SUMMER GRAVITY CAMPS: THE ORIGIN
|When you can encourage people to push themselves, and as a coach you have the confidence to push someone, and then you get to see them overcome their fear and hit a feature or trail, it's awesome!|
“I was about five years old and I had this bike with a fake gas tank and fenders, it was a beauty,” says Andrew Shandro of his first memories riding. “I remember taking it on the trails by our house to see how muddy I could get.” From that moment to now, Andrew has led a trail blazing career in downhill racing, freeride and coaching, among his other roles in the bike industry. Summer Gravity Camps
are just one piece of the pie that makes up his career, but providing guidance, instructions, and role models to young mountain bikers was a clear and natural evolution for him.
With a father who was involved in cycling and friends, Sterling Lorence and Mitchell Scott, to take him to races, it didn’t take long before a teenage Andrew was finding his natural talent on a bike. “[I did] these old races in Whistler where you’d race cross-country on Saturday, and on Sunday you will hill climb to the top of the downhill course, throw on some arm warmers, and race down.”
Like most of us post high school, Andrew wasn’t entirely sure what direction his life would take. But after getting some college courses and travel under his belt, he returned home to pursue racing – to the delight of his very supportive parents.
Andrew set off to race downhill World Cups in the early 90’s and within his first two years had a win to his name and began to have some financial support from sponsors, but “when it came to the technical side of downhill racing there was no support, it was a new sport so there was no one available with any sort of technical background.” As the Canadian National Cross-Country team solidified its standing they invited a few downhillers, including Andrew, to attend their camps, “I had access to the national team coach at the time who helped me with intervals and how to train properly.” However, he mostly relied on his childhood experience as a ski racer, “I learned racing against the clock, what you have to do to race, and that’s what helped me.”
After a decade of competing at the world cup level Andrew transitioned his career, “growing up on the north shore I was exposed to the freeride world early through photo shoots and film. So I was involved with it from the beginning basically, I was comfortable with it and understood it.” He goes on to explain, “it was an easy transition after I had finished my racing career, I loved racing and still do, I follow it and am passionate about it, but I needed a change.”
|At that time I was not young. The year that I came second at Rampage I was 32 and I had a son.|
“Even in 2000, freeriding and filming was still just kind of happening.” And as Andrew was making his way in this new genre of mountain biking he was already thinking ahead and seeing the opportunity that the Whistler Mountain Bike Park offered. “The idea came to me when I was driving up to ride the Whistler Bike Park in 2001.” Using the glacier ski and snowboard summer camps that he had attended as a template, he approached Whistler-Blackcomb with his proposal and the first Summer Gravity Camps started in 2002.
Since then, Andrew says, “I have so many great memories [of coaching].” One in particular has stuck with him, “this one kid a few years back was having a tough day in his group so I had the opportunity to take him by himself for a few laps. We worked on the basics, body position on the bike, when to brake and not to brake, looking ahead, etc. He was super stoked after a few laps and we re-joined the group. A few weeks after camp he sent me a very cool email describing how great his week at SGC was, and as coaches, it's feedback like this that is the most rewarding.” Andrew explains that one of the hardest things to do as a coach can be holding someone back for their own safety, “but when you can encourage people to push themselves, and as a coach you have the confidence to push someone, and then you get to see them overcome their fear and hit a feature or trail, it’s awesome!”
|I feel like I have a deep history as a rider in DH racing and freeride. These strong relationships allow me to bring in some incredible riders to coach at SGC.|
With a focus on fun, and a relaxed and open environment, these camps have grown to five a year; two adult and three youth, in the thirteen years they have been operating. “Our main goal is for campers to progress their riding and have the most amazing week.” Andrew is careful to select coaches who are not only able to “articulate their lessons, some of the best riders can’t do that,” but also, “more than anything, those who are able to connect with people.” Coaches like Cam McCaul, Kyle Jameson, and Ryan ‘R-Dog’ Howard, are all examples of the “quality people” Andrew is referring to. Tomas Vanderham, especially, has been there from day one. “I have a deep history as a rider in DH racing and freeride. These strong relationships allow me to bring in some incredible riders to coach at SGC.”
The biggest difference Andrew sees in riders like Mark Wallace, Kyle ‘Norbs’ Norbraten, and Kyle Jameson, who are SGC alumni, in relation to himself who didn’t have any instruction available, he says “what I think it did was really just gave them the exposure to the sport in a fun environment, with people they could look up to.” It has given them approachable and accessible role models, and an understanding, for those who want to pursue riding as a career, of how to do it.
|I took a Summer Gravity Camp when I was 14 and it was a really good experience. It's more than just the enjoyment of riding in Whistler all day for a week with lots of other people who are into bikes. Getting to ride with, and be coached by people at the top of the sport is really valuable. The coaches can teach you a lot about riding and other tips on the bike. Just being around the coaches and interacting with them makes the dream of being a professional rider seem a lot more achievable. This was an important part of the SGC for me.|
|I would say it directly impacted my career. As a grom, I was able to go to a camp to ride with and learn from the guys I looked up to most. Being able to actually go and ride, interact, and learn from these guys on and off the bike only motivated me more to want to have a career riding my bike. Not only that, friendships were made and doors were opened as I was able to steer in the right direction through the following years. |
-Kyle "Norbs" Norbraten
|I went for two years to SGC when I was 13/14 years old, it was a great experience learning in a group setting all working towards a common goal. It definitely gave me a lot of insight that most of the coaches (Vanderham, Schwartz, Jordie, McCaul, etc) are all human beings and not just untouchable stars. Having them as coaches at such a young age helped jumpstart that thought of thinking, 'I could be here one day as well, or at least in the scene in some way or form.' Working as a professional photographer now in the mountain bike industry, SGC was a really great way to connect with other riders and learn how to work together with professionals.|
|Going to SGC in Whistler as a 13 year old from a town with zero mountain bike influence really blew my mind. First-off I had never seen a"pro" before, then I get to camp and your coaches are the dudes you see in the movies. I shortly realized that these coaches and "pros" are just normal guys that ride non-stop and have turned their passions for the bike into a job . Now that I had seen this passion to job transition firsthand, I was hooked and knew if I kept riding my bike it was possible to make my personal dreams come true. |
Want to know more about SGC? Check out these videos from their Youth
Thank you to all of the Summer Gravity Camp Partners: Trek
, Clif Bar
, Maxima Racing Oils
, Atlas Neck Brace
, and Bell
MENTIONS: @trek @shimano
, @dbaker, @the-coastal-crew