Yesterday, ESPN made the move of featuring a rare action sports icon–Olympic medalist skier Gus Kenworthy–on the cover of their magazine, replacing the normal layout of some better known sports figure dunking or touchdowning with a tatted skier mounting up some goggles. Why? Because Gus had come out to ESPN The Magazine’s Alyssa Roenigk, and in a lengthy interview and follow-up story, explained at length what had kept him from expressing openly that he was gay despite knowing it since he was just five years old.
Action sports culture has always occupied an odd position in western culture as a whole. While many of us hold views and attitudes more progressive than the status quo–say, when it comes to work/life balance, environmental issues, or hell, recreational drug use–we’re often off the back when it comes to things like racial, cultural, and gender diversity, and “gay” has been used for a long time as a blanket statement for anything perceived as uncool in a culture where cool is the shared value held in the highest regard. It’s a culture that’s been slow to budge from a perspective centered on white heterosexual males, who largely define what is in many ways a monoculture, and not the haven of self-expression so many defend it as.
Kenworthy said as much in his interview with ESPN, worried to a painful degree that coming out of the closet would slurry, in many fans and fellow athletes’ eyes, his talents as a skier even after an Olympic slopestyle performance so absurdly oozing in ability that I would have excepted him to admit to being a robot before I’d imagine him coming out as gay. Either way, his announcement has hardly diminished his reputation as a skier, and has instead only showcased a social bravery that’s sadly uncommon in the action sports world.
It also outed several of the community’s more outspoken bigots, like Terje Haakonsen, who reacted with a Tweet asking “Aren’t all skier gay?”, the same tired statement that’s passed as a joke in snowboarding for years. Among many other things, we can thank Gus for giving the more respectful among us the courage to say something when we hear similar jokes in the future, instead of biting our tongue.
And, while Michael Sam became famous as the first openly gay player in the NFL, and possibly the first openly gay male athlete in a big national sport, Gus is a way better icon for the cause. Close sources who actually pay attention to stick and ball sports tell me Sam was cut at the end of his first training camp, and only got to play football in Canada, which is like only having been good enough at curling to play in central Florida. Despite skiing’s complete irrelevance to so much of the population, I still think a silver Olympic medal trumps that.
Thanks for scoring one for the two-plankers, Gus, and here’s to a bright, open future dominating parks for years to come.
Drawing from his background in fine art, artist Casey Underwood brings an incredible level of detail and craftsmanship to the outdoor industry. Casey Underwood photo. It’s a classic post-grad move: get your diploma, pack your bags, and go see the world. For artist Casey Underwood, this gap year rite of passage was an opportunity to explore the American West. There wasn’t much of a set agenda, except to fly fish in as many rivers he could find. His station wagon served as a makeshift home
Looking to upgrade your winter quiver? Here’s your chance to win some incredible boards and skis while fighting racial injustice. Your favorite riders and skiers are auctioning off an impressive selection of gear to support the Black Organizing Project (BOP), a grassroots-led group based in Oakland, California. The organization is a black member-led group that aims to find racial, social, and economic justice through community-building efforts in Oakland, California. Each donation made
We’ll forgive you for not watching the film, but there’s a fun bit of movie trivia in the most recent installment of the XXX franchise – Cody Townsend, LJ Strenio and Sandy Boville stood in as stunt doubles for Vin Diesel for the skiing scene in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. The three pro skiers got rid of their hair, donned tattooed muscle suits, and shredded the hell out of the jungle in the Dominican Republic on skis – with cork 7s, tree gaps, and faceshots galore. RELATED: How Does