Cottage Grove snowboarder takes second at Winter X GamesRyan Paul soared to second place at the Winter X Games last month and wants to return next year to try for a gold medal.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
Ryan Paul looks at ledges and metal handrails differently than most people do.
The 21-year-old Cottage Grove man sees them as potential places to launch his snowboard.
In January, he soared to second place at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., and wants to return next year to try for a gold medal.
Street snowboarding is a sport that starts with snowboarding on ski runs. In street events, however, rails, ledges and ramps are part of the runs. In his recent win, Paul also had to launch himself along the side of large cargo container and negotiate a concrete traffic divider.
None of the objects are barriers for Paul, and the road divider was “cool,” he said in a recent interview.
Unlike weekend boarders, Paul is making snowboarding a career. He has sponsors, teaches youngsters how to skateboard on rails and ledges, acts in snowboard movies and videos — some internationally — and is in the process of forming his own company featuring snowboard gear.
Paul, also known as “86” in the snowboard world, was invited to this year’s X Games because he’s made a reputation for himself in the snowboard community around the country.
His biographical information was featured on the ESPN sports network after he participated in the X Games invitational in 2010, winning $13,000.
Next month, he’ll be in Europe making a video for “696,” one of his sponsors. He just finished being in the film, “Mind the Video Man,” in Michigan.
Over the recent Presidents Day weekend and holiday, he coached potential street snowboarders at Trollhaugen in Wisconsin.
“They want to learn to do all the rails and jumps,” he said, but he’s a bit hesitant to teach them flips.
“It’s easy, now, because I’ve done them thousands of times,” Paul said, recalling his first experience doing flips. “I kept landing on my head.”
It hurt a lot, but he was also having fun.
What he does on a snowboard isn’t work to Paul. Training for years to do half pipe, which is the most popular snowboard event to watch because of Shaun White, “now, that’s work,” he said.
The second time he tried flips, he got the hang of rotating his body, but only enough to land on his knees, which he considered an improvement over landing on his head.
He achieved his goal on the third outing.
“You overcome your fears and figure it out,” Paul said.
He said he “skipped out” on going to college even though he was a good student at Park High School. But pursuing his dream has been good for him, he said.
When he’s not on the slopes, he spends time with family and his girlfriend, Amy Koehnen, does yoga and attends church in Minneapolis.
He also watches a lot of snowboarding videos because he wants to keep getting better and learn new moves. He’d like to do some “big mountain” skiing and get dropped from a helicopter onto a high ridge with fresh powder.
Paul plans to continue street snowboarding.
“I’ll probably do it all my life,” he said.