What were you doing when you were 14?
For most teenagers, this stage in life usually entails navigating the intricacies of high school and music tastes, but for South Korea’s Gaon Choi, it involves traveling the world as a professional snowboarder and winning an X-Games Gold medal.
In 2022, Gaon burst on the scene, raising eyebrows around the world as she became the youngest-ever women’s superpipe champion – a record held since 2015 – and the winner of South Korea’s first X-Games medal. She has a maturity to her riding rare for someone of her age – a winning combination of flow and technicality with a style that’s easy on the eye.
With her sights set on the 2026 Olympics, Gaon’s future, and with that, the future of women’s halfpipe, is bright. We’re delighted to officially welcome Gaon to the Burton Team and caught up with her to learn more about this promising young talent.
First of all, how did you start snowboarding?
This happened when I was 7 years old. Our family consisted of Dad, Mom, older sister (9 years old), older Brother (8 years old), me, and younger brother (2 years old). My Dad really likes snowboarding, so he bought boards to teach my older sister and older brother and gave me skis to borrow, saying I was too young to snowboard. I cried because I was so sad, and after I complained he finally bought me a board for $50. The board was taller than I was! I didn't want my older sister and older brother to be better than me, so I did my best to keep up.
Less than a month after I started snowboarding, my Dad put my three siblings in a halfpipe camp in Korea because he noticed we were really good at boarding. I really enjoyed the halfpipe, and the coach of the Korean youth team told me that I had talent. From there, I told my parents that I wanted to become a competitor.
Where did you grow up riding?
I rode in Korea for about 3 years and then came Covid. I then went to Mammoth Mountain, USA, and trained with my Coach Ben.
What did you love about it once you started riding?
I loved going fast, and I love feeling like I’m flying like a bird in the halfpipe.
What is the snowboarding scene like in Korea?
In Korea, winter is actually very short, and there are no artificial snow or snowboard training facilities, so the environment is not super good for competitive snowboarders. I am happy that I was able to train overseas.
Do you see a relationship between your skateboarding and snowboarding?
Actually, since there are no snowboard training facilities in Korea, I skateboarded so as not to lose the feeling of riding with my Dad. I rode really hard whenever I had time, and now I'm good at skateboarding and enjoy it a lot. It has a different charm from snowboarding. If I get the chance, I would like to participate in skateboarding competitions.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your riding?
After I started snowboarding, I watched a lot of competition videos of other athletes. I am studying a lot of videos such as the X Games, World Cup, and Olympics.
How do you feel about the current contest snowboarding?
I'm always nervous about competitions, but I get excited when the contest approaches, and I'm always sad when it's over, whether I do well or not.
When everyone thinks of snowboarding, I hope Gaon comes to mind
What are your plans for the future?
When everyone thinks of snowboarding, I hope Gaon comes to mind. And I want to prepare hard for the Olympics and show a good performance.