Focused on the upcoming Crashed Ice event in St. Paul this January, Cameron Naasz, international Red Bull rider, is getting ready for another world tour with Red Bull’s Team USA.
With his sights set, Naasz began training intensively for the event, Jan. 17, just over a month ago. He said that he keeps in shape year round, staying fit for Crashed Ice, but now he’s “religious” about getting to the gym every day.
“I say it every year. I’d love to win the event in St. Paul. It’s definitely what I’m shooting for; not second, not third, but first place,” Naasz said. “I’ve come in third place two years in a row now.”
Working with a personal trainer in Minneapolis, he said that he’s been doing a lot of legwork, and “fast-twitch muscle work” to help build his endurance and to get in shape for the event.
“I’m really just committing everything to waking up, going to work, I get off work at 2 p.m., and hitting the gym,” he continued. “I’m really just trying to go the extra mile this year, so I can possibly win the thing, instead of getting third place like the last two years.”
He said that there isn’t a set or specific way to train for Crashed Ice, but he’s been getting the team together to go through exercises to help prepare for the event.
As the season rolls in, Naasz said he plays hockey a few times a week to get out on the ice.
“Having a good hockey background is really important for Crashed Ice, just because you have the good mechanics for a good stride and a powerful stride, obviously this makes you faster, but it also gives you that stability on the ice,” he explained. “If you’re a good hockey player and you can avoid a check and you can maintain your balance, it’s just that much more helpful when you’re on the course.”
“The ice is really choppy, so the thing that I use to alleviate that problem is that I don’t use normal hockey scales,” he said. “What I use is a little taller, little longer, and the biggest advantage to that is they’re flat on the bottom.”
With just over month until the event in St. Paul, Naasz said that the team will receive an email containing an athlete handbook, along with a digital layout of this year’s track. Once they get the layout for track, the team immediately starts going over the ins and outs; the twists and turns, he said.
It gives them the chance to start going over strategies and find their way through the track before they even step foot on it, he said.
“They’re always challenging in their own way,” he continued. “It’s the portions where you’re going really fast and you need to make a split-second decision.”
To switch things up, often times the turns will be uneven. Coming on the inside, riders may be hit with an incline or bump, whereas the outside will dip down or level out, Naasz described. Those little tricky, technical sections they put in the course are the most challenging, he said.
Though the turns are usually true to the handbook, he said that “every time you get there, you throw the handbook out the window.”
“While I’m skating, I’m always thinking about where I’m going next, and how I can get through that next turn quickly,” he said. “Once you can figure out how to pump through those bumps, that’s when you see the guys start to excel.”
Riders do get the chance to run through the track and practice before game day. Naasz said that national riders come through and practice the Thursday before, then he’s able to practice Friday morning, along with time trials.
Saturday morning riders are given a couple practice runs, “then Saturday night is the big shebang,” he said. “They call your name, you get out there in front of 115,000 people and give it hell.”
“It’s a great feeling; you’re so jazzed, there’s so much adrenaline going through you, then everything goes quiet when I need to focus, and everything goes well from there.”
“It’s great for the economy of St. Paul, having that many people together … it’s great for the city and it’s cool especially for Minnesota,” he continued. “Where else do you know where 100,000 people will go stand outside at 20 below and have a few cocktails and watch crazy guys and girls run down an ice track?”
Following the event in St. Paul, Naasz begins another world tour with Team USA; Los Angeles, Calif. being the first stop, then Austria, follow by Finland, Ireland and then back to Minnesota for a week at home.
“Last year I was only home for a week and two months, because I do all these different races and media tours … so when I get home it’s nice to hang out with friends, family and my girlfriend.”
“Life is super busy and hectic when the season gets going that I don’t have a lot of time to do anything else,” he said.
The last two years have been a “roller coaster ride” with the sport, he said.
Before trying out for the event in St. Paul in 2012, Naasz said he wasn’t seriously involved with sports since he was cut from the hockey team his senior year of high school. Other than the occasional intramural hockey in college, it wasn’t until Crashed Ice when he became driven to get back in the gym, to start working out and play an active role in a sport again.
“The first year I did Crashed Ice, I was so nervous, I didn’t know what to expect,” he continued. “You’re three stories up and looking down at 80,000 people, so you think ‘Holy crap, this is insane.”
“But then once I started getting better and put up a couple good podiums, my name was kind of known and I started getting confidence, so now I love getting up there, especially in St. Paul.”
Since his first season, he said that he’s been trying to take more of an active role in the sport, mainly through promotion, working with national and international riders, and being a good role model by trying to win races.
After doing well in the St. Paul event, he said that he set out to see what his rookie season had in store for him with the rest of Team USA.
Since it was his first year on the road and with the sport, Naasz took the time to get used to what, and where, the sport was leading too.
He said that most of the team is from Minnesota, with riders from Woodbury, Red Wing and Rochester. Along with a rider from Vermont, having met the riders through Crashed Ice and sharing in the experience, he said that “I think they’ll be lifelong friends for sure.”
“All the people that I became friends with, you’d think that different languages and meeting different people might be weird, but it’s like all of the other guys from all the different countries are like a spitting image of all the guys on our team,” he said. “I think that’s actually one of the hidden gems of the sport.”
“They like to skate fast; they’re good athletes and they like extreme sports,” he continued. “They’re just likes us and anybody else, and everybody gets along really well.”
In the last two years, he’s travelled with the team back and forth been countries including Finland, Switzerland, Russia, the Netherlands and Canada.
Being given the opportunity to travel the world to compete internationally, getting actively involved in sports again—really the entire experience overall—has been “incredible” for him, he said.
Though, when he’s not fighting jetlag and remembering to have a clock set for his next destination, he said that he tries to take a couple vacations around late March, during the off season. And in the past couple of years, he’s was also able to enroll in summer courses at SCSU.
“Actually, this year, I’ve decided to concentrate a little harder on Crashed Ice and I actually moved down to the Cities,” he continued. “I’m not living in St. Cloud this year, and usually I take off spring semester, but I actually took off both spring and fall semester this year.”
While living in Minneapolis for the year, Naasz picked up two internships while he’s away from campus, he said.
He’s working with Six Speed Productions in Minneapolis, which runs Red Bull’s Team USA and has a big role in putting on the Crashed Ice event in St. Paul. Naasz, a public relation major, said that he’s going to help put on and promote the event for his fall semester internship.
Then, while he’s out on the road, he plans to work closely with Red Bull’s media relations by writing press releases and promoting the event, he said.
And after college, he said that he would like to help grow “Ice Cross Downhill”—the technical name for Crashed Ice. Last year, he said that he helped build a track and put on a race in Duluth, Minn. This coming year, Naasz said he’s helping put on a race in Hastings, Minn., along with lending a helping hand to build the track.
“Our goal is just to grow the sport in general,” he said.
However for now, Naasz is looking ahead at his upcoming schedule. First, starting in St. Paul, then over the next two months, he’s off embarking on yet another trip to see the world with Red Bull’s Team USA, meeting and competing with athletes from all over the world along the way for a chance to win the world championship.
“I’d really like to win,” he said. “It’d be a dream come true.”
This article originally appeared in the University Chronicle on December 8, 2014.