JJ Thomas splits his time between the beach and the mountains, but he always makes sure to put in the time on his board and train in the offseason. He's got longevity and a style that earned him the title of '09 Dew Cup Champ in pipe, and Alli caught up with him at a recent summer Dew Tour event to get his thoughts on the big changes ahead for Winter Dew Tour when the pipe is elevated to a 22-footer at all three stops. Also announced today, Nike 6.0 has signed on as title sponsor of the first stop of the Winter Dew Tour, at JJ’s home mountain of Breckenridge, Colorado.
What kind of differences do you see in the 18-ft. and 22-ft. pipe?
They're different and preferably, I think everyone likes a 22-ft. But look at last year's Dew Tour, you can still do well on an 18-ft. I think it's kind of your attitude going into it.
With your experience competing in Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, and then watching last year's Vancouver Oympics, what do you see as the progression allowed with the higher walls?
With the 22-ft, there's more transition to fall into, so it is safer. That's what I like about it. And you've seen where the sport has gone, in just those two or three years, they've been around. It definitely helps progression.
How did you feel when you heard that the pipes will be 22-ft on this year's Dew Tour?
I'm looking forward to it whether the pipe is 18-ft or 22-ft, but 22 makes me that much happier because you can go higher, there's more room, and it will be great.
JJ Thomas waiting for the scores
We switched things up and are holding the finals this year in Utah at Snowbasin, are you looking forward to that?
That will be killer. That event at Snowbasin last year was great. The crowd comes out there and that will be a great way to end it.
We also added in Killington as a stop of the Winter Dew Tour, have you ever had the chance to ride there?
I have. We did a contest in Killington a couple years ago, and the crowd is awesome there. The crowd on the East doesn't have as many events, so when there is one, they come out. Between Breckenridge, Killington and Snowbasin, it's going to be cool.
You'll be starting out the season as the Dew Cup champ, and the season opener is at your home mountain, does that get you psyched?
Yeah, I always look forward to any early season contest in Breck. So this year it will be great. I just love the first event in Breck, always.
What do you think the comps will be like this season in a non-Olympic year?
I have no idea. Everyone asks me what it's going to be like, and I do not know. I still think with everyone you've got to stay on it if you even want to go to the next one. I think it will be real competitive though, because you can't just take time out or you'll get left behind. Everyone who's with it is going to stay with it and keep pushing, so I think it's going to be pretty serious.
JJ blasting out the pipe at Mount Snow The crowd comes out in full force
What are your offseason plans?
I'm flying down to New Zealand. I train down there during our summers. I like it there. I train out of Cardrona, and that's where everyone pretty much rides. I play it by ear, but I'll probably do a month or two down there, and sometimes take a break and go to Australia to surf for a week, then go back. I come home mid- September. I just put some time in that way it's no pressure. Because if you just go for one or two weeks, then you're stressing the weather, the other way you can just relax and kind of get into it.
You're got one of the longest careers going for you out of the Winter Dew athletes, what's it like going up against the young blood?
It's funny, everyone always asks me about my longevity. At this point I'm proud of it. I still enjoy it so I still do it, and the kids are definitely hungry, but thank god they're there. In some other sports they don't have the youth coming in as hard and it doesn't get pushed as hard. Maybe with vert skating, I don't see as many kids in it. It's still real progressive, but with snowboarding halfpipe, it keeps it on its toes.
How do you keep up with the progression?
You just have to snowboard. That's all you gotta do, at the end of the day, you just gotta snowboard. Obviously I don't have access to private halfpipes and foam pits, but, as long as you just snowboard and stay on the snow, you're going to be with it. That's my rule. Just make myself stay on the snow, don't get too caught up in beach life, you know. (laughing)
For more info on the upcoming Winter Dew Tour season, click here.