In the lead-up to the 2020/21 FIS Snowboard World Cup season we'll be interviewing some of last season's crystal gloibe winners to find out what they've been up to in the off-season, what they're looking forward as we head into winter, and hopefully a little bit more about what it's like behind the scenes for some of snowboarding's top riders. Today we're catching up with 2019/20 big air crystal globe winner Reira Iwabuchi of Japan...
In just three seasons on the FIS Snowboard World Cup tour, 18 year-old Reira Iwabuchi has already amassed the kind of CV that most riders would be lucky to see at the end of a long career; in 15 career World Cup starts she has five victories, eight total podiums, and back-to-back big air crystal globes won in the last two season. Throw in two second-overall finishes in slopestyle in 2017/18 and 2018/19, a near-miss fourth-place finish in the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games big air event, and a couple of X Games medals, and it all comes together to paint a picture of a pretty remarkable rider.
Despite her diminutive size, there are few riders on earth - man or woman - who go bigger than Reira does either in big air or on the slopestyle course, and with that amplitude, her rock-solid style, and an ever-growing trick arsenal that already includes a plurality of switch and regular double corks, she's well-positioned to be one of the world's most exciting and dominant riders for years to come.
We caught up with Reira via email in Saas Fee where she was on site with her Japanese teammates for their preseason camp...
(Thanks to coach Lee Ponzio for the help with translation!)
FIS - You’re coming off your second-straight big air crystal globe winning season, you’ve had two second-overall finishes on the slopestyle World Cup rankings, and you’re still just 18 years-old. Did you think when you joined the World Cup back in 2017/18 that you would already be one of the strongest big air/slopestyle riders in the world at this point in your career?
Reira Iwabuchi - Back when I started on the World Cup tour, I never really thought about being the best in the world, I only ever thought about winning each contest that I rode in. That’s still my mentality now!
FIS - So far in your World Cup career you’ve competed in 15 events and only finished outside of the top-10 once in that whole time. On top of that, you have eight podiums, which is a better than 50% average for landing on the podium. How do you manage to stay so consistent and focused?
RI - Eight out of 15 doesn’t sound so good to me, actually! I practice a lot, and I try to practice at a level that is above what I would need to do in a competition to get onto the podium. I think that gives me a bit of a mental pressure buffer,
FIS - How much fun is it to be a part of the Japanese slopestyle/big air team with you, Miyabi (Onitsuka) and Kokomo (Murase) all stomping some of the biggest tricks, winning big competitions, and seeming to progress snowboarding every time you drop in?
RI - The Japanese women’s slope/big air team right now is one of the strongest in the world, and to be a part of that is helping push me to raise my level of riding all the time.
FIS - What riders inspired you when you were coming up in snowboarding, and who in snowboarding (or outside of snowboarding) inspires you now?
RI - I really loved, and still love, Hailey Langland’s style!! She doesn’t just do tricks, she puts her own super cool style into them.
FIS - Obviously it was a strange end to the season and a strange off-season with the pandemic going on across the world. How did you handle those first few months when you went home after the season? What did you do to stay busy and have fun over the summer?
RI - It was a very strange end to the season! At first I had a lot to do to get ready for and join university (which all ended up being online). Then I was able to get my drivers license! Later in the summer I got back to airbag practice and some physical training work. School has kept me really busy, too!
FIS - It’s a big year and a half coming up with the Zhangjiakuo 2021 FIS Slopestyle, Freestyle and Freeski World Championships this season and then the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games next season - as well as an opportunity to win your third-straight big air crystal globe or even a slopestyle globe. What are your goals for this season and the next?
RI - Yes, there are two big years coming up. I still focus on my performance one competition at a time, and doing the tricks that I really want to do at each competition. If I can do that, hopefully I can be happy with how the season ends up.
FIS - What does a perfect day for Leila Iwabuchi look like?
RI - Some combination of sleeping, cheesecake, Studio Ghibli movies, riding powder, more sleeping…