Opinion » Alta States

Sam Rees - making the Whistler leap

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I guess that's why it's so refreshing to meet someone in that role who actually takes his responsibilities to heart. "It really kills me," Sam confesses, "if I can't help a customer in the proper way." He sighs. "It's one of the rare things in life that can get me really stressed."

Maybe it's because he's been doing the retail thing since he was a 14-year old mad-to-bike teenager. Maybe it's simply because he's hard-wired that way. Whatever. Sam Rees care. And he cares a lot.

But I've leapfrogged ahead again. Forgive me. We need to travel back to Bristol, on England's southwest coast in the early years of the 21st century. That's where Sam got his biking start, "hanging out in the local woods," he says, "building ramps and jumps and going for big air. I could spend hours there..."

He smiles ruefully. "As a prep school student, I was exposed to all the usual team sports, you know, (field) hockey, football, rugby... that kind of stuff. "He sighs. "But I preferred doing things on my own. That's why riding bikes suited me so well."

Jumping, he says, was always his first love. "I guess it was around 2004 when I bought my first bike — a Specialized P1 — a true jump bike. My friends couldn't figure it out. 'Why only one speed,' they wanted to know..."

His passion for cycling also got him his first job. "I worked in the local bike shop for free that first year," he says. "And I just loved it. I wanted to learn as much as I could. Every single Sunday I'd be there, building bikes."

By the time he'd celebrated his 16th birthday, Sam was a regular on the shop floor. "School, riding, building jumps in the woods, working at the shop... I was a busy guy." He laughs. Suddenly going to university didn't seem all that appealing a deal...

"I graduated from high school in 2008," he recounts. And though his parents fully expected him to continue his post-secondary studies, Sam had other plans. "I'd never been to Australia before, knew no one there, and had no special contacts or anything. I just went."

And promptly landed a job at a high-end bike store in a popular surf town north of Sidney. "What an amazing experience," he says. "They had every thing so well dialled at that store. It was a real lesson in the culture of retail."

What about his biking? "I surfed just about every day," he says. Laughs. "And I rode my mountain bike maybe three times..." He returned home the next summer. Australia had been great, he says, but it wasn't really what he was looking for.