Creativity. It rings ear to ear for Zeb Powell (22 years young). With every trick, stunt and spin, he exemplifies what it truly means to be creative. Looking back on his snowboarding roots, Zeb proclaims, “I hit that one box my first night [at Cataloochee Ski Area], and I think I was hooked from there on.” And it’s true. With his unique brand of aggressive, cat-like maneuvers, Zeb’s passion for boarding is hyper-evident… and contagious. Whether riding off a tree branch, grabbing onto a rail that most people are even afraid to slide, or sensational coffin-to-method grabs like the one to win 1st place at the 2020 Red Bull Knuckle Huck event, Zeb’s unconventional moves are undoubtedly constructing a new style within the snowboarding arena. This is the new mythological god of our sport.
Zeb’s connection to snowboarding’s innovation is almost as inspiring as his backstory. Standing five weeks old, Powell was adopted by Carl and Valerie Powell from Waynesville, North Carolina. Almost instantly, his new parents saw wicked potential in his athletic capabilities. His mother, Valerie, proudly says, “there was always a zig or a zag or a jump or a flip. I think it was just in his DNA.” Indeed with his creative DNA and a little encouragement from his parents, Powell began to frequent the slopes of the neighboring city’s local ski hill known as Maggie Valley.
Despite being years younger, Zeb immediately began snowboarding with local teenagers and college kids because he was pulling off tricks kids his age were not doing. No matter the conditions, Powell’s love for the sport powered him through the stormy days, allowing him to maximize his time on snow. He hated to leave it.
"He just loved to snowboard. It could be raining, the iciest day ever, or horrible conditions. For Zeb, no matter the worst day of snowboarding, it was better than just not snowboarding." -Jacob Sutton (Childhood Friend).
This grit and determination gave his parents the spark to send him to Woodward in Copper Mountain, Colorado. This was his destined next step to leveling up in snowboarding, action sports, and life stoke ensued. Zeb was immersed in one of the epicenters of snowboarding’s international culture, stimulating his passion even more.
By the time he finished up at Woodward, Zeb and his parents decided to enroll him at a snowboarding school in Vermont called “Stratton Mountain School” in 2013. The school had an outstanding reputation for both outdoor sports, as well as education. The experience was a gift, and Zeb remains grateful for such a special and unique educational experience.
Then a few years later, at 15 years old, he won 1st place in the 2016 Red Bull All-Snow at Corinth Parks, a feat that had surprised his parents. Perhaps less so for Zeb, however; as an inner voice told him that it was only the beginning.
His talents were later recognized by one of the largest non-profit organizations in the northeast called “Hoods to Woods.” The organization’s purpose is to eliminate the issues that prevent inner-city children from experiencing the privilege of snowboarding. According to Zeb, “they learn from snowboarding that when they fall, they can get back up again, and stick with something until they become successful.” Powell is still partnered with the Hoods to Woods organization today and continues to seek these kinds of philanthropic efforts in future years.
As he considers his future, the first-ever African-American XGames snowboard gold medalist doesn’t worry much. He is confident in who he is and where he’s going. He’s also committed to two simple goals – to evolve the snowboarding community and never stop having fun.
"Snowboarding has given me so much. And I’m prepared to continue to give back to snowboarding. Our community is really special, but it can get better. It can get bigger. We are going to keep building, and we are going to keep it fun no matter what.” -Zeb Powell
X Games Knuckle Huck
"Spotheads" Produced by Spotheads
X Games Knuckle Huck
“T32M” Produced by Thirty Two
Red Bull All Snow
Enrolled in Stratton Academy
Copper Mountain, Colorado