Snowboarding was coming into its own in the early 2000's, Burton was the key player in the industry, and Gabi Viteri was their girl. She inspired a generation of female and male snowboarders by riding rails, jumping off cliffs and daring to fear. In this inaugural edition of ZoneTalk, Gabi talks high performance and how jumping off cliffs has prepared her in her career transition to take on the whole new field of music performance.
Enjoy the video version of "Jumping off cliffs" with Gabi Viteri
"Make fear your friend."
Read the transcript of Bob Palmer's podcast with professional snowboarder turned musician - Gabi Viteri, who talks about jumping off cliffs and daring to fear.
This is Bob Palmer, and you're listening to ZoneTalk by SportExcel for the magic of the Zone. It's a game changer. In every episode we dive into the lives of high performers and learn their amazing strategies so that you can take leadership of your game, your team and your life. We're talking to Gabi Viteri, high performer. She started snowboarding at age eight and turned professional at 13. She retired, I believe, at around 21 years of age, after nearly ten years in the industry. Burton Girl, now at the prestigious Berkley College of Music in Phoenix - Welcome, Gabi.
I'd like to get to where you are now in high performance. But first, I'm curious. You know, I think about my own sports career and it took me probably 40 years to figure the Zone thing out. I watch your videos, of you snowboarding, doing these crazy tricks and scary types of things and in every one of them you're in the Zone. How did you figure that out?
Well, I must say, I wish I had you earlier on. I believe it was something that came somewhat natural from a young age. I started doing karate and things like that. So, I kind of started to cultivate being focused and being very devoted to something. And I hope that helped cultivate my Zone feel a lot. Later in my career when I got older. I feel like I started to get in my head a little more, actually. And that's when you came along, because when you're young, and I feel like it's very easy to be in the Zone, you're totally fearless and you're just there and you're present. You're not thinking about much. So I feel like when I got older and kind of hit that turning point, it was like you appeared like an angel and kind of re -taught me what I already knew and helped cultivate it in a new awareness at an older age.
And with your early episodes of high performance and your ability to get that fearless nature, I mean, who did you look to as your role models?
Oh, so many. When I first got into snowboarding, I looked up to a lot of kind of the legends at the time and the pioneers. I would watch videos of them over and over and over. Like I watched this one video called Decade and it was all the professional snowboarders at the time, all the pioneers. I watched that video on repeat every single night in my room. And that's something I feel like I was already naturally doing, was kind of watching them, seeing what they were doing, how they were acting, what their stance was, and kind of cultivating that in myself. So, I definitely watched the older crowd.
And did you find that it was just so easy then to replicate what they were doing when you went out? How did that work for you?
No, not at the beginning. It was a long shot. I remember my friends actually making fun of me like, oh, you think you're going to be a pro snowboarder? And I got made fun of all the time because here I was going snowboarding maybe five to ten times a year when I was eight and watching these videos and saying, yeah, I'm going to do that. I'm going to do that. And here I was learning how to turn. So, yeah, that sums that up.
Well, I put you up there with the likes of Shaun White and Hannah Teeter you know.
You were you were at the forefront of taking what was a pair of skis into a snowboard into all these fancy tricks. How do you relate back to that? Does that that seem like a dream, that era, or was that a fun time, a creative time?
Now that you say it, it is really neat to reflect on because it really was the forefront of snowboarding at the time - it was very new. I remember being the only girl on the mountain. There were maybe five others and they were all way older than me. So, it was very creative because it was very innocent. We had no idea what we were doing. Nobody knew what they were doing. So, it was all an experiment. Being up on the mountain, it was like they'd put a rail up that no one had ever seen before. And we would be like, how do we do this? And you would just go. You had no idea what you were doing.
So, it was neat because it was this very innocent compared to now - totally different. I mean, these kids have so many ways to see what's going on, to learn and to engage. We had nothing at the time other than a few friends on the mountain. No Internet.
Well, now you're at the prestigious Berklee School of Popular Music
Berklee School of Music. Yes.
And what types of things, I guess have you pulled out of your snowboarding to apply to this whole new field for you?
I would say the kind of daredevil in me to go and jump off cliffs that nobody else would think about or even want to. I'm kind of applying that in my creativity and really challenging the system and the way creativity is done in a sense. Berklee is the most incredible school and it's a very strategic way of showing this is how music is made and this is what makes music popular. This is what music is. And I feel like that daredevil in me is really challenging and wanting to bring in...I am not even totally clear on it yet, but I can feel it. It's this kind of new direction of something I haven't even seen or heard yet. And it's a merging of poetry and different kinds of music and spoken word and a lot of different things - creativity.
Do you find they're embracing that approach?
Oh, yes. I would say there's one professor that completely doesn't understand it. And that's OK. That actually is a good sign for me that I'm on my right path because not everyone is going to understand it. And on the other hand, I have quite a few professors that are blown away and super excited about this path that I'm kind of traveling on.
And it's fun, too, because I'm so new to everything - that can kind of be my excuse that I'm such a newbie and I haven't been trained since I was three years old on the piano like everyone else at the school. So I can come in with this fresh, innocent perspective.
You did reach, I guess, metaphorically, high peaks before, and high jumps and you're reaching for that today. Is there any particular technique that you fall back on to help you pursue this this new journey, this new direction?
Oh, wow. So many techniques.
What's your go to?
I would say my go to is visualization. A lot of my work right now is that I'm at a stage where I'm kind of incubating, cultivating and it's not full action outward yet. So I feel like in those stages, a lot of it is visualization of down the road when I will be bringing this out more into the world than really seeing what I want it to feel like and look like and how I want people to respond and what the audience is going to look like. So that "DVD deja vu" visualization is prominent in kind of creating the future of it.
So when you do that and create your “DVD” of the future and you're in it, what's singular about that? I mean, you talk about a "feel". What do you mean by that?
The feel. It's full of, wow - excitement, adrenaline, passion, all of these things that are just...It's enthusiasm for what I'm doing. And also mirroring that with the people that are hearing or listening or watching. And so that energy is present now but I'm also kind of putting it out into the future.
What you just described there, I mean, when you were in snowboarding, you were, in a sense, a leader, a pioneer. Do you see that in yourself when you're out in front of an audience or are you in any way leading them?
Yes, I believe we're always leading in an audience or not, even just with ourselves or with one other person and of course, a larger audience. And that kind of goes to one of your tools - I practice that leadership constantly. I was with my grandmother yesterday and I was practicing leadership and reading where the conversation was going. So I see that leadership across all of life. And of course, with an audience. But all day long, and even leading myself sometimes.
You talk in terms of this new venture you're on. But you always have this undercurrent of success, and winning, and performing, and competition and leadership. Why is it so important to you?
Mmm. Well, there's a lot of reasons that this is important to me. I feel like we have one life to live, not to get too deep, but this is life to me - to make the most of it, the best of it. And for me, I'm constantly competing with myself, what's my best self and what's the best version of me that I can bring out into the world? And it's exciting. It's so exciting to constantly push myself and see what boundaries I can push, where I can go and set extremely high goals.
Can I get there? Will I get there? Do I get there? And meeting myself in all these areas. It's I guess an addiction in it's own - to just be the best and not to be anyone else. It's really just, you know, what's exciting and also what excites others. And for me, that's my passion.
So by the sounds of it, you're very excited by this challenge. If you drill down a little bit, what do you think your greatest challenge is going to be in this second career?
Mm hmm. I have a lot of challenges in this second career, and I think that's kind of what is pulling me to it and what pulls me to anything in life. If something is very challenging, I want to go head on with it. And for me, you know, I've done everything so physical my whole life. It's been quite easy, actually, to just go and throw myself off a cliff or go off a jump. It's very, very physical.
This new arena I'm going into is very vulnerable emotionally. And it's kind of as if you're stepping out totally bare naked to the world. A lot of what I write about and the emotions that go into what I create, it's very vulnerable. So I feel like my challenge is going to be getting so strong in my core and in my Zone that when I step out and present this, I can do so in the way in which it was created and not shy away from that and really step into it more.
So to that extent, what advice would you give to young and maybe not so young high performers wanting to do what you're currently doing? Or wanting to get involved in any sport or take that sport to the next level?
I would say. Make your best friend fear. And use these tools that you have taught me. You know, it's all about getting the right tool set. I'll repeat what a lot of people have said. If you're going to build a home, which could be your goal for any sport or any endeavor in life, you have to have the right tools. And I can honestly say that without the right tools and without the work we've done together, there's no way I could have gotten to where I am or where I want to go.
It's quite tricky navigating through all these things that come up along the way. But if you have the tool set, it's super easy to say this is what I'm facing now. And now I can bring in these tools and this help and push through it and kind of leap over it. And that's the difference, I feel - of people that succeed and don't. It's all about the tools and support.
Can you give me an example of a tool that you're talking about?
So many tools. Which one should I talk about? You know, I have a lot of favorites, but I would say the Power Walk is one of my favorites. I feel like levelling the playing field of where you are at and bringing yourself into the Zone and not letting any circumstance, any person kind of be above you, or in a sense, the leadership to leading you where you are in your Zone and you're capable to level the field and have that clarity of where you're going.
That's pretty huge, because then anyone can step in the room and it could be someone that's, you know, totally negative or totally like a superstar in any of those situations. If you don't have that Power Walk tool, you're going to shrink down. And the Power Walk tool is so cool because you really stay in yourself and you're able to shine.
So you're referring to just sustaining your physiology rather than shrinking and having your shoulders turn over, and, you know, you want to be able to walk tall and make that your norm, your default, rather than, like you said, going to the place of fear.
I liked your comment about embracing fear and realizing that it's going to give you a lot of feedback.
Yes. Well, you know, to the same extent, we're at a very fearful time in our history. You and I are both isolated from the world, in a sense. And there are people staring at four walls and they can't train. Their games aren't in competition right now so they can't get better at their game. They can't challenge themselves in that context. It's all about training if they can find a few square feet or meters in their house to do that. But you wrote something interesting to me just before we got started on this. And it went something like this. "What a wonderful time in history to learn how to be in the Zone and win".
Oh, yes. I mean, I have the chills as you spoke about that. And then the statement I said because this is well, it's a very special time right now, and I believe everything starts with your mind. Everything. And I was actually thinking about this last night. One of my best friends, she has won two gold medals. She does not work out at the gym. She is a high, high profile athlete. And I'm with her a lot. She focuses on her mind. And we all know this. And what an incredible time to sit down and really focus on what's inside. Focus on your mind and how it controls everything else. It's the best time. It's like the best time. You could focus on the Zone.
It's sort of enforced high-performance meditation, if you would.
Yes, exactly. Exactly.
So where do you see yourself going now or after you graduate from Berklee? And what kind of plug would you make for your future self? I thought I'd throw this on you.
Oh, wonderful. Oh, wow. I have so many, so many ideas for my future self. You know, for me, it's not all about graduating Berklee, although I'm sure I will. For me right now, my future self...I see her performing, making music, making films. I want to start a foundation down the road and doing retreats. There is a lot she's going to do. And I feel like the next step for me is actually probably working with you a little further, on bringing in some techniques to bringing this vision just a little bit out into the world.
I'm hitting a lot of fear right now. And what a great time we have to focus on those on those difficult things. So, yeah, there's a lot.
I have one last question, and I do think I know the answer to this. But when you need a break on a weekend or when you finally get out of these four walls, where is your favorite place to go?
That's easy. The woods. Nature. I love being in nature so much. I feel like especially after you're learning a lot or taking a lot of information in. To go out into nature in the woods, into silence is where I feel like all of that really absorbs in and being in silence and listening just to the woods is very, very meditative in itself and nourishing. So, if I'm not in my house, I'm in the woods.
Thank you so much for sharing this with us today. I do have one request, and that is that when you do have something up online on YouTube or you do a performance as they're doing in Berklee right now online, because they can't do it live, would you would you let me know and share it with me so that I can share it with the listeners?
Of course. Of course. Definitely. Thank you.
Bye for now. This episode of ZoneTalk by SportExcel has ended. But be sure to subscribe and be sure to read and review us so that we can continue to bring you the best Zone and high-performance content. See you on the next episode of ZoneTalk.
Become a part of the SportExcel high performance revolution.
ZoneTalk music and podcast mixing and editing by Brandon VandenDool, Audio Engineer