A backflip into history is gaining Josh Dueck further notoriety and admiration.
The Vernon Paralympian, who became the first paraplegic skier to land a backflip at Whistler in February, has been named one of 10 National Geographic magazine adventurers of the year.
The 10 are now in the magazine’s online voting contest for the People’s Choice winner for adventurer of the year.
“I was stunned when I first got the e-mail from Fitz Cahall (radio host of the Dirtbag Diaries), who sits on the board of National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, saying I was a finalist,” said Dueck. “You can feel his excitement through his written word. I couldn’t believe it.”
The back-flip came about when Dueck was in Colorado last December at Copper Mountain for some early-season ski races.
On a day off, he decided to hop into the mountain’s on-site foam pit to give a back-flip a shot.
“There were a few people there who were experts in aerials, they helped me understand what I needed to do to make the backflip a success on snow,” said Dueck. “We discussed the particulars, the measurements and height of the jump, the degree at takeoff. That gave me the confidence and trust that it would be possible to do the flip on snow.”
Back at Whistler, Dueck rehearsed the flip landing on an airbag. Now it was time to make history on the powder.
Except Mother Nature wouldn’t cooperate at first.
“There were a few things that got in the way, too much snow, too much fog,” said Dueck. “On a few occasions, we all agreed it wasn’t a safe idea so we left.”
Finally, on Feb. 3, 2012, at Powder Mountain in Whistler, conditions for the historic jump were ideal.
As he had been in rehearsals, Dueck was in complete control and landed his backflip not into an airbag, but on the snow.
The moment was captured on video and splashed on YouTube – it has garnered more than 800,000 views – and the flip landed Dueck a spot on the Ellen DeGeneres talk show.
Now, he finds himself with nine others competing for a chance to be named the year’s top adventurer by a world-class magazine.
“Winning the People’s Choice award opens you up to an invitation to do more work with National Geographic, it’s pretty prestigious,” said Dueck. “Oh, yea, I’m pretty stoked. The nomination itself is an incredible gesture, a great compliment. I’m thrilled.”
Dueck is the only Canadian amongst the 10 finalists, which include Britain’s Lizzy Hawker (ultra runner), Chile’s Ramon Navarro (surfer), Austrians Felix Baumgartner (BASE jumper) and David Lama (mountain climber), South African Steve Fisher (kayaker), and Americans Renan Ozturk (artist), Mike Libecki (explorer), Shannon Galpin (humanitarian) and Jeremy Jones (snowboarder).
“I don’t personally know any of the finalists but I’ve heard of Felix Baumgartner, and anybody involved in snowboarding has heard of Jeremy Jones,” said Dueck. “I’m a big fan of his.”
Voting for the People’s Choice award is being done online. Go to nationalgeographic.com and look for Adventurer of the Year under “Editor’s Picks.” A two-minute video introducing the finalist is also available to watch.
Voting continues until February.