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Hazen snowboarder headed to nationals
Renton teen Austin Buza is headed to the United States of America Snowboard Association’s National Championships in Copper Mountain, Colo., at the end of March to compete against the top teens in the nation in snowboarding.
Sixteen-year-old Buza has been snowboarding since age 4 and has high hopes. The competition is the first national showcase on a road that could lead to the Winter X-Games. The sophomore at Hazen High School will test his best tricks and style against 70 other snowboarders in the slopestyle competition at nationals. Slopestyle is a course of rails and jumps.
“I was excited at first and then I thought about actually going and competing against other kids, who are pretty good too,” said Buza. “And so I do actually have some competition.”
He had competition locally, Buza said, but realized the field of boarders gets tougher at nationals.
“I just got to focus and become prepared,” he said. “There’s not really a ritual to doing anything; it’s just going there and thinking about what you have to do and practice every weekend.”
Buza spends about every weekend and Wednesdays driving up to Snoqualmie or Stevens Pass to practice with his mom, Sharon Buza.
The two have formed a special bond around the sport, as his mother was the first to introduce him to snowboarding and his earliest instructor. She tried to get him on skis first, but he wanted nothing to do with them, she said. She spotted a gentleman at Stevens Pass with a 99 Chopper, a little snowboard big enough for her 4-year-old son, and she got one.
She tried putting Buza in a lesson, but he didn’t like that and so she, an avid snowboarder herself, become his first teacher. She set up an obstacle course of water bottles and gloves for him to board through and find his edges. Eventually, he became good enough to use the chair lift and it was practice, practice, practice after that, she said.
“I do remember crying a lot and falling,” said Buza. “I remember me being on her back and her carrying me up the hill.”
Buza was spotted by Snoqualmie instructor and coach Phil Thomas and recognized by him for having real potential in Thomas’ lessons. Buza began competing around age 11. He placed third in his first competition at the Greenhorn Games in February 2010 at the Summit at Snoqualmie. Then he placed first in two consecutive trips to the Minor Threat competition at Stevens Pass in 2011 and 2012.
For Buza, snowboarding has always been just for fun, although he’s naturally talented at it. He didn’t get serious about it until he qualified for nationals, he said.
His fanciest tricks are his 720, which is twice around, and a cork flip. He admires and appreciates top snowboarders like Mark Morris and stunts like the triple cork, which is three flips.
Buza hopes to get in lots of practice time between now and March 29, when nationals start at Copper Mountain. He will compete on Wednesday, April 2. His mom and dad, Peter, will be in Colorado cheering him on.
Sharon Buza said she knows she’ll miss their trips to the mountains together once her son goes off to college.
“It’s just awesome; it’s something that we can do together,” she said. “We go to the mountain; we talk in the car. You know to be up there to do something together, it’s a closeness that we share.”
Buza will be judged on the difficulty of his tricks, his style and amplitude, or height and whether or not he sticks his landings.
“I’m nervous a little bit just knowing that these kids are actually pretty good too,” he said. “I just have to do what I do, concentrate on what I have to do to win.”