The feeling you get when you first link turns on a snowboard trail is one of the most exhilarating life experiences. It’s just you and the mountain, and in a flash you stop thinking about the all of the strength, skill, and confidence that got you to this moment. You let go of the fear and let your instincts carry you back and forth as you embark on a powerful, life-changing journey down the mountain.
In a parallel, and perhaps more familiar universe…the feeling after an intense Crossfit WOD is nothing short of euphoric…a sense of relief and accomplishment, as we’ve just tapped into strength we didn’t know we had…refueled and ready to carry this tremendous energy with us and spread it around to the other people in our lives.
At the crossroads of the exhilaration of snowboarding, the intensity of Crossfit, and the growth we gain from helping others, is Crossfit NYC member Steve Larosiliere. Steve is the founder of STOKED, a youth development program and organization dedicated to helping urban youth to grow through the experience of action sports and diverse life experience. New to Crossfit, Steve found our gym to be the perfect companion to his passion for snowboarding, and for tapping into a community that searches to help as much as it searches to be helped.
Coach Sully is among the many people whose lives have been touched by Steve’s work:
“I first met Steve at the Action Sport Convention when he was a featured speaker and he talked about his organization Stoked. At that time, snowboarding was my entire life, and I knew where it had brought me, the opportunities it had given me and how many friends I made in the community. When I heard what Steve does with Stoked–empowering urban youth through action sports–I knew I had to get to know this guy. Stoked consists of after school programs, mentoring programs, snowboarding, skateboard, surfing, providing the students with the tools for how to succeed in life, and with 100% graduation rates, it’s nothing short of an amazing program. I got Steve into CrossFit last year and, even with his very busy schedule, he makes it in pretty often. He took naturally to a lot of the movements in CrossFit with an action sports background, including agility, accuracy, and an unbreakable dedication. I hope you get a chance to WOD with Steve at the box–check out Stoked online or go to a Stoked event.”
We took this opportunity to ask Steve about his journey thus far with Stoked, and to find out more about his newfound experience with Crossfit.
I didn’t start snowboarding until I was 25. I grew up in NYC to an immigrant family and snowboarding was the furthest thing from my existence. However, I remember being in 6th grade and discovering a Burton catalog and seeing snowboarding for the first time and it blew me away. I always wanted to snowboard and I remember just from the pictures that this was something that I wanted to do. I just never really thought people could do it. It didn’t seem real. It wasn’t until I was chatting with a friend, Quigi from The Brooklyn Circus and he told me that he was going snowboarding. I flipped out because although I knew people did it, he was a Haitian-American guy just like me. I went to Blades that same day, bought all my gear head to toe and went snowboarding with him the next day.
Was that experience the inspiration for STOKED?
Yes, so I wasn’t committing to snowboarding when I first started. But it took a turn of live events for me to take snowboarding seriously. I went on an inspiration trip to see my uncle in Vancouver. He drove me to Whistler and Mt. Baker. I got to ride the biggest mountains my eyes had seen at the time. At the same time, I was a mentor to a kid in foster care in NYC. It was my last run of my last day and as I was soaking in the environment and I thought I wish my mentee could see this. The next thought was that I should start a snowboard mentoring program.
Have you had a chance to put your snowboarding to the test since you started Crossfit? If so do you notice a difference in performance on the slopes?
Yes, absolutely, this past winter I went to Aspen and was riding a lot of powder. In the past I could stop for a break or catch an edge because I was too tired…I would bomb the entire run. My legs are much stronger now.
Thanks for the compliment. We love what we do at STOKED. We were started to provide access and opportunity to low income youth through action sports culture. We don’t just take kids snowboarding, skateboarding, and surfing, we teach them life and career skills, give them hours of enrichment that they were lacking, and surround them with a community of adults who want to see them succeed. Action sports makes youth more resilient, self reliant, and more community oriented. At the end of the day, we want to close the opportunity gap that exists in this country. There’s a generation of low income youth who lack the skills to become college and career ready. They lack the connections and relationships to increase their social capital. Lastly, they are lacking the life experiences that add content and context to their life. We aim to help youth become the complete package so they can market themselves to become successful. We see action sports being pivotal to making that happen.
How can people get involved with Stoked?
We are always looking for donations. We have a STOKED Igniters program that enables people to commit to closing the opportunity gap for low income youth by funding various participation levels for our kids. You can help fund their healthy snacks, afterschool supplies, action sports activities or the whole thing. We’re also looking for volunteers to help our kids after school or on the weekends. There are 3 million kids that have mentors in the US, but 18 million more kids need mentors. Many people underestimate how powerful giving a little time can be. We want the companies that you work for to get involved to provide internships, experiences, and the resources so we can continue to serve kids.
How did you get into Crossfit?
I’ve known Sully for a while. He’s an awesome person. Period. He introduced me to CrossFit and then introduced me to Josh. They’ve been great and supportive of STOKED.
Do you see parallels between the intensity of Crossfit WODs and the snowboarding experience?
I see Crossfit WODs and my experience as a social entrepreneur being very similar. I like to joke that Crossfit is the hardest thing I do all day. I run a business that is based on the goodwill of people. I have to work every day to ensure that we have the resources to keep providing the services and programs that our kids need to become successful. Also as a father and husband, CF gives me the energy to keep everything in order.
X-Games commentator Sal Masekela came on board with Stoked early on. Talk about your experience bringing Sal into the organization.
Ha. I’ll tell you. People always think that we grew up together or were childhood friends. But the truth is that I only knew him from TV. He was the charismatic, energetic guy that got me hyped about the X Games. He made me and many others a fan. I didn’t know him but I knew he had to be involved. He was the black guy with dreads that was the host of the X Games. So I Googled him, found a number on a press release. I called it…they gave me the number to his agent. I called his agent once a week for two months until Sal called me back. Then I flew out to LA the very next day to meet him and to get him on board. I’m really grateful that he is a part of STOKED. We wouldn’t be here without his help, support, connections, and encouragement. For the first two years of STOKED’s existence, Sal would give me his couch every time I would go to LA.
Word has it Sal is an avid Crossfitter. Have you had a chance to do any WODs with him?
Yes, Sal is into it. So is his other business partner Jason. We haven’t had the chance to do a WOD since he’s in LA and I’m in NYC. I didn’t get into Crossfit because of him, but I’m not surprised we love it so much. It’s a much needed community for people that crave to become their highest self. However, I do WODs with his agent, Lowell.
Stoked has a lot of momentum right now. What is your ideal vision for the organization in five years?
I want us to have a great program and end product. We have our 4-year program STOKED for Success that just launched and this September we’re doing our 3rd year. Our first class of 4-year high school graduates will be the class of 2015. I want to ensure that we are able to tell an amazing story about how community, culture, and a new definition of education changed the life trajectory of a young person. I also want to professionalize the field of action sports and youth development and grow to serve more students. I see a future where there’s a pipeline of confident, determined, community minded leaders who shred.
Steve Larosiliere can be found working out in Sully’s classes at Crossfit NYC on 28th St. He can be reached via STOKED through the organization’s web site. Be sure to check out more information, and contact Steve to donate and/or volunteer.