In the Olympic sport of snowboard cross, athletes fly at breakneck speed down a hard-packed snow course filled with sharp turns and steep jumps — all with four other racers in close proximity.
The result is a mix of organized chaos and adrenaline-filled action that most prefer to view from the comfort of their couch.
But for Paso Robles resident Trevor Jacob, who has spent the first two decades of his life diving head first into any extreme sport he can find, the thrill is what he lives for. Jacob, 20, is the youngest member of the seven-member snowboard cross team that will represent the United States at this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.
It’s expected to fare well.
“Every day has been awesome along this adventure,” Jacob wrote to The Tribune in an email Tuesday as he boarded a plane bound for Germany with fellow American Olympians. “I’m always excited to see new things.”
Born in Malibu and raised in Mammoth, Jacob first stepped on a board not long after learning to walk.
“I got him on a skateboard when he was 2½ years old, so that’s how it all got started,” said Trevor’s father, Jerry. “We got him on skis when he was 3, but that didn’t last long because his parents were on snowboards. There was something wrong with that picture.”
Trevor mastered snowboards soon afterward, winning national championships on both the slopes and the half-pipe before he was a teenager.
“I grew up in Mammoth, so that is all there was to do,” Jacob said. “I would go ride every day, and I got really good.”
Jacob took a break from snowboarding when he was 17 to focus on other adventures, including appearances on MTV’s “Nitro Circus” — a television show and world tour devoted to performing big-air stunts with an increasing level of difficulty and danger.
In the span of a three-minute clip from the show, Jacob jumps a skateboard into a parking lot dumpster and performs a backflip on a dirtbike, a BMX bicycle, a toddler’s tricycle and a scooter.
Midway through the video, he’s seen trying to jump a dirt ramp and switch from bike to skateboard in mid-air — a trick that ends with him falling flat on his face, but without serious injuries.
“He’s definitely a unique individual,” Jerry Jacob said with a laugh. “He’s always been jumping off everything. “He’s never had any major injuries, just a broken bone here or there.”
After a two-year hiatus from snowboarding, the competitive itch returned in a big way when Jacob was 19.
“I realized how in love I am with sliding down the snow on my snowboard,” he said. “The pure love for it was back, and I couldn’t get enough of it.”
It was around that time — early 2013 — that father and son agreed Trevor needed more space to set up his skate ramps and other training equipment.
Why he settled in Paso Robles
That’s how Jacobs came to settle in Paso Robles, where a friend’s neighbor was selling a house on 20 acres. Already enamored with the area from prior visits, the now-professional snowboarder jumped at the opportunity.
“The Central Coast is just my style,” he said. “The people are great, much more laid back and very friendly. The weather is beautiful, and the whole place is just so spectacular.
“I fell in love with it and plan to live there for the rest of my life.”
Jacob was the first American to qualify for the snowboard cross team when he won the World Cup by a comfortable margin in a race in the country of Andorra in southwestern Europe on Jan. 11. (He won the U.S. National Championship in early 2013.)
Riders Nick Baumgartner, Alex Deibold and Nate Holland later qualified to join Jacob on the men’s snowboard cross team, which competes in Sochi on Feb. 17. Faye Gulini, Jackie Hernandez and Lindsey Jacobellis comprise the women’s squad.
Jacob is the youngest member of the men’s team by at least six years, and he knows he’s viewed as the newcomer.
“It has got to be frustrating for somebody who has spent the last 10 years of their life working at this goal and then someone like me, who jumped into the sport a little over a year go, comes in to qualify in the first position for the Olympics,” Jacob said.
“But with that being said, I have worked harder than I ever have in my life this last year and a half, and I am so proud that it has paid off and I get to go represent our country.”
His parents, Jerry and Lynn Jacob, will be in Russia cheering on their youngest son.
The Sochi-clinching victory in Andorra came just 10 months after Jacob won his first professional snowboard cross race at Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah — a race that crowned Jacob U.S. National Champion.
“At that point we knew he had potential,” his father said of the Utah win. “I was there with him in Andorra last month, too … and it was beyond words. We were hugging and crying, and I just couldn’t believe it. “It wasn’t just a race. It was a race that was going to change his life.”