ANDREW BURNS INTERVIEW | AGAINST ALL ODDS
By Rob Lemay | Photos [o] Ben Girardi Andrew Burns. That name goes hand in hand within Canadian snowboarding. It’s one that...
As told to King Snow…
I don’t want this to come up weird but… I don’t fall that much. But when I fall, I fall really bad. I wanna be 100 percent comfortable with trying something. I want to know exactly what’s gonna happen, so I’m ready for all those moments. I think I’m a very calculated person—risk versus reward. And I knew that hooking my back edge on this 270 and going to the ground was a very real possibility.
We were in the B.C. Interior—Kelowna. Jody Wachniak and Derek Molinski, the filmer was Nate Laverty and the photographer was Evan Chandler Soanes, ECS. The accident actually happened on the very last day of the trip. Thinking this will be my last rail of the season. Sure enough, I took one for the team.
The spot is Glen Rosa High School; it’s in my hometown. I grew up hitting this rail with my friend Shane Gilbertson in grade eight. That was one of the first rails that we ever did. There’re two amphitheatres rails and this one, I’ve been looking at it for a long time. My friend, Steve Cartwright, hit this gap over back in the day. There’s a walkway that comes down to one of the amphitheatres and there’s the upper parking lot above it. We needed a bungee tow-in to get speed over the walkway, down onto the rail. If anybody’s ever hit Glen Rosa, they know it’s a really low rail. When coming off of the rail, you kind of get slammed into the ground because you’re only dropping three feet. With this added speed and the gap and everything, it was really hard to make it a safe landing. I started doing gap-to-board slides, that felt really good and worked into 270s. I kept drifting over, so I would land on the top of a rail and then drift onto the stairs. Because it’s a blind run-in you don’t really get to see your line, to know if you’re going to be on top of the rail.
I came in, I was like, “Let’s do this one. Correct your line, let’s aim for the right side.” As soon as I went off the lip, I knew I was perfect. I’m weighted right on the rail and in my head I was like, “Oh, you’ve got this.” As soon as I landed a little bit on the inside, it doubled the impact of my absorbing onto the rail. That’s what kind of spun me to a 45-degree angle and I ended up hooking my back edge. It sent me from halfway down the rail all the way to the flat bottom.
Video | Nate Laverty
In the air, I wanted to be able to take it on the shoulder, like a football hit. I remember thinking that and sure enough, snap. Right away I knew it was either severely dislocated or a broken collarbone. I’ve never done the collarbone before. I was on the ground, the boys came running up. I felt my arm and there was just a gap. I was like, “Yeah, that bone is gone.” It was a full spiral fracture, overlapping itself two and a half centimetres. After X-rays they said I’m definitely gonna need surgery. Out eight to 12 weeks. That’s when I started realizing, all right, there goes my year. The accident happened on Sunday and I went in for surgery that Thursday.
[o] Evan Chandler-Soans
It’s hard because we look at seasons… I try not to look at a season as another year of my life. It’s one season. Realistically, that’s one year and how long do people get to snowboard for, professionally? Ten, maybe 15 years, if you’re one of the top dudes. Now one out of those potential 10 is just gone. I’ve never had an injury early season and you know I’m not going to ride again until summer.
“I’m supposed to be boarding—there’s no way I can go sit on a beach and try to enjoy this. I need to sit here in rainy Vancouver and be miserable because I F’ed up.”
After getting the plate and screws put in, I wasn’t able to do anything. No physiotherapy, I couldn’t even hold a coffee cup. Just sitting in a sling waiting. I couldn’t even bring myself to go and sit on a beach somewhere; I would have felt so guilty. I’m supposed to be boarding—there’s no way I can go sit on a beach and try to enjoy this. I need to sit here in rainy Vancouver and be miserable because I F’ed up.
Really, though, It kind of gave me a glimpse of what life will be like when I’m not a professional snowboarder. Real life, people with 9-to-5 jobs, weekend warriors, they snowboard when they can. It’s not 100 percent of their life. It gave me a lot of balance getting to see the other side of it. Hanging out with my friends that are civil engineers or electricians and they snowboard on the weekends and we just have a great time.
It almost takes my mind off it, we don’t have to be in the mountains every single day. There’s so much great stuff going on everywhere else too.
When I was hurt, I was like, “I’m not hitting rails again.” I don’t want to miss another year of powder riding. Now that I’m healthy again and I’m riding the park and riding park rails, I don’t think I’m gonna stop. The snowboarding I love doing is because of rails. If I choose to only ride backcountry, I’m missing out on half of what I love about snowboarding. Then I’m voluntarily giving up 50 percent of what I love instead of how the accident took away 50 percent of my riding. No, I’m gonna blow the streets up again next year.