17-year-old SSCV athlete makes comeback at Junior Worlds, setting up a potentially epic rookie season on the U.S. Snowboard Team
SSCV snowboarder hopes to parlay two top-6 Junior Worlds finishes into a successful U.S. rookie team campaign this winter
When Brooklyn DePriest strapped into his snowboard on Aug. 3, less than a month away from the FIS Park and Pipe Junior World Championship slopestyle in Cardrona, New Zealand, one emotion flooded his frontal lobe.
“The first run was definitely super scary,” he said.
Sports psychology isn’t just a trendy topic for the 17-year-old Ski and Snowboard Club Vail star. It’s a strength.
“I’ve done a lot of work on that over the years,” he said. This summer, DePriest’s two defining moments required he put his mental toughness to the test.
First, the aforementioned return to the slopes. In May, DePriest discovered he had pars defect, a stress fracture of the bones in the lower spine. He wore a back brace and couldn’t lift more than 20 pounds for the next three months.
“I couldn’t bend over, couldn’t move,” he said. “So when I went to Junior Worlds, my expectations were pretty rock bottom.”
Eventually, he cautiously carved his first turns at a two-week camp in New Zealand in early August.
“I was just like, ‘What’s going to happen?'” he recalled. “Is my body going to tolerate this? Were these three months sitting around worth it? Am I going to be able to compete?'”
The answer: yes.
DePriest nabbed a sixth in the slopestyle on Aug. 30 and fifth in the big air competition on Sept. 5 in Cardrona. But, before that first event, the injury bug bit again. During his warm-up, DePriest came up short on a double 1260 rotation and slammed his entire body into the jump’s knuckle.
“I thought he was done, it was over — he wasn’t competing,” SSCV freeski and snowboard program director Chris Laske stated afterward. The U.S. team’s medical staff conducted a full evaluation; three doctors back in Park City reviewed footage and spoke with DePriest before allowing him to compete.
“There was a little shadow of doubt that I might fall really hard again and hit my head again and it might not end the way it did the first time,” DePriest answered when asked how he drew himself into the starting gate instead of curling up in the fetal position. At the top, he calmed his thumping heart by asking himself why he was getting anxious.
“I just started thinking to myself: there’s no point in getting nervous,” he continued. “If I can dial the details, there’s no reason to be nervous about something like that happening again.”
On his second run, DePriest unleashed a cab double 900, front double 1080, backside double 1260 and a switch backside triple 1260. On the final jump, he landed what may have been the first backside triple 1260 in competition.
“It was absolutely amazing he was able to put that slam behind him and stay in the competition,” Laske stated.
Coming off his 14th and 20th-place slopestyle and big air finishes, respectively, at the 2022 World Junior Championships in Leysin, Switzerland, DePriest’s marks in Cardrona are encouraging stepping stones for the 2026 Olympic hopeful.
“Those are World Cup riders and they’re contenders in these big contests,” he said of the top 10 finishers.
“If I’m able to finish within 10, 15 points of them in a contest and almost scrape the podium with them on it, it kind of gives me a little confidence boost going into these bigger contests that I know they’re going to be at. I know I can very well contend.”
DePriest said he needs to dial in five or six new tricks this year, his first on the U.S. rookie team. Receiving the nod was a more emotional moment for the Rocklin, California-born athlete’s parents than himself.
“They’re just as much a part of it as I am,” he said. “They really felt it — but for me it’s just more or less a starting line…now is when the real work starts.”
Laske will still be the VSSA senior’s primary coach, but DePriest said he’ll receive a little additional help from U.S. staff this winter. In Vail, he has a strong core group of teammates — four of the five male U.S. snowboarders in New Zealand were SSCV athletes.
“Honestly, during the practice days it felt like we were just training normally,” DePriest said of chilling with Evan Wrobel, Hayden Tyler and Ollie Martin.
As far as 2023-24 goals, DePriest is eyeing the Mammoth Grand Prix and the Youth Olympics. He hopes his larger bag of tricks can catapult him to World Cup spots. Farther down the road, DePriest said qualifying for the 2026 Olympics is “the goal — a very big goal.”
“I know that is going to be a super competitive year,” he said. “All the top guys are healthy right now and it would be an honor to go out there and compete with them.”
The defending slopestyle national champion’s injury trials have also given him a new appreciation for good health.
“I was on Instagram looking at my buddies skating and snowboarding and cliff-jumping and doing all these things I’d normally be doing in a summer and I’m lounging around, not doing much,” he said. “It’s just like, not taking for granted the days that — even you don’t feel 100% on — that you know you can still perform at a decent level.”
It’s also focused his ‘why’— an addiction to pushing jumping, hitting boxes and pushing boundaries.
“In a sport that’s constantly progressing, I loved the idea of doing something one day and the next day being able to go out and either do it better or do something more,” he said, adding that he hopes to leave a legacy when it’s all said and done.
“And that’s kind of my drive to keep being better — is to leave a name. Like, a big name.”
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