Free Fallin’

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UW student soars to new heights as a professional snowboarder.

Colin Tucker finds balance by alternating semesters on the UW campus with snowboarding and taking some courses online. Photo: Jeff Miller

Colin Tucker finds balance by alternating semesters on the UW campus with snowboarding and taking some courses online. Photo: Jeff Miller

Before learning to fly, snowboarder Colin Tucker x’12 had to learn to fall.

“You roll off the lip off the jump, and if you don’t have enough speed, you’ll knuckle, which basically means you’ll land in the flat and explode instead of making the downhill landing,” Tucker says in describing the extreme sport he loves. “Every time you go into a new jump, it’s a roll of the dice. You hope to land on your feet, and if not, you tuck and hope for the best.”

When he’s not testing the limits of his sport at professional competitions, Tucker is a full-time UW-Madison student, alternating semesters studying with snowboarding while taking some online courses. So far, he’s keeping up with a regular credit load and says, “It’s doable to juggle the two.”

Snowboarding has also opened doors to him on campus. “It’s an easy way to meet people. Even people not in the scene like talking about it,” he says. He’s found that UW students “welcome with open arms someone who’s a little different, who’s got a new story.”

A Milwaukee native, Tucker didn’t strap on a snowboard until he was thirteen. He was instantly hooked, and gravitated toward freestyle snowboarding. In freestyle, the rider uses manmade terrain features such as rails, jumps, or boxes to perform aerial or sliding “jib” tricks.

The sport can be dangerous, however, and after Tucker landed in the hospital with a ruptured spleen, his parents looked for a way to get the youngest of their three sons the training he needed to safely pursue his passion.

“My parents were concerned that I would fall behind in my education,” he says. “But being the cool parents they are, they said if you’re serious about this and you want to be a pro snowboarder, we’ll figure out how to make it happen.”

He left home at fifteen to live with a host family in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where he attended a public high school and trained in the winter. A few years later, the inexperienced teen turned pro, securing sponsorships from Quiksilver, Bern Helmets, PowerBar, KlassNine Snowboards, Bolle Optics, Zero Gloves, and Sun Bum.

“Snowboarding is such a new sport, it’s still possible to do tricks that no one has ever done before — and to do them when it counts, during competition,” Tucker says. “It’s all about progression and adrenaline and keeping your cool.”

Published in the Winter 2010 issue

Tags: sports, Winter

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