An interview with snowboarder Eli McDermott
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Gasa
For 17-year-old Eli McDermott, the saying “No pain, no gain,” takes a completely different meaning. And by pain, we’re singing to the tune of about two broken arms, multiple concussions, and plenty of gnarly rips and bruises along the way. Why is a 17-year-old going through all this trouble and injury? Is he a masochist? A bare knuckle boxer, maybe? No, McDermott has a passion that skirts along the unforgiving slopes and powder of the Colorado mountains.
The young McDermott is a snowboarder with dreams of going pro and though he has picked up many scars and fractures along the way, each one is badge and testament of his dedication to the craft.
For the Life in Motion podcast, Jeremy Lux gets the chance to speak with McDermott on his experiences on the slopes, his story, and what the world of snowboarding has taught him so far about life.
“So I grew up in a very small town, with say, about a thousand people. My family lived by a dirt road and on this big property with lots of land to explore,” shares McDermott.
“I’ve always liked being outside. I also have an older brother who’s two years older than me and since the beginning of time we’ve always competed with each other to be the best.”
It’s this kind of brotherly sense of competition that has always pushed him. McDermott says it was his father, an instructor at the famed Killington ski resort in Vermont, who first got him into snowboarding. McDermott’s father taught him how to ski around the age of 5 or 6, though McDermott admits that he always felt very awkward at it.
It wasn’t until he was 9 that he discovered his new favorite sport. One day, McDermott and his dad were out ice climbing when his dad watched him slid down the patch sideways, almost horizontally. The way he faced his hips toward the slope and pivoted must’ve reminded his dad of his younger days snowboarding, because the next thing he did was ask his son if he would like to give it a try. McDermott gave it a shot then traded the skis for a board. He has never looked back since.
“I never really thought I was ever going to like try to be a serious snowboarder. Like when I was really young I always aid, ‘Oh I want to be a professional snowboarder.’ But at that time I really had no idea what that meant or like how to actually do that,” says McDermott. “I was just dreaming because kids will dream like that.”
Since then, McDermott’s pastime has taken him to some beautiful places; from the Rocky Mountains to the majestic Swiss Alps in Austria. Today, he travels with his team or sometimes just solo to competitions across the world. Last year McDermott did about 10 contests including some to qualify for the United States Amateur Snowboard Association (USASA) national championships.
Unfortunately, McDermott didn’t get to participate in as many events that year due to a nasty spill he took in January.
“Let’s just say I broke my arm and gave myself a gnarly concussion,” he admits, “like really slammed into the frozen ground just because it had been raining the day before.”
At this point, McDermott is no stranger to pain; the year before he had broken his other arm. But even as he recovered, feeling kind of bored and helpless in his cast for six weeks, he couldn’t help but think about landing that slope the next time. At this point, it’s kind of hard to tell if the young McDermott is just a dare devil, a sucker for pain or maybe just both, but he is certainly fearless in his exploits.
“It was kind of scary to do those tricks again, knowing that you could hurt yourself like that. But at this point, I just like turn up my music and trust myself because I know I can do these tricks. It's just a matter of doing them,” McDermott says.
“And then like, if there's like pretty girls around, that makes it easier to try tricks because if I land it, then she might come up and talk to me and tell me how cool it was. Or if I get slammed then she's going to come up and ask me if I'm okay. So either way it's like, okay.”
So, pretty much a win-win, right?
Lux can’t help but laugh.
“I think that was actually the best answer you could’ve said,” he says.
But despite his cool head and motivation from the ladies, even a hotshot like McDermott finds himself feeling nervous at times. What he’s learned is that when it comes down to the wire, or landing that jump, whether that is on the slopes or in life, the only person you can depend on is yourself. There may be others in life who will support and even motivate you, but when it comes to the moment of truth there is only one individual guiding your destiny.
“You can’t go to a contest and do a trick that you’ve never done before,” he says, “Only you know what you are capable of. It’s all within you.”
McDermott may only be 17-years-old but he knows a lot about himself and what life has in store for him.
To follow Eli McDermott on his journey snowboarding follow him on Instagram @eli.mcdermott. To hear the full story on Eli, including what happens when you overshoot a slope by 35 feet (spoiler alert: it’s a gnarly one), check out the full interview on the Life in Motion podcast with Jeremy Lux on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play.