The first time I saw Kyle ride was in the 2017 X-games, almost exactly a year from right now. As a big fan of rails, I specifically remember watching him front blunt 270 out of the first rail and immediately loving the kid. This trick is pretty stock, everyone’s got it. The thing is, I am even more fascinated by style, not everyone has that, but Kyle did. From that first rail I was hooked. I watched the rest of his run closely, he kept that style from top to bottom, scoring an 81 that sent him to the finals. He fell in both finals runs and didn’t end up placing. As happens, we went on to watch the rest of the X-Games, moving on with our day, unaware of the impact that run would have on us today.
A few months later, DIVERT was on the hunt for a new athlete in snowboarding to get behind the brand and help spread the mission. We are running through lists of athletes like Shaun White, Mark McMorris, and Markus Kleveland. Then across a name that we had all but forgotten, until we read it, and we remembered that feeling we got when we saw him ride, Kyle Mack.
At DIVERT our brand is to support the underdog. We want the story of those that are fighting tooth and nail to overcome the obstacles in front of them. We didn’t know Kyle’s story, but you better believe we were about to find out.
We got a hold of him through a mutual friend, and as is tradition at DIVERT, we just asked him to tell us his story. Even as a young kid from Michigan, his athletic ability was clear. He started as a savage wakeboarder and he eventually took to snowboarding. Strong coordination, a supportive family and the passion to commit to his craft is a lethal combination when it comes to top tier athletes. He saw some early success in competitive snowboarding and quickly garnered respect from his peers on the competitive circuit.
This is where the story gets interesting.
Kyle’s quest for the Olympic’s started when he was young, but really picks up in the year 2014. We are sitting and watching the 2014 Winter Olympics. The US Snowboard team is getting ready to compete in the slopestyle event in the coming hours, when major news hits. One of the US competitors has has dropped out of the slopestyle competition in the final minutes in fear that it may compromise his health to compete in another event. It was known that the jumps in Sochi we notoriously sketchy. An awkward rail section, Massive wedge take-off’s and with steep landings were causing problems for many of the riders.
I remember feeling everything from understanding to frustration. This cut the chances for the US winning an Olympic Medal in a big way (luckily Sage ended up doing his thing). One thing that was a gut wrench was thinking about the alternate athlete who could have taken that spot. Because the call was made last minute the alternate was sitting back at home in the U.S., watching his TV screen in disbelief as his shot at being an Olympian simultaneously appeared then immediately began to fade with every passing second. The competition was starting in an hour, it’s a 19-hour flight to Sochi from Michigan, you do the math - it’s heartbreaking.
It turns out that Kyle Mack was that kid, sitting at home, watching as his Olympic dreams evaporated in front of him. A feeling that could make or break you. Your lifelong dream existed, just on the other side of the world, barely out of reach. This isn’t the only hardship that Kyle had to face throughout his career. A laundry list of injuries, difficult judging, unsavory interactions with industry executives and more. There is no doubt that Kyle had a storyline riddled with obstacles.
So what instilled confidence that he was the kid for DIVERT? He doesn't seem phased by any of it. He thrives off to it. He loves the thrill of falling and failing, because it meant that he was closer to the stomp and succeeding.
When we signed Kyle, we loved his style, his drive, and that he wants to use action sports to better the world. Most of all, we admired that he is a fighter, unwilling to let things bring him down. He seemed to check all the boxes for us, but apparently we were one of the only brands that thought so. When we signed him, it was just us and Rockstar. That is all about to change.
This last weekend the stage was set for Kyle to thrive. The pressure was on as it was the final Olympic qualifying event. Kyle had not earned a spot on the Olympic team, but had set himself up to do so with a win at the Toyota US Grand Prix in Mammoth. At this point, the thought of being an alternate made him sick. There was no option but to get it done.
Kyle Mack stomps his run to take the win and a spot at the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Getty Images, Sean M. Haffey)
The conditions were tough. Cloud cover created illusive flat light. Slow snow caused many of the competitors to case the jumps, ruining their run as a result. These conditions got the best of Kyle on his first run when he scored a 22.13. He came back and on Run 2 and Run 3 and he outscored the entire competitive field. There was absolutely no question Kyle had taken the cake.
Kyle stoked after his winning run. (Anna Stonehouse - The Aspen Times)
All of a sudden, all of his heartbreak, all of his injuries, and all the doubt was lifted. The dream that he had seen evaporate in front of him 4 years earlier, is now a reality. As he boards the flight to South Korea, he is filling the shoes of his former self, living out the dream that had eluded him 4-years prior. He is older, wiser and armed with new bag of tricks that set him apart. Who knows, maybe this is how it was always meant to be. The trip carries with it so much more meaning now. No matter what happens, Kyle Mack, along with all the other athlete’s in South Korea all have their own story, all have their own hardships and obstacles that they have overcome, and that is why we can’t wait to support them in every way possible!
Kyle, from us to you, get out there and get it my dude, we’ll be at home rooting for you!
To follow Kyle Mack on his Olympic journey, be sure to give him a follow on Instagram at @_kylemack and tune in for Men's Slopestyle Finals going down in South Korea on Sunday, February 11th at 5pm PST.
Sean co-founded the non-profit, “A Walk on Water”, which specializes in Ocean and Surf Therapy for people needing the healing powers of the ocean. A Walk on Water was founded in 2012 by four men who shared the belief that the ocean’s healing powers could help people. They all had a passion for Surf Therapy and giving back, so they wanted to make it accessible to children who needed it in the USA.