The Max Factor
straight outta Bavaria
There’s no doubt that there are plenty of great German snowboarders, but on international competition level the results have been a bit thin on the ground since the glory days of Xaver Hoffman. For exactly that reason it’s been refreshing to see how a 17-year old youngster from Grafrath near Munich has been doing rather well at some of Europe’s Freeride Junior events and recently ended up in - a very unlucky - 4th place at the Freeride Junior World Championships in Grandvalira, Andorra. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you straight outta Bavaria: Max Pfab!
Max, how are you?
“I’m not great. I was riding in Montafon at the weekend and I twisted my knee quite badly. I went to see the doctor and it’s pretty badly bruised and now I’ve got to do an MRT, because I definitely overstretched my ligaments. The big question is when I can ride again and I hope that I’ll be back for the contest in Fieberbrunn.”
Good luck with that, but tell me, how did you end up snowboarding, rather than skiing?
“I started skiing when I was three years old, but I always thought snowboarders were cooler. I basically bugged my parents to let me do a snowboarding course, which at my age wasn’t easy back then. But somehow it worked out and I got into it really quickly.”
A lot of younger kids like freestyle and riding kickers and parks, so why did you decide to go down the freeride path?
“At the beginning I also rode park. There was this event called ‘Sprungbrett’ which is organized by Nicola Thost. I did quite a few of their stops and I also rode for the German Snowboard Federation. I was mainly riding pipe back then but then I got a wild card from Nicola for an event called ‘Nature Ride’, which is a backcountry freeride contest with shaped kickers in the face. It was so cool and although I didn’t do too well in the contest, I absolutely loved it. I enjoyed it so much more than riding halfpipe or park and soon found out about the Freeride Junior tour. So I ended up doing some of those contests, did really well there and qualified in my first season for my first Freeride Junior World Championship.”
That was two years ago when I first met you in Andorra. You were 15 years old back then and I can imagine that that must have been a pretty big occasion, right?
“Yeah, definitely. That was the first time in my snowboarding career that I had some sort of media attention - my first TV interviews, an interview for a newspaper in Munich - it was huge. And the whole set-up at the event, the fact that they had helicopters filming - all of that was definitely impressive. I was just like ‘Wow’.”
I can imagine that gave you a taste for more…
“…definitely. I really wanted to qualify again next season, but it didn’t work out because Tim Schroeder – who now is a good friend of mine – qualified that year.”
But this year you were back at the Freeride Junior World Champs and narrowly missed out on a medal. It was obviously annoying on the day, but are you happy about your 4th place now?
“Yeah, I am. Straight after it was kind of depressing, because the last rider snatched away my medal by 0,6 points. It was tough, but now I’m really happy about that result.”
How does it work for you with the support of the German Snowboard Federation? Do they help freeriders like yourself?
“No. I used to be part of the federation but when I changed over to freeriding that stopped. I mean they can’t really support me, because they only deal with all the FIS disciplines for which they have their coaches. It doesn’t really work for freeriding, but for a while I could do the trampoline and gym sessions with them but these days I do it all on my own and the German Snowboard federation doesn’t support me.”
Are mum and dad your main sponsors then?
“I’ve got a couple of sponsors like Nitro, Melon, Titticombolea and the Sports&Trends snowboard shop near mine, but without my parents, especially my dad, it wouldn’t work. He drives me everywhere and really makes it all possible. He’s great!”
What sort of faces do you like riding the most?
“I like riding technical faces, faces with gulleys and steep, challenging sections. I started jumping cliffs this season and are slowly getting into that as well.”
Is it your dream to become a full-time professional after you finish school?
“Yes, definitely. As soon as I finish school, I’m looking to study sport in Innsbruck, so that I can be even closer to the mountains and ride even more than now. I want to become a better freerider and are so motivated to ride the ‘Open Faces’ contest series.”
And then at some point qualify for the Freeride World Tour?
“Yeah, that is the dream, but it’s not easy to qualify for it, because only the winner of the ‘Open Faces’ series gets invited to the Freeride World Tour. It’s not easy, but who knows, perhaps it works out one day.”
Who is your ultimate snowboard idol, the one rider you look up to?
“Travis Rice is definitely the one rider I look up to. He epitomizes snowboarding for me and he’s my ultimate idol.”
Max, thanks a lot. Good luck for your career.
>>> QUICKFIRE ROUND:
Ethan Morgan or Elias Elhardt –
Elias Elhardt, because he’s more of a freerider.
Hip Hop or Punk –
Hip Hop, because I love listening to it when I ride. It’s more chilled.
Blumentopf or Sido –
Sido. I don’t like all of his new tracks, but love the old ones.
Weissbier or Helles –
It doesn’t matter. Beer is beer!
1860 Munich or Bayern Munich –
I’m not such a football fan, so I don’t really care about either of them.
TEXT&INTERVIEW: GOETZ WERNER
PHOTOS: LUCA WERNER, ANDI NEUHAUSER & FLO STIELOW