going to your nearest indoor center and giving it a go. Meet people, do a couple of seasons abroad just snowboarding all winter, and see if you love it enough to make it your job.
Most snowboard centers in the UK have support schemes for young athletes, so when you’re ready, get involved and start putting yourself forward for competitions.
Snowboarder’s can go on competing as long as they remain fit and able. Lesley McKenna sights her friend Soko Yamaoka, as a shining example. At 36, Soko is still competing at Olympic level and placing in the top ten alongside women 17 years her junior.
Although as professional athlete’s they can claim private pensions from 35, they can’t claim state pensions until they reach normal retirement age. A back-up plan is essential.
Now 36, herself, Lesley still tours with the Roxy snowboard team but now has a coaching and advisory role. ‘I get a lot out of passing on all that experience I’ve gained over the years and I think the girl’s get a lot out of it too.’
Looking back over almost two decades of snow sports, Lesley’s defining moment came from conquering a massive 22ft Half Pipe and asking if she ever found a challenge too terrifying she’s firm, “no way, if I was ever think God, I shouldn’t be doing this, then I shouldn’t be doing it. Snowboarding is constantly changing and the challenges get bigger all the time, I’m just grateful and happy that I’ve come as far as I’ve come.’
And now the pressure to compete has lifted, Lesley’s looking forward to more snow, more adventure and more powder.