"When we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that our lives are all that really belong to us. So it is how we use our lives that determine what kind of (people) we are."
- Cesar Chavez, Human Rights Advocate
Sherry Newstead was living the life. A member of the fledging Canadian Snowboard Team, she was travelling the world, riding the pipe for a living and getting a whole new perspective on her sport. "It was almost surreal," she says. And giggles. "Going to our first European events - we were like members of a comedy troupe. The learning curve was amazingly steep." The year was 1996 and the tough young gal from Lynn Valley had certainly come a long way from her desk job with BC Rail.
Remember Gidget? Remember the surfer chick they called the "girl midget"? The altitude-challenged tomboy who could give as good as she got? The only female in the gang who rode the waves with the guys? Well, Sherry was Gidget's snowy incarnation.
"I moved to Whistler in search of fun and adventure," she tells me. "I didn't necessarily set out to change who I was, I was just able to release the person inside and be me. I always loved theatre and sports in school. Whistler was a beautiful combination of that." She stops. Laughs. "Still is. I loved that you could dress up like a complete weirdo, be totally silly and nobody batted an eye. It seemed expected really. If there was any eye batting we were having too much fun to notice or care..."
As far as riding went, she was totally committed. "I wasn't so worried about measuring up," she says, "as I was of just proving myself."
Sound familiar? "For me," she says, "moving here was a rite of passage. I felt I needed to be good to belong and not 'ride like a girl'. I really worked at pipe riding, watched the guys and learned from their experience. Most of them were good skateboarders, vert' ramp riders. I loved watching them boost huge air and do styly (I know that is not a proper word) tricks. I wanted to do that. We would hike the pipe for hours when there was no powder. Then in the summer we would do it all over again on the glacier. I worked at the Camp of Champions as a pipe digger." Another quick eruption of giggles. "I think I was the only girl allowed to dig because I was the only one strong enough to throw the snow out of the pipe."
Like Gidget, Newstead was considered "one of the boys." "As much as there were great girls snowboarding back then," she admits, "I mostly rode with guys." She smiles. "I have always had lots of guy friends. I guess I'm not that much of a girlie girl..."