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Thrive rider Joanna Dzierzawski is another midwest transplant, but what sets her apart from the other two athletes is that she never intended to go pro. She was just that good. Dzierzawski tuned her skills in what she calls the “U-ditch” back home near Chicago — as it would be a stretch to call what was there an actual halfpipe, she said — and after moving she quickly adapted to the features in Tahoe. She started out spending her days filming in the backcountry and riding park in South Lake.
“I was one of the first girls to hit handrails back in the day, but it wasn’t cool yet so it didn’t blow up like it does now,” Dzierzawski said. By the coercion of some of her friends she sent edits to potential sponsors, was signed on by RIDE, 686, and Heavenly Ski Resort, and began competing.
“All of the sudden I ended up in the Olympic qualifiers,” Dzierzawski said. She was on the road to Sochi for the Polish Olympic team, after receiving her dual citizenship, but injured her shoulder a year before the event. The combination of the injury and a disillusionment with the stress, rush, and grind of competitive touring led her to rethink her path. “I was very, very fortunate to do the road to Sochi, but it was also really, really hard … It was more a snowboard because you have to kind of thing, instead of snowboard because you want to,” Dzierzawski said.
Dzierzawski linked up with Thrive at roughly the same time she decided to start snowboarding because she wanted to again. Like Luebke and Romanek, she had spent the majority of her career riding for a bigger brand, and the transition to a smaller company provided unexpected benefits. The founder of Thrive, Douglas Fagel, is the executive vice president of the Professional Ski Instructors of America/American Association of Snowboard Instructors Western Division — a perfect fit for Dzierzawski, who said she’s never had a snowboard coach in her life.
These days, Dzierzawski said she enjoys her time on the hill as much as she did when she first started competing and uses her more fluid schedule to balance riding and filming with running her own cleaning business in South Lake Tahoe — Joanna’s Cleaning Company. She’s watched the small competitions where she made a name for herself begin to disappear, replaced by larger events that are increasingly difficult to enter due to the lack of qualifying events. The level of competition has become more serious and the stakes are higher.
“The level of women’s riding has come a long way; I don’t want to be doing that. I want to be walking in ten years,” Dzierzawski said. Instead, she has her eyes on her backcountry roots, only this time she’s rocking a brand new Thrive Splitboard.
Photos By: Nick Pavelka of iRelevant Media