This year’s Para Snowboard Crystal Globe winner James Barnes-Miller learnt to snowboard on holiday in Bulgaria, following a childhood skateboarding in the UK with his brothers. Following the launch of Project Balance, we caught up with James about what it is that makes skateboarding important to him, and how it shaped his journey to becoming a professional snowsports athlete.
What did you think about Project Balance when GB Snowsport announced the idea?
I think it’s a great idea. Skateboarding was the first sport I loved and if it wasn’t for skateboarding, I would have not become a Paralympic snowboarder. It’s a fun way to keep fit and you never know, we might find the next Olympic/Paralympic stars.
When did you start skateboarding and where did you learn to skate?
I feel like I have always skated. My older brother was the first to learn and we wanted to because he did. We would all go to the park next to our house and we would try and out do each other by going down the biggest hills.
I skated all through school with friends every weekend. We would go and find new skateparks and things we could skate. I did my work experience at the local skatepark and afterwards I worked there for a while.
What is it about skateboarding that captured your attention? What is it about it specifically that you enjoy?
I think being able to hang out with my mates and have fun.
Do you think your foundational skills in skateboarding benefitted you when you learnt to snowboard and then got picked up to be part of the GB Snowsport Para Snowboard team?
I definitely think it helped one of my biggest strengths when racing, how I can pump up and down any feature. I for sure learnt that from skateboarding.
Can you tell us about some of the key similarities between skateboarding and snowboarding? And the key differences?
I think balance would be one of the main similarities, and going sideways which takes a bit of getting used to. The main difference is on a skateboard you can move your feet, which can be a good and a bad thing.
Do you think you would have become an elite snowboarder if you hadn’t learnt to skateboard as a child?
100% no as I wouldn’t have tried snowboarding. I think my life would have been totally different if I had never learnt to skateboard, as a lot of my friends and other opportunities in life have happened through skateboarding.
Now that you’re a professional snowboarder what role does skateboarding play in your life?
I use skateboarding for a lot of things. Now I use it to help with my fitness and pumping. We use pump tracks and bowls and it also helps when looking at lines. Finally, I use skateboarding to unwind as I don’t have to think too much.
Do you think skateboarding and snowboarding have taught you any life lessons, besides the obvious physical skills?
Yes, totally. I think the biggest lesson is to always get back up and try again. You’ll get it eventually.
With the lack of physical mountains in the UK and more specifically England, how do you think skateboarding can play a role in introducing young people to board sports?
I think it’s a great first start. There are so many skateparks now all over the UK and the outdoor ones are free, so its not to expensive to have a go.
Do you have any advice for young people who want to take the leap from skateboarding to snowboarding?
I’d say do it. I wish I had earlier in my life. I’m sure you will love it.