Words by Tristan Kennedy
She’s young, smart and one of Britain’s brightest hopes for the Olympic Games in Sochi. Is Aimee Fuller the luckiest girl in snowboarding?
It’s odd, but there are people out there who don’t seem to enjoy the life of a pro snowboarder. You’d think that talking about something you love would be as straightforward as breathing, but it’s amazing how many riders are grumpy, monosyllabic and down-right miserable when you interview them. It’s as if they don’t want to talk to you at all. And in fact, some of them contrive not to. Over the years we’ve heard some ridiculous excuses. “My phone was out of battery, I never saw your message,” said one (we’d sent ten) “I had to go help my friend move house” was another (really? A last minute, unscheduled house move?) And then there was the weed-loving American jibber (no-names mentioned) who told us for weeks he was “super down for it” but kept “missing” our calls, before eventually emailing to explain that “he wasn’t in the right frame of mind right now”. (Say what? Pulling a week-long whitey?) Some people it seems don’t appreciate how good they have it.
It’s safe to say Aimee Fuller is not one of those people. For starters she’s one of the most easily approachable pros out there – a couple of messages back and forth is all it takes before we’re sitting down face-to-face. Secondly, she’s bright, articulate, and great company. As she talks ten to the dozen over brunch in a Soho café, I’m reminded of my description when we first met in Scotland a few years back. She’s hit the big time in a big way in the years since, but the girl sitting opposite is still “a bundle of bubbly blonde enthusiasm”, holding forth on a wide range of topics with an ease and confidence that makes her seem older than her 21 years. Thirdly, and most importantly, Aimee is clearly head over heels in love with snowboarding.
“Honestly, I never thought this could be my life,” she says, tucking into her eggs. “I always thought I could be maybe a PE teacher or an air hostess.” She laughs infectiously.“Really? Aimee Fuller the air hostess? I can’t really see that…”
“Well actually when I joined my secondary school they asked ‘what do you want to be?’ and I put on the application form ‘professional snowboarder.’ So from about then it was the dream, but I never realised it was possible.” She’s not being falsely modest either. Because although Aimee was precociously talented, her childhood was far from typical for a British pro. Most of her fellow Team GB freestyle riders were first spotted on their home dryslopes or picked out as potential stars in snowdomes. But Aimee grew up almost entirely outside the UK scene. “I was born in Farnborough in Kent and I grew up there ‘til I was about 12, but then my parents moved out to America,” she explains. At the age when many of the current crop of British groms are just starting to get noticed, Aimee was whisked away overseas, away from the eyes of potential mentors, media or sponsors.
At the age of four I had my first quad bike, and at the age of six I had my first motorbike
Before she left however, she had started out on the right course. “Every Saturday from the age of about three or four I went up to Bromley dry ski slope and had skiing lessons with Andy the instructor. Both my parents ski. Not seriously though. Well, my dad thinks he’s really good,” she chuckles. “But they wanted us to learn to ski so we could go on family holidays. If me and my brother did well, we were going to get a hamster. That was the end goal!” Hamsters aside, there were other early signs that Aimee had the athletic prowess and the sheer gutsiness to go all the way. “My dad was really into motorsports when I was a kid, so at the age of four I had my first quad bike, and at the age of six I had my first motorbike. By eight I was racing the 60cc class at the British Championships!”. Aimee’s father was delighted that she loved the sensation of speed and airtime. Her mother on the other hand, was less keen. “We’d go to these meets and it would be me, blonde pony-tail out the back of my helmet, and 30 other guys lining up at the start. They were pretty rough and didn’t hold back on pushing and stuff. In the end I had a pretty bad slam when my mum was watching with my nan and it got quietly pushed to one side…” She eventually picked up motocross again when her family moved to the States, but it was now having to compete for her affections with a new sport she’d found.