SPECIAL NOTE: **This interview was originally conducted in February, 2018 (4 years ago before the last Winter Olympics!). We thought the community might enjoy reading this discussion with Westport’s very own Julia Marino before she won all of our hearts! CONGRATS Julia; you are an inspiration to so many!!
With the Winter Olympics just days away, Westport has been discussing the exciting news about our very own Westport native – Julia Marino – who will be on the Olympic team, competing in both the Slopestyle and Big Air Snowboarding events. As a recent Washington Post article quoted: “Julia Marino and gravity were never really a great pair. To her, everything was a launching pad — furniture, household objects, playground equipment. She was always on the lookout for something to jump off of.” Julia was kind enough to answer a few questions of ours while at the X Games this week, and we can’t wait to cheer her on when the Olympic games begin!!
WestportMoms: Tell us a little bit about growing up in Westport?
Julia: I think Westport is the perfect combination of outdoor life and open space while being really accessible to NYC. As a result, I have great memories of going into the city on great day trips, but my day to day was/is spent going to the beach, going on great, long bike rides and doing adventurous stuff in my backyard (climbing trees, building a skate ramp, zip line etc). Some other specific places I loved were Maritime Aquarium, Children’s Museum and Devil’s Den. For my early snowboarding career, it wasn’t too far from the mountains in New England, so we were able to do easy weekend trips & even a day trip if we were really motivated.
WestportMoms: When did you start snowboarding and was the love for it immediate?
Julia: I tried it for the first time when I was 9, but I had been skiing since I was 3, so I wasn’t crazy about starting all over, so I would do it occasionally, but really stuck to skiing. On a family trip to Beaver Creek when I was 11, I was skiing in the woods with my dad and uncle and broke one of my skis. My attitude was, hey my dad could just rent me another pair! He told me I had a perfectly good snowboard back at the condo. I was not happy. I spent the rest of the trip snowboarding and very quickly was able to keep up with everyone and wound up loving it. to me, it felt more free and expressive than skiing. I continued to enjoy both until I was 14. At that point I was at SMS (Stratton Mountain School) and starting to take the sport seriously instead of “only” as a fun family thing (which I still love to do when I can!)
WestportMoms: What’s been the biggest challenge of all that you do?
Julia: The progression in the sport has been pretty amazing. I feel good to be right in the middle of that. When trying new tricks on snow for the first time, it could be pretty scary. Also, there is a ton of travel, which I love because I get to experience different places and cultures, but sometimes it can wear you down. Also, high school was a challenge. I went to St Joe in Trumbull in the fall and played soccer there, then switched to online school the rest of the year and then back again. St Joe’s was extremely accommodating and helpful in dealing with the transition back and forth, but still, it was a challenge. I was named to the US Team my junior year, so I had to choose between soccer and snowboarding. It might not have been easy for my parents, but it was for me. Again, it just made the school part a challenge. I had to do my senior year online. While I missed out on some dances and parties connected to traditional high school, I had similar experiences in the snowboarding “community”.
WestportMoms: What is your favorite thing to do in Westport when you have time?
Julia: Bike to beach, downtown and various farms around town with horses, etc. I’m really into photography and I get inspiration for that just by riding and going to these beautiful spots. I just started a vsco on my Instagram (we looked this up; it’s a social media app for sharing more professional, interesting photos vs ones of people with family and friends). I started putting some cool pics I’ve taken and will be adding to it.
WestportMoms: How would you ideally spend a free day?
Julia: Riding pow with friends, photography, drawing, getting a great workout by doing something cool outdoors.
WestportMoms: Any advice for young kids and teenagers out there?
Julia: If you love something, or think you might love it, don’t be afraid or hesitant to try it, be really creative, curious and passionate about it, which I think will help you confirm or deny your feelings, which will help you know whether it is truly a core interest that you might want to pursue.
WestportMoms: What’s been the most exciting thing you’ve experienced related to the Olympics so far?
Julia: It hasn’t really sunk in yet, but there have been a ton of interviews, etc. The official naming ceremony was cool, with fireworks etc. I am looking forward to the experience, which I’ll share with many of the athletes I’ve already been competing with. It is like a big family with athletes from around the world. Even though we are competing and it is our livelihood, we are really supportive of each other.
Julia: There is one other cool Westport story that NBC will probably show in the Olympics (they came to my house to interview my friend for it) and I think is a true American success story. When I was in kindergarten, there was a girl in my class who had just moved from Korea. She barely spoke English, but we became good friends. We spent a lot of time together-sleepovers etc. My dad coached us in basketball and soccer. My mom got her involved in all activities in town. She is now pre-med at Yale and speaks English better than anyone I know. She got her family back in Korea to take care of all the details of the olympics for my family-lodging, tickets, transportation, etc. AND she is doing a semester in Eastern medicine in Korea and will be there as a “guide” and interpreter for my whole family! She’s a Staples grad of course and her name is Chai Hyun Kim.
Thank you Julia! We will be cheering you on!!