Meet Kaily Blackburn; Denver Native currently supported by Phunkshun Wear Facemasks, Pret Helmets, DC Snowboarding, Spy Optics, Eivy Clothing, and CocoRidge 100% Coconut Water. She’s an avid skateboarder and snowboarder and was also recently added to the 7Twenty Boardshop snow team in Denver. When she got the opportunity of a lifetime to coach in Norway she jumped on it and documented her journey in a project called Now or Never. She was able to showcase this work at the Fourth Phase viewing party at 7Twenty Boardshop on October 2nd and could not have been happier about the opportunity to watch it in front of friends, family, and a bunch of strangers.
When asked about her project Now or Never, Kaily had this to say:
Now or Never is a new standard I wish to live by. All my life I have come up with excuses on why I can't do "this" or "that." I am not getting any younger and there is nothing tying me down, so why not? Why not just go when a feeling hits?
From snowboarding for nearly a decade, I never realized the connections I have across the world until now. Last summer, I was invited to coach snowboarding at What! Camps in Folgefonna, Norway with Swedish-freeski-legends Henrik Windstedt and David Kantermo. I booked a one-way flight, purchased my first camera, and learned to use it as my adventure unfolded.
In my first project, I hope to show what can happen when you let go of "what if's" and stop being afraid to do something on your own. Sometimes you have to create your own opportunities, and sometimes you just get lucky. You never know where you might find yourself.
I am so grateful to my sponsors, family, and everyone who has made this project possible and continued to encourage me along the way.
Thanks for watching, and I hope you enjoy ~
To follow Kaily’s future projects connect with her here:
To get to know Kaily a little more, check out this Q&A session she recently had with some fans and friends:
Q - What motivated you to get started snowboarding at an older age?
A - I always played a ton of sports growing up, a little bit of everything. I was chasing a tennis career which was cut short from shoulder and spine problems. Without the fear of ending my tennis career early, I was no longer limited to chuck my body around some snow. It wasn’t until a couple years at CU Boulder, I met the right people that started to teach me some park riding. I loved the challenge, and that I could continue being competitive with myself.
Q - What made you choose Norway for the first time over seas?
A- Living in Breckenridge, you are bound to meet people from all over the world. Over the years I began to meet tons of Europeans who would make the trip to Folgefonna glacier every summer. Think “camp vibes” and progressive terrain park. They painted an amazing picture and I knew I had to go visit.
Q - How did you get there? Who covered the expenses and helped you along the way?
A - I actually footed the bill by myself. What! Camps covered living expenses and food while in Jondal, but the rest was all self-funded. My sponsors were great, they sent me all the extra gear I might have needed. With no real filming or story-telling experience, I wanted the chance to show what film I could come up with on my own. I saved as much money as I could, and purchased a one-way flight to Oslo, and took the train over to Bergen for the festival. Then a simple but long bus and ferry ride to Jondal.
Q - You went over there on a one-way flight?
A - haha Yeah I knew this was going to be an experience of a lifetime. To be honest I didn’t have much of a plan. I have always been an obsessive planner, but I really wanted to have the flexibility to see what would happen if I just went with the flow.
Q - What was your favorite part of the trip?
A - I think my favorite day was going up on the glacier after hours to watch Torgeir Bergrem and Ståle Sandbech hit the famous Fonna jump. Kuske let me tag along while he and Erik Nylander were shooting the guys. Up there, I was able to meet legendary snowboard photographer, Frode Sandbech, and snowboard filmer Leo Cittadella. It was just me, park crew, two filmers, two photographers, and two snowboarders. The whole thing was very intimate, and amazing to watch how a real production crew operates to get what the public sees.
Q - How do you save money to pursue your snowboarding career?
A - Most summers I find myself working 3 jobs at minimum, and been trying to live non-materialistic. I am constantly reminding myself “You don’t really need that” and it cuts my expenses a lot.
Q - Can you talk about the turning point that made you get off the couch and actually put your ideas into action?
A - I am not sure there was ever actually a turning point. I always had a spirit for adventure but finances were always a major setback. I actually had plans to go out the previous summer 2014 to coach at What! Camps. My grandmother ended up having a life-altering stroke the month before, and I wanted to go visit her. In being there, we spoke a lot about what I want to do with my life and where I want to go. Though she was happy to see me, she told me she would rather I be out in the world chasing my dreams and continuing to be an independent woman. I think that was a huge turning point in my life that really inspired me to live more for myself, and always do what feels right for my soul.
Q - What was the most difficult part about traveling abroad by yourself?
A - Carrying my bags (Snowboard bag, camera bag, and rolling duffel) presented a bit of a challenge, the bags probably weighed as much as I do. There were times when strangers offered to help but instincts told me to do it on my own. Other than that I really liked being independent and being able to do what I wanted when I wanted.
Q - Was it scary?
A - I would be crazy to say I wasn’t scared. I believe there are more good people in the world than bad, but unfortunately I am someone who could be targeted due to my gender, size, and unfamiliarity with the area. Everything I did was with caution, but not so much that it limited me from experiences. I found that there were a lot of people that took extra care to watch out for me and help me out, primarily because I was a young woman traveling alone. And surprisingly I ran into a lot of people I knew throughout my travels. It has inspired me to do even more on my own ever since.
Q - You ran into people you knew outside of the glacier?
A - Yeah, I think the funniest one was running into Olav, a guy I had met a few years earlier in Breckenridge. He travels with Kygo sometimes to photograph his tours. When I was at Bergenfest, I walked over to a Hotel Kygo wondering if he might be there. He was so confused when he saw me he blurted out “What are you doing in Norway??” Next thing I knew, Kygo’s manager, self-dubbed “Manager Myles,” was pulling me on-stage during the Kygo Hotel afterparty while Kygo was performing so I could get some shots from up there. It was unreal!
Q - Has this trip changed your view of the snowboard industry?
A - Definitely. I think the biggest change was stepping away from the mecca of competition snowboarding and where all the big guns “train” (Breckenridge and Whistler)
With What! Camps, the guest coaches interact with the kids and community a lot more. Jondal is such a small town, you end up hanging out with everyone. Most people stay in Folgefonna Gjestetun - imagine a bed and breakfast with tons of rippers. Gjestetunet has a trampoline built into the ground outside and we setup a summer rail for the campers to learn on next to it. The whole snow community would meet up there and eat breakfast with pros like Sven Thorgren and Tor Lundstrom mixed in sitting and chatting with the campers, before loading up the buses and vans to go up to the glacier. Then come back and have a coffee together before going to skate, play volleyball, jump in the ocean, whatever you wanted. It is a lot more of a family vibe than a camp vibe which I really enjoyed.
Q - What was your “breakfast of champions” before snowboarding?
A - In Norway, a lot of people eat more like cold cut sandwiches and fruits for breakfast. We sometimes would have pancakes and bacon but even when that was available I noticed many would opt for the sandwiches which were set out to pack your lunch bags. I got into the habit of eating some hardboiled eggs, cucumbers, and Jarlsberg cheese on toast every morning. Yum! I won’t touch that brown cheese stuff though!
Q - A lot of people travel for snowboarding. What inspired you to document your trip and share it? What makes your trip any different from the rest?
A - I was already in the habit of documenting everything for my sponsors when I could, so I already had plans to take a lot of GoPro and iPhone shots. As I told friends about my trip, most people were worried about my safety as a girl traveling alone. A few told me I was crazy that my first trip to Europe was going to be solo. I began to realize the importance of what I was doing in the weeks before my flight. I met up with a few of my team managers, and friends who produce films, and told them what I was doing. They all agreed there was some value to the concept. I purchased an HDSLR camera a week before, and basically had to learn it throughout the trip. Looking back at the footage now, I can see a lot of things I am kind of embarrassed I filmed so poorly! But I am so happy I had something to record the experiences I had.
Q - What kind of impact do you hope to make with this film?
A - My biggest hope is inspiring the younger generation that you can do big things even if you don’t have someone to do it with. I especially want to show young women that even though we have been raised to live in a “constant state of fear” in the world, we should not let it inhibit experiencing life to it’s fullest. I never want to let that fear stop me from doing something ever again. I am not saying throw caution to the wind, but you can do anything with a little bit of planning and courage.
Q - Where do you hope to take your snowboard career?
A - I really would like to take a shot at story-telling films, seminars, clinics, etc. while traveling. There are so many rad women out there putting on clinics for women, like Progression Sessions, Duchess Ride, and more recently I’ve heard about some ladies I met this summer Fancy Rutherford and Christine Savage going out to Japan this upcoming season to coach an all girls camp with Ev Camps. On top of getting coaching, these type of camps give a more affordable and comfortable way to travel to new, exciting places. I would also like to do more seminars and one-on-one with people to help with confidence and personal direction as well as the industries direction as a whole. I don’t have it all figured out, that’s for certain, but I think it’s important to hear how people overcome different setbacks, or to engage in discussions about the industry and where we all fit into it. As for filming, I have become attached to my camera, and have been looking to upgrade. Not everyone in snowboarding comes from money, and it is hardly “easy” for anyone to make it. I would really like to develop a series to show more of the blood, sweat, and tears. Sounds cliche. But you see a lot from all theriders backed by huge companies like Red Bull who send out a whole film crew and fund everything. You don’t see much about the ones that are amazing rippers that just don’t have that financial backing to get there.