LIFE AF­TER GOLD

THE SEMI-ROCK­STAR LIFESTYLE OF A TEENAGED OLYMPIC MEDAL­IST

Transworld Snowboarding - - CON­TENTS - WORDS: TAY­LOR BOYD POR­TRAIT: NICK HAMIL­TON

Red Ger­ard’s Semi-Rock­star Lifestyle

Over the dull, 11:30 pm roar of a bar in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, a sun­burned Red Ger­ard is telling me about the boat trip he’s about to em­bark on with his grand­fa­ther when a blue-haired man in his fifties in­ter­rupts to ask “just one ques­tion.”

“Are you a snow­boarder?” he asks.

“Yep,” Red laughs.

“Al­right, that’s all I needed to know.”

He walks back to his friend and con­tin­ues con­ver­sa­tion, nod­ding to­ward Red, sat­is­fied as though he’s just won a bet, fig­u­ra­tive or lit­eral.

I’d be will­ing to make a wa­ger as well. Last year at this time, that man didn’t know who Red was. The celebrity the now-18-year-old had within the snow­board world seven months ago has sur­passed our lit­tle mi­cro­cosm. Red Ger­ard is an ac­tual celebrity, if only C-list—or maybe B or D. I don’t know how the rat­ing scale works.

He’s got a quar­ter-mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram—though he says he’s los­ing more than he’s gain­ing at this point—and he’s been on three ma­jor latenight talk shows, which cer­tainly puts him on a short list of the most fa­mous peo­ple I know.

I walk left out of the bar and up the street to my house, as Red walks right and piles into one of two Ubers re­quired to ferry home the num­ber of fam­ily mem­bers he’s with. Ger­ards from around the coun­try are in town for the weekend, hang­ing at the house that Red, his brothers Malachi and Trevor, and long­time friend Blake Ax­el­son will soon be evicted from.

“The HOA didn’t like that we had Colorado li­cense plates on our car,” Red un­der­states when I see him next, this time at an­other rented sub­ur­ban SoCal home that yet again seems a more suit­able venue to cel­e­brate Thanks­giv­ing with your aunt and un­cle than a spot for four mod­i­fied trucks owned by teenagers and twenty-some­things to oc­cupy its drive­way. His per­sonal trainer, Chas Gulde­mond—yep, that one—is hang­ing in the back­yard, help­ing the pro­fes­sional pip­squeak bulk up a bit. Brock Crouch is whack­ing golf balls into a net while his girl­friend finds the bot­tom of In­sta­gram, and Blake is un­load­ing an end­less stack of paint­ings from one of the trucks out front.

Red’s re­cently re­turned from the trip to the Ba­hamas with his grand­fa­ther he’d spoke of last time we talked. “He’s got this boat down there, and he wanted me and Kai (Malachi) to come be­cause I think he wanted to get to know us a lit­tle bet­ter. He was like, ‘What are you guys up to? You busy?” And we were like, ‘Ac­tu­ally, no, we’re pretty free…’”

Now that the talk show cir­cuit is over and the sea­son is yet to start, Red has more spare time than he has in a while. The com­mit­ments he does have, how­ever, aren’t those of other pro­fes­sional snow­board­ers I know. They don’t have to be at the Os­cars, ESPYs, or a pri­vate course in Los An­ge­les for a Golf Di­gest piece shot by Atiba Jef­fer­son. When I think about it, most snow­board­ers I know don’t have to be in LA at all.

Wash­ing­ton, D.C. isn’t on their itin­er­ary ei­ther. I bring up Red’s un­de­ni­ably awk­ward in­ter­ac­tion with Don­ald Trump.

“Oh, so awk­ward,” Red agrees. “That one was crazy be­cause I was on the road for so long be­fore that. At first I wasn’t into it, but my par­ents wanted me to go. They made a good point; they were like, “Hey, maybe he’s not our guy, but he’s in of­fice and you’ve got to re­spect the of­fice.” I saw it as an op­por­tu­nity to see the White House. That’s not some­thing a lot of peo­ple get to see. So I sat the fur­thest I could away from Trump. I was on the wall, like, ‘I do not want to be called on, at all.’ I had to wake up su­per early. I was room­ing with Kyle Mack at the time. And we missed the shut­tle get­ting over. I was su­per tired. And I re­mem­ber he was like, ‘We want to con­grat­u­late all you guys…’ and it was like he skipped a cou­ple words, then he was like, ‘Red Ger­ard, come on up here.’”

In ref­er­ence to the boat trip, I ask Red if he feels that hav­ing won an Olympic medal val­i­dates what he does in the eyes of some­one like his grand­fa­ther.

“I mean, yeah. Be­fore, I don’t think he re­ally took snow­board­ing se­ri­ously at all, but it’s funny how some­thing like the Olympics can change that. Peo­ple who don’t care about snow­board­ing in the least—what else is go­ing on in snow­board­ing—are sud­denly in­ter­ested when the Olympics pop up. It def­i­nitely got big­ger in his eyes. He re­al­ized it’s ac­tu­ally some­thing.”

That the Olympics are a val­ida­tor for those out­side snow­board­ing’s in­ner cir­cle is at the crux of what’s changed for Red since Jan­uary of 2018. Don­ald Trump does not give a shit about snow­board­ing, but the man with a re­al­ity tele­vi­sion resume does care about rat­ings and win­ning. And Red, the kid sit­ting here bare­foot with his t-shirt wrapped around his head, is a win­ner of the high­est de­gree, in an event that is among the most viewed in the Games.

Be­fore he flew to South Ko­rea on Fe­bru­ary 6th, Red hadn’t won much aside from the heart of the snow­board com­mu­nity. He’d stood on a few podi­ums, and those pay­ing close at­ten­tion have known he’s good for over a decade. Then, sit­ting in 11th place, he dropped into his third run in Olympic Slopestyle.

“If you lis­ten closely, you can tell I was over it. I made some sort of noise be­fore I dropped in. I was so over it. I wish I wasn’t so over it. I don’t know; I was chok­ing that day. It was so windy, and it’s al­most like I gave up. Then, I don’t know, I did the first rail, and it worked, and it was like a switch flipped. I just got su­per psyched and wanted to board.”

Con­tained in that last sen­tence is a nod at why Red’s win has been so cel­e­brated in snow­board­ing’s core com­mu­nity. The unadul­ter­ated joy he gets out of rid­ing a snow­board trans­lates when you watch him, con­test or oth­er­wise, and those fa­mil­iar with that same feel­ing can sense it.

So Red ac­cepted his medal, and as the head­lines hit the in­ter­net, paint­ing his fam­ily as out­landish partiers and him as an un­scrupu­lous teen, Red boarded a plane with Malachi, who would as­sume the role of man­ager through the in­evitably en­su­ing frenzy that oc­curs when one wins Olympic gold.

“That was the first time we re­ally had to talk about it, so we stayed up the whole flight, ar­rived at like 6 am in LA, did the Jimmy Kim­mel in­ter­view and some TMZ one. When I got off the plane, look­ing at In­sta­gram was crazy. When we ar­rived in LA there was me­dia ev­ery­where. Some­how they knew I was fly­ing in. The next morn­ing I flew out at like 4 am to go to New York for two nights. So many in­ter­views; it was crazy.”

In a sep­a­rate con­ver­sa­tion with Malachi, he tells me about a man who fol­lowed them for close to 48 hours, con­tin­u­ally tak­ing pho­tos and ask­ing Red to sign items. This isn’t snow­board fan­dom; it’s celebrity stalk­ing. With a well-ex­e­cuted triple cork, Red be­came a star. I ask what it was like to ap­pear on na­tional tele­vi­sion. Was he coached on what to say? What is it like wait­ing to ap­pear on the set of a talk show? This is gen­uine cu­rios­ity. The kid I re­mem­ber as a tal­ented bob­ble­head, too small for any sweat­shirt he ever wore, can now pro­vide a more de­tailed ac­count of main­stream me­dia’s work­ings than any­one else I know, or at least any­one I’ll be surf­ing with this af­ter­noon.

“I had a me­dia team with me that would prep me on ev­ery­thing. They’d be like, ‘So this just hap­pened… If any­one asks, you say this.’ And I’d be like, ‘I don’t think they’re go­ing to ask this stuff,’ and they’d tell me, ‘You never know.’”

“You walk in, you sit in a room, and it’s like ‘three, two, one,’ then the doors open. I re­mem­ber sit­ting there like, “Dude, just don’t fuck up.”

What about makeup?

“On Jimmy Kim­mel, I had to wear it. They wanted me to. But I did all the New York morn­ing shows with­out it. I was like, “‘I’m not doing that again; get out of here.’”

The Olympic sched­ule put men’s slopestyle on the first day of the Games and big air on the last, leav­ing a gap that had Red on the prime­time tele­vi­sion cir­cuit be­fore re­turn­ing to Ko­rea.

“So I flew back, com­peted in big air, then got on a plane and went to LA for two nights and New York for two nights, then back to LA. I was pretty much go­ing in a cir­cle from LA to New York un­til the US Open. It was cool though. I had a sick crew trav­el­ing with me, [Ryan] Runke (Red’s agent) and Kai, and these me­dia guys. We got put up in such nice ho­tels.”

Some­where on that loop, Red re­turned to Sil­ver­thorne, the Colorado moun­tain town he’s grown up in, to a pa­rade. “It was held at the rec cen­ter, and they made ‘Goldthorne’ shirts and all that. There’s a Par­a­lympian that lives in Sil­ver­thorne, then Chris Corn­ing, and Kyle [Mack], and me. We went up on stage and talked in front of a ton of peo­ple. They gave us the ‘key to the city.’ It was re­ally wild.”

Per­haps some­where in the celebrity sta­tus for­mula there’s an equa­tion that mea­sures not only num­ber of fans but those within that group that are, them­selves, fa­mous. Red re­counts a time in New York when he was bom­barded in his dress­ing room.

“I was doing some in­ter­view, and I was in my green room, and the Shark Tank peo­ple lit­er­ally just opened the door, like, ‘We heard you were in here. We re­ally wanted to meet you.’ The whole cast.”

As I be­gin con­tem­plat­ing busi­ness ideas I could pitch through Red, he tells me about a po­ten­tial con­cept of his own, more vi­able than any get-rich-quick scheme cur­rently run­ning through my mind. Red’s sis­ter runs a suc­cess­ful food blog called Half Baked Har­vest, and it seems the Food Net­work has shown in­ter­est in cre­at­ing a show around the duo. “I think that us to­gether is a re­ally spe­cial thing. She’s an amaz­ing per­son. I’d be so down to do some­thing, even an in­ter­view or some­thing. But they do want to do a show, yeah. Whether or not it will go through, who knows.”

And that part hardly mat­ters. Red is now one of prob­a­bly four snow­board­ers that the av­er­age pro­ducer at a ma­jor net­work knows by name. Aside from Shaun White, they may have heard of Sage Kot­sen­burg and Chloe Kim. The com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor be­tween these names? Olympic gold. But how much has Red’s life changed now that he has one of those medals to his name?

“It’s def­i­nitely died down by now, which is so sick,” he tells me. “It was weird; for a while when I was in air­ports and stuff, peo­ple would rec­og­nize me, but that hasn’t been hap­pen­ing as much lately. I don’t know how into that I was. It was dif­fer­ent. Im­me­di­ately af­ter, it changed be­cause peo­ple knew me, but now it feels pretty much the same.”

Whether Red will com­pete in 2022 is a ques­tion we won’t have an an­swer to for more than three years. As of now, he says he wants to. “I like com­pet­ing,” he tells me. “Some peo­ple hate it, but I’m into it. It’s not the ac­tual com­pe­ti­tion I guess, but I like the prac­tices be­cause you’re push­ing your­self to land the best run you can. You’re just rid­ing with your homies.”

It’s not the first time he’s made men­tion of this. He ex­pressed the same sen­ti­ment to me, ba­si­cally ver­ba­tim, a year and a half ago. In that same con­ver­sa­tion, Red talked about how he’d pre­fer to go into the Olympics as an un­der­dog—ex­actly what hap­pened in Ko­rea and would not be the case in Beijing. At that kitchen ta­ble in Aspen in 2017, how­ever, it was clear the Olympic mag­ni­tude hadn’t set in. To Red, it was “just an­other con­test.” And while the slight anti-es­tab­lish­ment ring to that is nice, Red is now aware, first­hand, why there’s ad­di­tional em­pha­sis put on the qua­dren­nial event. Win­ning ex­poses one to a dif­fer­ent re­al­ity. But one thing is clear to any­one who knows Red. More than he wants to win or de­sires the ac­com­pa­ny­ing at­ten­tion, he wants to snow­board. And we, as snow­board­ers, should feel con­tent be­cause we could hardly ask for a more au­then­tic and benev­o­lent am­bas­sador to the main­stream than this sun­burnt kid.

If Red didn’t com­pre­hend the mag­ni­tude of the Olympics go­ing into the event, this might be about when it be­gan to set in. Jen Ger­ard em­braces her son in a mo­ment few moth­ers ex­pe­ri­ence.

A post-Olympic plant on sculped Ore­gon slush. The un­de­ni­able en­joy­ment Red gets from snow­board­ing is cap­tured well in this im­age.

De­spite Red’s un­usual affin­ity for con­test rid­ing, it would be odd to find more amuse­ment in that than this. Here, the kid washes off a sea­son spent rid­ing firm con­di­tions with a num­ber on his chest.

Red’s mo­ti­va­tors Sharpied and stuck to his tail.

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