Interview with Snowboarding Coach Will Rivera
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article by Eric Gasa
Will Rivera may not have children of his own, but he knows a thing or two about mentoring and raising up the spirits of young athletes in the snowy mountains of Colorado. A professional snowboarder turned instructor, Rivera has spent the last 20 years showing young athletes what it takes to shred, dominate the competition, as well as succeed in life off the slopes.
For Rivera, it’s a gratification no sponsorship, trophy, or paycheck can give. Jeremy Lux interviewed Rivera for the latest episode of the Life in Motion podcast to discuss his love for the sport, lessons in humility, and what led him to his unique career.
Of all the places to spawn a professional snowboarder, Rivera was born in the Dominican Republic, which he jokes is known for its abundance of snow and pine trees. When he was 9, Rivera’s family moved to New Jersey where he was exposed to the local skateboarding scene.
He remembers skating around New York, the skate mecca of the 90s before it was “so clean and Disney” like today. Rivera studied videography in school where he filmed friends doing skate tricks and other action sports. Snowboarding was beginning to catch on at this time, and before Rivera knew it, he was trying to find his way to some slopes too.
“My first snowboard actually got me yelled at by my grandfather because I saved up my money for a car but decided to buy a snowboard instead,” says Rivera, “Every time I would ask him for the car he would tell me to ride my snowboard to places.”
From that moment on, Rivera knew what he wanted to do for a profession.
“I never saw myself pursuing a desk job or following my family’s footsteps,” he says, “…I decided that I wanted to move to the mountains and get paid to snowboard every day.”
After graduating college, Rivera become a snowboard instructor in Killington, Vermont and competed for several years before leaving the east coast for a training camp in Vail, Colorado. It was certainly a change of scenery. Rivera was overwhelmed by the amount of talent compared to the “little New England bubble”. The next 15 or so years, Rivera traveled across the snowboarding circuit as a professional coach helping young athletes reach their full potential.
Looking back at all his students, Rivera is proud and content with the impact he’s had. At 40, he admits that his glory days of snowboarding are behind him, but he’s eager to pass the torch and lessons to the younger generations.
“The kids these days are doing way better tricks than I would ever imagine when I was younger…Nothing wrong with living vicariously through someone else,” he jokes.
But even all the snowboarding tricks aside, Rivera is happy to have instilled structure and responsible routines in his pupils’ lives. He explains how he’s taught these kids to call their own shots in their career whether that’s networking, booking flights, marketing yourself, or landing sponsors.
“They’re not all going to be pro snowboarders so I’m preparing them for life, to fend for themselves, and to be self-sufficient,” says Rivera.
Throughout training, Rivera films the kids’ performance so at the end of the season he can show them how much they’ve progressed. It gives his pupils an opportunity to reflect, take a bow, and be proud of their work.
This is a huge deal for Rivera. He explains how essential it is to find a niche and show pride in your work, no matter what you do. It’s all art, and if snowboarding is an art then Rivera’s kids are certainly artists.
“I never did this for the money,” explains Rivera. “It’s definitely helped me put a roof over my head and that’s all I care about. That, and making sure I’m helping these kids…I’m never going to make $1 million doing this but I’m rich—rich in experiences for sure.”
“Let’s say you go to sleep happy,” Lux says.
“I still have all my hair and no greys. Not many. So, I must be doing alright.”
From Rivera’s perspective, up on the snowy mountains of Colorado and living out his dreams on the slopes, he’s on top of the world in body and spirit.
To follow Will Rivera’s story check him out on Instagram @thewillrivera, as well as on Facebook. For more info on his snowboarding programs, ASTC and ASTCC, head over to ASTCsnow.org where you can get all the info on enrollment, locations, and rates. And as always, check out Will’s full interview with Jeremy Lux on the Life in Motion podcast.