Finch (left) and Czeschin competing in Denmark (Photos courtesy CBS)
Crowley Lake resident and 2002 U.S. Snowboard Olympian Tommy Czeschin could hardly have packed more into 2011. The year had hardly begun when, by spring, he had been picked as part of a duo that paired him with 2006 Snowboard Olympian Andy Finch from Truckee on CBS’s “The Amazing Race.”
Czeschin and Finch had been fellow snowboard competitors previously, and spent the summer globetrotting, literally, outpacing the competition episode after episode. Their race ended in Panama when a single, seemingly small error eliminated them just before the season finale. “Our goal was to make it, but that last challenge was really tough and we got bit in the butt,” Czeschin recalled. “We were leading the pack but made a wrong move. We could have taken the whole enchilada if we’d made it to the finale.”
According to Czeschin, the show was “true reality,” and he maintains that the producers weren’t going to pull strings to help anyone. “If anyone cheated, they’d have been penalized. If you went five hours the wrong way, they weren’t going to turn you around. The producers don’t help or hinder you.”
He and Finch built on their professional relationship, and decided early on to forge a team bond. “Every leg we learned a lot of stuff, but we’d known each other 10-plus years snowboarding together,” he related. “Andy and I wanted to go into it on the same page; we didn’t get stressed out, we went in kind of easy does it.”
The duo realized early on they had the edge on the other players. “You just never give up … you have to know where you are in the pack,” Czeschin described. “We saw a sign about giving all your money to an orphanage, so we did, and we went from fourth to first, because we read the sign and followed the rules.”
No matter how it ended, Czeschin said he’s glad he and Finch ran the “Amazing Race,” especially together. “He’s just up in Tahoe-Truckee, so we see each other a fair amount. It was an experience we can always look back on together, an awesome time.”
And as soon as one “amazing” journey ended, he began another … coaching some of the world’s top snowboarders. “The U.S. Snowboarding team coaches were talking to me during the spring at training camp in Mammoth, but the timing wasn’t quite right … I had just got booked on the show,” he recalled.
After “The Amazing Race” concluded, however, Czeschin was hired in the fall and headed to Colorado, where he’s been for the last month. “We have a great staff and athletes,” he enthused. “We’ve got Ricky Bauer, who I used to compete against, he’s the Halfpipe Head Coach, and I’m working with him. Riding, we have Kelly Clark, Gretchen Bleiler, Kaitlyn Farrington and Hannah Teter. We have Greg Bretz, who ended up third at the Grand Prix. … Scotty Lago and Matt Ladley. He broke his arm and two days later he qualified for the Grand Prix finals.”
Czeschin said he’s done a little teaching previously, but this is his first real coaching job. “I have a lot of relationships on an athlete-to-athlete level, and having coaches, you know what works for you. I’m trying to use my experiences as an athlete, getting to learn how people react to conditions and moves, and dealing with all the different emotions in the right way.”
With that caliber of talent on the line, Czeschin called it “an honor” being asked to coach. “There are a lot of people waiting to get this position,” he pointed out. “I think my experience with the athletes and my ability as a competitor, and the fact that I was fully-funded for
10-plus years, probably factored into the decision.
“You learn a lot about when to push it and when not to push it. A lot of it you can’t learn from books.” A lot of the best coaches, he thinks, were also great athletes.
Another part of the job he’s looking forward to: the planning and strategizing that takes place off the snow. Still, the thrill of the ride is part of job, even if you’re not the one on the board. “You’re standing up at the gate with your rider, and you still have butterflies, and you know every bit of the terrain, but it’s all them,” he said. “I just want them to get out there and do their thing.”
In the New Year, it’s back to work, with a camp in Park City, Utah, then Killington, Vt. for the Dew Tour, then X-Games in Aspen, Colo., then Norway for the U.S. Championships, and then back to Mammoth for the U.S. Grand Prix, all happening between January and early March.
For now, he said it’s nice to be home with the family and lots of relatives in town for the holidays. How does his wife feel about all the travel? “Windsor was amazing, especially during the show. I had no contact with anybody, and she was just phenomenal with the kids, keeping everything together,” he stated. “She’s totally good with the boarding schedule, and it gives me enough breaks to get back home for some down time. Having flights right into Mammoth is a big plus, too!”
And as if all that weren’t enough, the Czeschins have their own hardwood firewood business, and Tommy just signed a deal with wake board company Liquid Force, to market a new wake surfer, the TC Custom, which just hit the marketplace. “Wake surfing is the next best thing to surfing,” he opined. “Anyone can learn it. You’re not strapped on. You can put it on a lake and you don’t even need an ocean. It’s a really good time.”
On snow and water, Czeschin’s journey continues. Try and keep up!