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Debbie Gabriel

07 Feb 22

Resiliency at its finest

Debbie Gabriel

07 Feb 22

How one snowboarder defied three life threatening injuries and illnesses before returning to the snow to compete with the best

Snowboarder Jake Canter kept his balance after losing his hearing and returned from a coma to take the junior competitor scene by storm.

Teen snowboard prodigy Jake Canter manifests a resiliency beyond his years. At just 18-years-old, he’s endured three life threatening injuries and illnesses, registered standout performances at both the X Games and Laax Open, and repeatedly showed how he can be a top contender in a wildly progressive Slopestyle field.

Now part of his story has been told in a new Red Bull documentary, Chasing Winter.

Jake Canter said:

“I’ve learned that anything in life is possible. Your life could be taken away so fast, or you may be given a last minute opportunity to compete next to your childhood heroes at the X Games — life’s unpredictable, so live it up while you can.”

As one might assume by now, Canter’s journey as a professional snowboarder has been uniquely shaped by the unpredictability of life. From a curious kid growing up in the mountainous state of Colorado, to a snowboard professional dialling in consistent 1620 flips and all the highs and lows in between, this is the story of Jake Canter so far.

Resiliency at its finest

Born and raised in Evergreen, Colorado, Canter strapped into his first snowboard at the age of seven. His family owned a property at Steamboat Ski Resort, which was conveniently located down the street from fellow up-and-comer Nik Baden.

“Baden’s parents would show my parents videos of him ripping the park and it got me inspired to do the same,” Canter said. “I started riding in the backyard every night, until I finally got my first pass.”

The following year he joined a local snowboard team, gained reps in the park, and quickly climbed the ranks of the national and international junior circuits. His young career was thriving, until it came to a crashing halt.

On an average day in December 2016, then 13-year-old Canter would suffer a traumatic head injury while jumping on a trampoline in Copper, Colorado. A kid on an adjacent trampoline lost his balance and sprung towards Canter in a head-on-head collision, fracturing Canter’s skull in four places. He entered a coma for four days; spent a week in the hospital; was forced to stay off snow for months; but the worst was still yet to come.

Four months into his recovery, Canter would develop a growing earache. His parent’s rushed him to hospital and he was immediately put him into a medically-induced coma. The diagnosis: bacterial meningitis, stemming from improper healing in his skull. Doctors said that he had a 20-percent chance of surviving, and if he did, there was a 95-percent chance that he would be mentally or physically challenged.

Canter miraculously awoke from the coma on day six. Though cross-eyed and confused, he regained senses days later, and was back on his skateboard in three weeks.

“I was never scared to skateboard or snowboard again after the accident,” he explains. “I was more concerned about how fast I could get back on my board and that didn’t take long.”

In August of 2017, Canter would return to snow in New Zealand; just months after having his ear drum removed, leaving him fully deaf in his right ear. Despite the complications, his balance for snowboarding was never affected.

“Riding with friends again was a surreal experience,” said Canter. “Going through a traumatic event puts everything into perspective.”

Canter took the competitive junior scene by storm after returning to the mountains. He would win the Burton Open Junior Jam in 2018, solidifying him as one of the most talented young halfpipe riders in the States, and the World Rookie Tour Halfpipe Championship in 2018, before being named to the U.S. Rookie Team for both Slopestyle and Halfpipe disciplines in 2019.

Resiliency at its finest

Mark McMorris performing at the Red Bull Performance camp in Saas Fee, Switzerland, on September 25, 2021.

Despite his successes in the Halfpipe, Canter made the decision to focus solely on Slopestyle due to his appetite for course creativity. Soon after, he would receive his first call up to the big leagues.

While attending the X Games in early 2020 to spectate alongside the US Snowboard Rookie Team, 15-year-old Canter met an unlikely surprise. His childhood idol Mark McMorris had just won Slopestyle gold and was now offering up him his spot in the event’s inaugural Knuckle Huck competition.

“Going from North American cup events to the X Games was so wild for me,” Canter explained. “I hadn’t spent any time riding with the top-level dudes, and although I was starstruck, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”

Next came the unprecedented 2020/21 competitive season. For most, the widespread inconsistencies and cancellations meant frustrations. But for some, this meant new opportunity. So when the entire U.S. Team tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the infamous Laax Open, Canter rose to the occasion as a last-minute replacement.

“I was stressing out so hard,” says Canter, who hadn’t yet competed World Cup Slopestyle event. “Especially because I was carrying the USA Snowboard Team, as a rookie. But when qualifying day came around, it was bluebird, something clicked in my head.”

Canter would finish sixth overall and earn valuable points towards his ultimate goal.

Ahead of the high stakes 2022 season, Canter was set to travel to Saas-Fee, Switzerland, to train amongst the world’s top Slopestyle and Big Air riders. But days before take-off, the bacterial meningitis had returned. Canter was discharged from the hospital six days later with a PICC line feeding antibiotics into his brain.

Though mentally and physically exhausted, Canter was cleared to snowboard in no time.

Resiliency at its finest

“The feeling of snowboarding with friends again at the Saas-Fee park is hard to put into words,” says Canter. “I was able to make the most out of my time there and land consistent 12s, 14s, and 16s. Now I’m feeling really mentally prepared for the season ahead.”

“Going through traumatic events suck,” he adds. “But I’m honestly thankful for them because it puts everything into perspective. It fuels a fire inside to be able to do something you thought was lost.”

You can see Jake Canter in ‘Chasing Winter’ on Red Bull TV here: