The Story of Sage Kotsenburg
The family that ‘shreds together, stays together’ is a mantra that Sage has lived since he started snowboarding at 5 years old. His older brother, Blaze, started snowboarding and was having so much more fun on a board that Sage just had to try it. He did – and he was hooked! He ditched his little skis for a Burton Chopper 108. Blaze and Sage taught their little sister, Kirra, how to ride and their parents too! He talks about great memories of all of them shredding together at Park City Mountain Resort back in those early days.
His competitive snowboarding started in January 2000 at the age of 6 when he won his first event at the Utah Winter Games in Park City. That first win was a GS racing event and it lit a fire in him to become one of the best snowboarders in the world. Back then he competed in all five disciplines: halfpipe, slopestyle, boardercross, giant slalom and parallel giant slalom. That first year he and Blaze were on a local snowboard team, but neither of them enjoyed it much, so they were never on a team after that. Sage’s parents rode with them a lot back then and encouraged them to learn from each other and anyone else who rode with them. That is exactly what they did.
Blaze and Sage shared a lot over the years; Blaze taught Sage most of his basic tricks. Sage says, “He is the one rider I look up to the most – he has always been the one pushing me and getting me to do tricks that I probably would never have tried on my own.” The Kotsenburg brothers are really competitive, but not with each other. Sage recalls their first sponsor was Smith Goggles – it was the summer he turned 8. Like a kid in a candy store, he thought that his sponsor was Smith’s (the grocery store) and was so stoked to think that he could go in and get candy at Smith’s anytime he wanted. Blaze enjoyed giving Sage a reality check on that one.
It didn’t take long for Sage to find that his passion and talent was in the freestyle events of halfpipe and slopestyle. He won every single event in his snowboard series in all five disciplines for four straight years, so he knew that he was at least halfway decent at doing competitions. Sage rode rails a lot back then and one of his favorite events was the Volcom PBRJ. He won his first prize money for 3rd Place in the 15 & under division in May 2005 at the PBRJ Finals in Mammoth when he was 11 years old. That was a big event for him mentally. He knew then that he had the start of what it takes to become a pro. His first TTR competition was the 2006 Burton U.S. Open Men’s Slopestyle when he was 12 years old. He remembers how awesome it was to stand up there in the start gate and know that he was competing with some of the best riders in the world.
It was when he was 12 that he started his love affair with slopestyle – when big jumps became his playground. Blaze was injured all that season and couldn’t ride, so he rode with long-time friend, Mark “Funkie” Beauchman. Funkie not only rode with Sage but taught him so much – like how to spin off his toes. He really helped develop Sage’s jumping skills at a critical time in his life and got him hooked on loving big jumps.
It was about that time that Sage also started to hone his mental skills. Goals are a big deal to Sage, and not just in snowboarding. He sets goals, long-term and short-term, all the time. The kitchen refrigerator was where he would post them. When he attained a goal, he crossed it off and put down another one. Sage loves riding with his friends, but back then they were all in school and Sage was on the mountain every day riding with Blaze. Sage would definitely say that he is a methodical rider and often found himself taking laps through the park by himself as he checked off his goals.
Sage’s parents have been behind his snowboarding since the beginning. When he said he wanted to be a pro snowboarder, they didn’t tell him that he couldn’t or that the odds were stacked against him. Instead, they sacrificed their time and money to give him the opportunities to pursue his dream – and all the while they snowboarded as a family. They scrimped and saved to send Blaze, Kirra and Sage to the right contests during the winter and to Mt. Hood in the summer. They bought (and watched) all the snowboard videos and even went with the kids to all the video premieres down in Salt Lake. Watching snowboard videos was a family affair and the kids dreamt that one day it would be their turn to be in them. Sage claims that he could never pay his parents back for what they have given him.
Sage’s mom homeschooled, filmed and traveled with him so that he could pursue his dream. His dad worked real hard at home to give him the financial support, making huge sacrifices in that area. They knew that if Sage could break into the international events, he might just be able to make a name for myself. In the 2008/2009 season, with Blaze and Kirra’s blessings, they spent all the snowboarding budget (and more) sending Sage to higher tier events around the world. He took the opportunity and ran with it.
The next season of 2009/2010 was Sage’s breakout season. He turned pro after earning a podium at each of the three Dew Tour stops and became the youngest Dew Cup Champion at the tender age of 16. He got his first invite to Winter X Games in both slope and big air coming in 5th and 6th respectively and took 2nd Place at the first inaugural Winter X Games Europe in Tignes, France.
His goals as a professional snowboarder have not changed much since he was 12. Those goals are to be one of the best riders in the world, progressing the sport as much as he can and get as innovative as he can. Right now he wants to give everything he has to snowboarding and attain his goals. Sage says, “I want to fuel the passion that I think all of us riders have for snowboarding by taking advantage of the opportunities to ride whatever my stoke is at that point in my life…and that stoke is currently living my dream doing contests and filming.”