In the glitzy world of pro snowboarding Cheryl Maas is as real as it gets.
Holland’s Cheryl Maas may have kick-started her career on artificial turf, but in the glitzy world of pro snowboarding she’s about as real as it gets.
“I’m not the loudest one in the room,” says Cheryl Maas. “If I’m waiting for a table in a busy restaurant, I still get nervous.” The surprisingly shy Dutch has no need for extrovert antics. As one of the world’s most fearless freestyle snowboarders, her riding screams volumes enough.
At twenty-four years old, Cheryl looks younger than her age. Sat in the corner of the grand dining room of London’s Marylebone Hotel, she’s fidgeting on a velvet couch, playing with her layered bob as elderly ladies lunch and portly suits peruse the broadsheets. The ostentatious surroundings – all baroque mirrored walls and kitsch chandeliers – is an atypical environment for this Biarritz local, who doesn’t quite seeem at home in the sprawling metropolis of the UK’s capital. Outside, the cliched British summer adds to the tension, hanging over the city in a thick oppressive fog. But as a rumble of thunder cracks the high pressure, Cheryl visibly lights up and, flashing her signature pixie smile (complete with dimples), she’s ready to talk.
A global team rider for Volcom, Electric and Vans, Cheryl earned kudos as the first ever Ticket To Ride Women’s World Champion and an Olympic finalist. Her win did surprise a lot of people, especially when you consider she grew up on the flatlands of Uden, Holland – learning to shred at the local dry slope at age eleven, and doing her first season in the Euro shred centre of Mayrhofen, Austria, as a wide-eyed seventeen-year-old.
Growing up away from resort glamour, a professional career seemed preposterous for the teenaged Cheryl. But it’s these roots, perhaps, that helped mould her into one of the most unpretentious people in snow. With an explosive ability to huck with style, the goofy footer’s done well in contests – claiming wins at the Roxy Chicken Jam, Vans Cup Tahoe, US Open and more – but now wants to return to films.
Cheryl may be a podium regular, but the media circus surrounding contests doesn’t suit: modest and down-to-earth, she’s the antithesis of the media savvy ‘pro rider’ for whom self-promotion is a breeze. Preffering the intimacy of movies, she’s built a close relationship with uber-creative production house, Yeahh, over the last few seasons and appeared in landmark women’s movies Transfer and Dropstitch when she was just a teen. Prioritising riding over periphery PR activites, Cheryl’s garnered universal respect for her career approach. And after a nasty shoulder accident at this year’s Winter X Games, Aspen (she hit the floor between the infamous channel gap jumps that also took out king of big booters, Travis Rice), she’s visibly buzzing about an upcoming trip to New Zealand. There, she’ll start shooting for a new Nitro Snowboards team film, alongside heavy hitters Andreas Wiig, Markus Keller, Austin Smith, Eero Ettala and Janna Meyen.
“When you film, you go on trips scoping for rails, windlips and natural hits but I’ve not done that recently, because of contest commitments, but I’d like to again,” she says. “That’s what I did a lot when I started. Going on missions with the UK riders around Mayrhofen every night, trying to spot a rail.”
Often mistakenly labelled a rail rider due to her background on artificial slopes, it’s actually big booters that Cheryl loves: “It would be cool to go to Alaska once for the experience but being a big-mountain rider is not my thing. It’s all about jumping for me. That’s my favourite thing for sure and something I’ll ride for the next ten years.”
Cheryl is known for a smooth, solid style. But when it comes to planning next season’s bag of tricks, she seems unconcerned with hype or trends, preferring instead to keep things zen. “It’s more what feels good at the time,” she says. “Expanding your repertoire in all different ways with what feels right. I don’t have one trick I focus on – I just learn and see what comes naturally. Sometimes a trick is in your body without you knowing until you’re like, ‘Oh, that feels good’ and go with it.”
In addition to her riding ability, it’s Cheryl’s refusal to relinquish her sense of self that makes her stand out. With women’s clothing proving more lucrative than hard goods, many pros are seeing their identity as accomplished athletes watered down to a more feminine aesthetic in order to peddle clothing to the masses. But Cheryl’s no sheep: “I’ve never been bothered about fashion; I never listened to anyone else. I’ve always done baggy style and never ride in tight clothes, even if that’s what’s cool now – just because styles change, doesn’t mean I will.”
It’s about finding your niche, she explains: “There are so many different companies now, that if you can snowboard well, you’ll find somewhere where you fit in without selling out. You don’t have to be just pretty anymore… you can find your own way. ”