By Jake Bright
NASTAR is full of inspirational stories. Many of those come forward during the National Championships, which Steamboat Resort hosted this year. While interviewing a racer at the bottom of the snowboard competition, I ran into Debbie Landa from Virginia. She reconnected me to her husband and son, racing on the same course. I had met Joe and Jacob (then 14) at NASTAR’s 2013 Nationals.
Catching up with the father-son snowboard team of Joe and Jacob Landa reminded me that NASTAR Nationals — the racing, podiums, and being outdoors in the mountains — is often simply a backdrop for other awesome things happening among families. This year I watched from Steamboat’s Gondola Square as Joe Landa won the gold medal in his snowboard division, his first division title and seventh NASTAR Nationals medal.
But Landa would have never made the podium this year (or ever) if it had not been for his wife, Debbie, who encouraged her sons to try alpine racing, and Jacob, who subsequently talked dad into snowboard competition nearly a decade ago.
The two have truly turned NASTAR into a father, son — and family — affair. This year, Joe and Jacob Landa competed in their ninth Nationals competition together. It was the last before Jacob heads off to college next year. The 18-year-old capped off his high school NASTAR experience by joining his dad in the gold medal club, becoming a two-time champ in his snowboard division. Both competed in NASTAR’s Race of Champions the next day.
As Jacob took the podium, Joe Landa talked to me about how special it is that his son took initiative to get him to try something new they could do together. “For me, it’s like winning the lottery,” he said. “Most parents struggle to find ways to connect with their teenage kids, my 18 year old son regularly says ‘Hey dad, lets race!’”
Jacob also values bonding through racing. “NASTAR has definitely brought us closer together because it became a father-son thing we could do,” he told me. “We're both super competitive, so having something in common we could compete at and trash-talk about brought us closer too.”
For Jacob, who’s on the verge of his academic and professional career, Nationals has had broader life application. “I mentioned NASTAR on college applications to show the admissions people that I could still be a good student while going out and training and winning national medals,” he said. “I think it really shows a lot of who I am as a person and how much the sport of snowboarding means to me.” As he chooses his study path, Jacob told me he may even consider doing something in the snowboard industry.
Dad Joe Landa underscored the meaning of Nationals with Jacob and throughout his family. “It would be difficult to overstate the importance of NASTAR in our relationship,” he said. “Through all of it, he has continued to enjoy the family nature of NASTAR. Racing at Nationals gave both of my boys a chance to experience competition on a new level. Jacob has also made friends from all over the country who he’s still close with today.”
When I asked the Landas about future NASTAR Nationals racing prospects now that Jacob is headed to college, dad Joseph jumped way ahead. “Yesterday on the chairlift Jacob asked me if I thought we would ever do a three generation race,” he said. “It would be hard to imagine anything in the world better than that.”
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