Chloe Kim—the 22-year-old snowboarding phenom—needs little introduction. She’s been the reigning queen in snowboarding circles for more than six years, the first athlete in the sport’s history to take home all four major snowboarding titles—gold in the Olympics, the Youth Olympics, the FIS Snowboarding World Championships, and the X Games. She is the Simone Biles of snow, a genre-redefining athlete with air awareness that leaves judges’ mouths agog every time she drops into the halfpipe. In 2018 she became the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s in competition—that’s three full rotations, accomplished by launching herself a stomach-churning 30 feet in the air above the icy slopes. When she won gold at the PyeongChang Olympics in 2018—then just 17—she became the youngest woman in the sport’s history to take home Olympic gold. Four years later in Beijing, a 21-year-old Kim defended her title, becoming the first woman to win multiple Olympic golds in the snowboarding halfpipe.
She is, to put it succinctly, a very big deal. But Kim is also one of those rare superathletes whose fame pierces the pop culture veil. As she solidified herself as a snowboarding legend in South Korea, she was simultaneously endearing herself to an audience of millions. Moments before her history-making heat, she’d been on Twitter, lamenting about not finishing her breakfast sandwich.
A (hangry) star was born. The endorsement deals came pouring in. So did magazine covers, a Barbie doll, and even a shout-out from Frances McDormand at the Oscars.
But the blossoming pop culture icon Kim seems a million miles away from the woman I’m speaking to today. As she settles into our Zoom interview from her West Coast home on an early- October afternoon, Kim looks every bit the consummate California girl, bleached blonde hair falling in enviable beach waves over an orange Hawaiian-print crop top and a sun-kissed tan. Far from the irreverent, always-on, gravity-defying extreme athlete, Kim has the calm, blissed-out air of someone who’s decided to quit their job and move to the beach. Which she has—sort of.
In April the snowboarding legend announced she was taking the 2022–2023 season off—her second hiatus from the sport—to prioritize her mental health after a “draining” year. “I started snowboarding when I was four. I’m 22 now. It’s been 18 years,” she says. “If my snowboarding career was a child, they would be able to go to jail or join the army.”