Bibi Pekarek is all about living the freeride spirit. The Austrian rider has spent many years riding some of the world's most impressive terrain, painting her own lines down the mountains rather than following in the tracks of others. Pekarek has established herself as one of the sport's most dominant freeride forces in recent times by competing successfully on the Freeride World Tour. Things haven't always been straightforward, though. While filming in Canada in 2008, Bibi suffered a serious knee injury at a time when she was leading the FWT overall rankings. After a long period of rehabilitation, Bibi was stoked to be back on her board in 2009 and competing once again among the world's best freeriders. Her return to top flight riding was confirmed with a memorable runner-up place at the world-famous Nissan Verbier Xtreme 09. In the off season, Pekarek gets away from it all by embarking on long distance surf trips to secluded destinations alongside her boyfriend and fellow O'Neill team rider Mitch Toelderer. The two riders have established a charitable organization following one of their visits to Indonesia, and work together to raise money for local communities in the area. For more information about this worthy cause, visit www.surfair.at
Austrian snowboarder Bibi Paekarek was leading the Freeride World Tour when she suffered a horrific knee injury whilst filming in Canada in March
The accident meant she could not compete in the final two events, in Tignes and at the O’Neill Verbier Xtreme.
But there is no doubt that Bibi will be back better than ever.
She stopped by for a quick chat to tell us how her recovery is going:
"I had my surgery more than a week ago now and I am getting better. At least the sun is shining and I can chill on our terrace.
The doc had to fix my meniscus too so the rehab will take a little longer than the usual ACL surgery because I have to use crutches for 3 to 4 weeks, and I shouldn’t bend my knee actively for 6 weeks.
Anyway, it could always be worse."Interview
Q: What has been the biggest highlight of the past 12 months for you?
A: I rode some short but really technical and steep lines last spring, all of which were accessed by hiking. I made it my mission to ride those lines perfectly by nailing them first time and making sure I didn't hesitate at any point. In the end, I managed to do it just the way I wanted and I was super happy with the result and the fact I had succeeded in conquering my fears.
Q: What's the best thing about riding for a living?
A: It's just great to decide how you're going to live each day every time you wake up in the morning. That makes life different, exciting and fulfilling.
Q: Who do you enjoy riding with the most, and why?
A: I love to ride with my boyfriend Mitch Toelderer. I've learned a lot from him over the years and I know I can trust him whenever we get ourselves into tricky situations. He encourages me to try things if I haven't had the confidence to do myself. It's also very nice to be on the mountain with a group of girls as the vibes are different and you chat and laugh about all sorts of other stuff.
Q: Other than home, where is your favorite place to ride, and why?
A: I'm a curious person and I always like to see new places. Variety is the spice of life, and the same goes for riding. I have had great days in very small, unknown resorts when the conditions were just right. So it's hard to pick just one place - there are just too many place on earth to pick from.
Q: What are your main goals and plans for the next 12 months?
A: I want to hike some interesting peaks in Austria this spring. After that, I'm planning a snow and surf trip to Chile as I've always wanted to go down there. It fascinates me when snow-covered mountains and the sea are so close to each other. Anyway, once I'm on the American continent, I have a feeling the temptation to keep on surfing somewhere else may be too hard to resist! Maybe I'll head to Peru or Mexico for a few weeks, or months!
Q: How do you see your sport evolving in the next few years?
A: It seems that freeriding is becoming more and more popular. The Freeride World Tour has helped to put the sport under the media spotlight. I also think it's super important to make sure the younger generation that are interested in backcountry riding become aware of the risk of avalanches, especially if they're into watching freeride movies and contest lines.
Q: What do you do for fun when you are not riding?
A: I love to travel to remote places to surf. I love meeting new people, learning from different cultures and opening myself up to new experiences. It's great to be able to give my character the room and freedom it needs to continue evolving.
Q: What achievement are you most proud of so far in your career?
A: The best feeling for me is when one of the world's best freeriders turns to me and says: "Hey Bibi, that was a really good line." To get their respect makes me far more proud than any contest result.
Q: If you didn't ride for a living, what would you have liked to be doing now for an occupation?
A: I'm a qualified physiotherapist and I've already worked in sports rehabilitation. It's a great job as you're pretty active and physical while you work. There are so many different specialty areas to choose from, and I always find it very interesting to see how much the psyche influences the body, and also how different every individual is. Hmmm, I guess being a pro surfer wouldn't be too bad, either...
Q: What trick do you enjoy the most?
A: Surfing a natural powder windlip as if it was a wave.