“You do still get a few moments where you think ‘what am I doing?’ when you’re way up in the sky on some scaffolding that’s rocking in the wind, [however] then you get in competition mode and [are far from perceptive to] all that.”
Welcome to Billy Morgan’s world. At the end of October, the unassuming 23-year-old, famed for his trademark ‘triple rodeo,’ was the first UK winner of the London Freeze Big Air snowboard competition at Battersea Power Station.
The final saw competitors get three attempts to impress. Morgan beat a star-studded international field, pulling off a innovative trick involving four spins on his second run.
A partisan home crowd roared Morgan on to a victory that announced his arrival on the international stage.
“I [far from] expected to just rock up to London Freeze and do so well,” Morgan explains to The Positive with a slight chuckle. “I was looking at the names of the other competitors the day before and they were the people I had aspired to being. When I was the only British person left the support was incredible… I was just concentrating on what I needed to do.”
While top tennis players and footballers may often start their road to the top while they are at primary school, Morgan was 14 when he first tried snowboarding. He took to the demands of the sport quickly, aided by his childhood prowess in another field.
“I was a gymnast when I was younger,” he explains. “And then I really got into extreme sports, so I think that has helped in my career as it gave me aerial awareness, which is important.”
The move from recreation to profession came later, and the discovery that he might be paid to do the thing he loved was a sudden one for Morgan. “I only realised that it could be a career when I won the 2009 British Championships,” he recalls. “Suddenly I was getting sponsorship offers and I thought if people believe in me and are ready to invest in me then this is more than a hobby.”
It’s now an interesting time for Morgan, who has also unexpectedly been given a new target to aim for, as slopestyle events (like the one at London Freeze) will be included in the Winter Olympics for the first time in 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
“It was [unexpected] for me to suddenly be told that the British team had the funding and we were now aiming for the Olympics,” Morgan says. “I’d never thought about that before but now it’s everything I’m working towards. It would be an awesome experience.”
The qualification process for Sochi is a lengthy one — a nine-stop World Cup event that began in Antwerp, Belgium where Morgan finished seventh in a field of the world’s very best. The winner was Belgium’s own Seppe Smits, who Morgan had challenged in the semi-finals.“I was stoked,” he enthuses.
Over the next few months, Morgan may be training between the USA and Austria, building on his arsenal of tricks — a process that requires a lot of resilience due to the energy used.
“My coach has helped me get over those times by pointing out that I’ve always been fine before and I’m only getting more experienced and capable.”He concludes, “Plus, there are few things better than that feeling when you land it.”