Torah Bright: If It Is Not Fun, Then It Cannot Be Serious
When Torah Bright made history at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics as the first athlete to qualify for all three snowboarding disciplines, the sporting world applauded her prowess. But it would have given Torah a standing ovation had it known the true source of her drive.
It was to rediscover the fun in snowboarding.
“The Sochi Olympics was part of a journey to make snowboarding fun again and I accomplished that,” Torah told woman with drive in an exclusive interview. “I was like a giddy 12-year-old kid again.”
(Watch Torah bring that same blend of fun and razor sharp focus to her other passion at the Porsche Driving School in Queensland. Article continues after the video.)
Torah’s future as a cold-weather professional athlete was almost preordained. As an infant she travelled on her parents’ backs during snow-country expeditions. She had her first taste of skiing at age two, discovered snowboarding nine years later and turned professional at age 14.
In 2007, she became the first Australian snowboarder to win gold at the Winter X Games in Aspen. She went on to win the gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver by ending a medley of gravity-defying tricks with a double spinning maneuver never before performed by a female snowboarder. In the Sochi Olympics, she not only demonstrated her versatility as a snowboarder but also brought home silver in the Halfpipe.
Torah’s unrelenting passion and pursuit of excellence has earned her a place among the world’s finest athletes and the title of Australia’s most successful Winter Olympian.
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You once said you hope the younger generation does not lose the “soul and self-expression of snowboarding”. How do you preserve that in your own relationship with snowboarding?
I started snowboarding because it was the best thing in the world to me. It is still the reason I snowboard and the reason I will continue to snowboard. I am always reinventing myself on my snowboard. When I feel I should be enjoying it more, I ride more powder or go back to snowboarding the way that really makes me happy. That is what I did in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
I also run a program at Thredbo Resort called the Torah Bright Mini Shred and I have skiers and snowboarders from ages three or four. My two-year-old nephew is there too. It is a grassroots program and a platform where kids can have fun but progress at the same time.
That is how I hope to instill in the younger generation that snowboarding is fun, that you can make progression fun and that is the aim of the game. Whether it is a hobby or you are working towards making it a profession, it is about keeping it fun.
Do you learn anything new while watching the little ones?
I actually learn a lot by watching the kids. I realise that snowboarding is the same today as it was when I first started 20 years ago. The kids love snowboarding down mountains and just doing fun things with their friends. There are three little girls learning boxes together and by the end of the day they are boardsliding and doing 180s off the boxes.
I have also learnt that what is normal to the kids today is so much better than what was normal to me when I was their age. They are generationally better because the standard and level of progression is so much higher now than it was even five years ago. It is mind-blowing to me because there are five-year-olds doing tricks that I was doing when I was so much older.
But you are part of that progression by going out there and bringing the expertise back to Australia.
Yes, I guess I am a part of the era that is inspiring the next generation. And that is what I really love about the Mini Shred program. I am passing on my knowledge and experience, and those of other riders, to the kids. The same way the progression of the shredders before me inspired me.
If snowboarding was a corporate job and you were hiring a snowboarder for your team, what three interview questions would you ask?
I would ask how they gauge fear. You want someone with courage but who is also able to assess whether it is right or safe to push forward or whether a situation is there for a reason. It comes down to taking risks at the right time.
I would ask them to describe their work ethic because I really feel that no matter how talented you are, you must also be ready to put in the necessary time to better yourself. And I would ask how teachable that person is because in any profession, being open and willing to learn from anyone, even someone less superior, is important.
When woman with drive interviewed you in March 2015, you were still new to the practice of meditation. Are you still practising? If yes, what does your practice look like and how has it helped you?
I am definitely still exploring meditation. I love it. I have an app on my phone called Headspace, and I do the Oprah and Deepak Chopra meditation too. I am getting better but I need to be more consistent. I mainly do it when I am travelling or when I really need to clear my mind. It is something I would love to start the morning off with and on the occasions when I have done that, I am able to be more productive. It is that little bit of personal time before you get dug into the world and it just settles you.
You turn 30 in December. How will you be shaping your next decade?
I am so excited for my thirties. I reckon I have been looking forward to it for the last five years so I hope I have not blown it up too big in my own mind! I feel stronger in myself, more settled and I have more wisdom. Life is good. And I feel all that comes with age as does grace and a certain amount of acceptance. So I am welcoming age and everything that comes with it.
For the next decade I want to keep creating a legacy within my sport and my life. I want to keep bettering myself in whatever comes next and feeling fulfilment in whatever I do outside of snowboarding too. And some kiddies at some point.
What other plans do you have outside snowboarding?
I have ideas of what I would like to do and that includes travelling with my husband and just living in a way I have not had a chance to from being on the road and working towards goals at age 14.
Post-2018 means slowing down and snowboarding in ways that really excite me. I would love to start creating adventurous content in the mountains of Alaska, powder ride, explore cultures and different mountain ranges and learn in that way. And then teach the kids all these skills. I do need to get pitted too. I need to get a barrel on my surfboard.
Who have you recently met that has inspired you?
There are just so many people outside of sport doing wonderful things. I met an 18-year-old girl the other day who has big business ventures. Age is really no limit for someone with that much jazz. I loved that. And then I learnt of a 22-year-old girl in my hometown of Cooma who is using her law and nursing degrees to create a holistic approach to supporting abused women. My humanitarian side thought this girl was just the greatest thing ever.
Which is your favourite mountain to snowboard and why?
This is a hard one. It really depends on the conditions. Globally, it might be Jackson Hole in Wyoming or St Moritz in Switzerland. In Australia, it is amongst the gum trees. Our mountain scenery is so different to anywhere else. We have wonderful trails and when there are good snow conditions it is just as good as anywhere else. I do love being back home and riding.
What do you miss most about Australia when you spend long periods overseas?
Family and friends, for sure. And now I realise how much I miss the ease of getting to the ocean. I live on Bondi Beach and I literally walk out the door with a towel on my shoulder, and in four minutes I am on the beach. I miss oceanside living.
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