Kyle Wise blog: From building sites to boardercross
Kyle Wise is a British snowboarder from Norfolk who competes in the Olympic discipline of snowboard cross, or boardercross as many call it. Kyle is the current British, English and British Indoor Champion and has represented Great Britain at the 2013 World Snowboard Championships, two World University Games, and on the World Cup circuit. As the long, steady build-up to the Pyongchang 2018 Winter Olympics begins, Kyle will be blogging for the Ski Club of Great Britain and providing unique insight into snowboard cross and the life of a UK snowsports athlete.
In this first blog, I will tell you what I’ve been up to this summer following an eventful 2013-14 winter season.
The first and biggest task I found at the end of the winter season was organising work for myself. Snowboard Cross is an expensive sport to participate in at a high level, and only a small percentage of the best riders in the world can call themselves full-time professionals, whether they are supported privately or by their national governing body. For riders like me on the way up to this level, it’s difficult. Working your summers, and even winters, is a necessity.
I have aspirations to have a long-term career in town planning or surveying, which is what I graduated in at Heriot-Watt University just over a year ago. Of the jobs I was seeking, short-term or summer experience in this industry was high on my priority list. I started looking for these jobs in March, during my competitive season, and had some success with self-employed work, but after getting back to the UK in April after winning the Brits, I was twiddling my thumbs until June waiting for something more substantial to come through. I was applying for lifeguard jobs too which I have a lot of experience in, but this is a well paid job and therefore hard to come by in Scotland! This was one of the most frustrating times, being broke and lacking a constant income. What happened to the glitz and glamor lifestyle?
All this waiting around gave me plenty of time to keep fit; I was riding my bike, scraping together pennies for the train to see my personal trainer in Glasgow and claiming free trial passes at local gyms. As time went on things started to get desperate money wise, I was exchanging euros back into pounds and claiming back money through my EHIC for the medical bills I had paid for my burst appendix in January. In May I took a trip back to my family in Norfolk to visit a potential sponsor, which unfortunately fell through. So despite my best efforts I began to fear I was going to have another summer of my financial situation progressively deteriorating.
It was at this point in early June I was contacted about a summer placement job as a Graduate Land Buyer with the house builder CALA Homes East. After a short meeting and interview with my future boss I’d landed myself a very good summer job. For the next three months I commuted from Edinburgh/Glasgow to CALA’s office in Falkirk on the train with my bike to learn all about the house building industry and CALA’s role within it. It turned out to be one of the best work experiences I’ve had. One week I’d be driving around Edinburgh on my own seeking new housing land, the next I was on the building site of a new development and another week I was sat on a house builder’s panel discussing local government issues. The industry is so varied, complex and challenging, it was exciting for me, like snowboard cross I guess.
It was one of the first ‘big boy’ jobs and thoroughly enjoyable. I always felt welcome and learned so much from some great mentors. I’m delighted to say that CALA have offered to sponsor my snowboarding for the next four years up to the 2018 Winter Olympics, with a view of me coming back to work for them next summer, if the circumstances are right. Being supported by a company that allows you to combine your sport with the job you enjoy is hard to find. So hopefully it’s the start of long and fruitful relationship with CALA – I will certainly repay them back as best as I can for their support both in the office and on the slopes!
The one thing I think which I’ve suffered from this summer however is my fitness. I biked an hour every weekday for my commute to work from July till September, but the long office hours from getting up at 7am and back home at 7pm have had an impact on my strength. After trying numerous times to visit my personal trainer our hours just didn’t match up and I trained alone in my local outdoor gym, which was all I had. I’d go to the outdoor gym completing my gym programme a few times a week, I’d do interval sprint training on my bike ride to work, go skateboarding, use my kettlebell at home and even do leg squats with my girlfriend on my back! It was less than ideal but I did what I could. Sometimes you have to make the most of what you have as an athlete.
When I finished working at CALA I took up a role as a leisure attendant/lifeguard for Glasgow Life on a zero hour contract. This allows me to work as much as I can around my sport, which is great for me. I’ll be travelling back and forth to the UK during the winter in between competitions in Europe, so this is the ideal situation to earn some money to make it all more affordable.
I’ve also been selected as an athlete mentor for the Champions in Schools programme run by the Winning Scotland Foundation. I’ll be visiting schools during the year running talks and workshops with children and young adults, inspiring them to pursue their passions and telling them how I learned to manage all the responsibilities in order to continue with my sport, such as studying and working. I hosted my first motivational talk at my old high school (Langley School) last year, which I enjoyed and it’s something I look forward to doing more in the future, alongside other inspirational athletes.
I now find myself in a great position where I can combine work with my sporting responsibilities, which means I’ve been able to commit to the British Snowboard Cross Team after a year off due to finances. I’m going to spend 7 weeks with the British Snowboard Cross Team training on Hintertux Glacier in Austria from October till the end of November improving my technique and getting race ready.
So far I’m in better shape from my summer bike riding than I expected, and Hintertux is currently the best place to train in the world. The hard work getting to get to this point has paid off, but now the hard work to get fit, race ready and be the athlete I’m aspiring to be has begun…
Kyle is sponsored and supported by: Skiers Trust of Great Britain, Volkl Snowboards, Heriot-Watt University, Snowfit, my Travel Cash, DataWax and Surefoot.