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Meet the Athletes That Make Up the Most Decorated Para Snowboard Team in the World

By Ryan Odeja
September, 25 2023
U.S. Para Snowboard athlete pushes out of the gate during a snowboardcross race

Since snowboarding became an official Paralympic sport in 2014, no country has won more Paralympic medals than the U.S. team. The American athletes have won more than double the next-closest country - 21 medals compared to China, who has won 10. 

Members of the current U.S. Para Snowboard Team have won 15 of those 21 medals, and several U.S. snowboarders added more hardware to their resumes at the World Championships this past March in La Molina, Spain. Four current members of the men’s team sit in the top five of the overall Paralympic medal rankings, and Brenna Huckaby leads the way for the women. 

Get to know the team before the season starts as they come under U.S. Ski & Snowboard!

Brenna Huckaby

Huckaby didn’t grow up a snowboard athlete; rather, she was an avid gymnast in a city not known for snow-covered peaks - Baton Rouge, Louisiana. When she was 14, she had her right leg amputated due to bone cancer, and she made the move to Salt Lake City, Utah and decided to try a new sport - snowboarding. Just one month after her amputation, Huckaby received her first prosthetic leg and set her eyes on the slopes. The same passion she had for gymnastics, she quickly realized she had for snowboarding, and by 2013, she was competing with the National Ability Center in Park City. Before she knew it, she became one of the most talented athletes in the sport. A few years later, she took home three golds and a silver medal in her first two World Championships appearances, cementing herself as one of the best Para snowboardcross athletes in the world. 

Her World Championship success set her up for a dominant showing at the PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Games, where she won gold in the snowboardcross and banked slalom events. She later defended her banked slalom title at the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing and took home a bronze in the snowboardcross competition. On top of her four Paralympic medals, the 27 year old has racked up nine World Championship medals, including a gold, silver and bronze in Spain earlier this year. She is a four-time Paralympic medalist (three gold, one bronze) and four-time world champion. Huckaby is a two-time ESPY Award nominee (2018, 2022) and one-time winner (2018) of the “Best Female Athlete with a Disability." When she isn’t snowboarding, you can find Huckaby hiking, biking, playing with her daughters, watching Shameless, or volunteering as a gymnastics judge in Utah.

Darian Haynes

Haynes was born with a Brachial Plexus injury and felt that most sports were unreachable for her while growing up, but after moving to Hawaii in 2010, she found an adaptive surfing program and the rest was history. Soon after discovering the sport, she started surfing competitively, soaring through the ranks. She became one of the best adaptive surfers in Hawaii and competed at national and international-level events, eventually joining Team USA. In 2021, she decided to trade the ocean for the mountains and moved to Silverthorne, Colorado to start her professional snowboarding career. Haynes began training with Adaptive Action Sports and became the 2022-23 FIS World Cup overall Para banked slalom champion within two years of training. In 2023, she took home the 2023 banked slalom overall Crystal Globe following another successful year on the World Cup and then topped it off with two bronze medals at the 2023 World Championships. 

Outside of snowboarding, Haynes is a competitive skateboarder who still loves surfing as much as possible. Throughout her three sports, she is dedicated to bringing opportunities to participate in adaptive sports to those who haven’t been exposed, especially young women like herself.

Evan Strong

Strong is one of the only athletes on the Para team to have competed in all three Paralympics since snowboarding was formally added in 2014. The Haiku, Hawaii native led a U.S. medal sweep in the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games in snowboardcross, joined on the podium by teammates Mike Shea (silver) and Keith Gabel (bronze). 

Strong followed up his Sochi Games success with a silver medal in the banked slalom at the PyeongChang Paralympics. Along with his two Paralympic medals, Strong has won five World Championship medals, including a gold in snowboardcross LL2 in 2012. Since moving from Hawaii to Lake Tahoe, California in 2007, Strong has earned every title in Para snowboarding, from the X Games to the Paralympics.

Outside of snowboarding, Strong's hobbies include skateboarding, mountain biking, surfing and photography. He credits his family, along with Amy Purdy and Daniel Gale, the founders of Adaptive Action Sports, as the most influential individuals in his career.

Joe Pleban

Pleban, from Fredericksburg, Virginia, has made a mark in the Para snowboarding world, on and off the snow. He is known worldwide for the “please cut here” tattoo he got on his leg in 2014 before his amputation, calling it the first non-permanent permanent tattoo. In 2017, his snowboarding journey began when he started training with Adaptive Action Sports, and soon enough, he made his international debut. 

Pleban just missed out on making the roster for the Beijing Paralympic Games last March, but soon after, he and his wife welcomed their daughter to the world. In his career, he has snagged top World Cup results and earned a 10th and 13th place results at World Championships. Outside of snowboarding, he attended Christopher Newport University and spends most of his time outside hiking and paddleboarding.

Keith Gabel

Gabel initially discovered his passion for snowboarding back in 2000, and although he loved to ride, he didn’t start formally competing until after an industrial accident in 2005 that crushed his left foot and led to an eventual amputation. Just three months post-op, Gabel returned to his snowboard; however, it wasn’t until the 2010-11 season that he found competitive Para snowboarding and began training with the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah. He progressed quickly and soared through the international ranks, eventually earning a spot on the 2014 Paralympic Team for the Games in Sochi, Russia. In his Paralympic debut, he earned a bronze medal in snowboardcross, becoming a part of the iconic U.S. medal sweep. At the Paralympic Games in 2018, Gabel improved on his 2014 results by finishing with a silver medal in the snowboardcross event. Outside his Paralympic experience, Gabel earned two World Championship medals, becoming the snowboardcross world champion in 2019, and finished second in snowboardcross team alongside teammate Noah Elliott in 2023. 

Now 38, Gabel hopes to make his fourth trip to the Paralympics in 2026. Outside of snowboarding, you’ll find Gabel hiking, fishing, mountain biking, swimming, cliff diving, camping, playing and writing music, and hanging out with his dog, checking nearly every outdoor activity box. 

Mike Minor

Minor was born missing part of his right forearm, but that did not stop him from competing. He competes in the UL classification for athletes with upper limb deficiencies. He grew up skiing, skiing, wrestling, skateboarding, four-wheeling and participating in mixed martial arts, but decided to start snowboarding at age seven, inspired by those snowboarding around him. While working as a lift attendant at Copper Mountain in Colorado, he was invited to start practicing and competing competitively with Adaptive Action Sports. His talent was evident, and those around him began to take notice. Not long after, he made his international debut at a World Cup event in 2015, and after an impressive opening season, Minor still continues to dominate the competition on both the national and international stage.

Since making his international debut in 2015, Minor has competed in two Paralympic Winter Games, winning a gold and a bronze medal, and two World Championships, winning two golds and two silvers. The 32 year old now lives in Finland with his fiancée. In his free time, he enjoys skateboarding and spending time with his two dogs, Halo and Dinky.

Mike Schultz

In 2008, while competing in a snowcross race, Schultz drifted off course, flying off his snowmobile and landing on his left leg. He sustained a severe compound fracture to his knee and, after multiple surgeries, had his leg amputated above the knee. Throughout his entire life, Schultz has always been heavily involved in action sports, and after his amputation, he found that the prosthetics on the market weren’t suitable for the activity he wanted to continue to pursue. Knowing this, Schultz took matters into his own hands and engineered his prosthetic knee, which got him back in the position to get back out into the action sports world. Not long after, Schultz won the adaptive motocross silver medal at the X Games, then switched gears and started snowboarding in 2009. Following his achievements, Schultz quickly realized that others could benefit from his engineered prosthetic design and decided to start BioDapt, Inc., in 2010. His company pushed the boundaries for high-impact adaptive sports. 

The success never slowed. In 2010, Schultz became the first person to win a gold medal at both the Summer and Winter X Games. His love of action sports and enjoyment of new challenges led him to become competitive in snowboarding after already successful careers in snowcross and motocross. He rose through the national ranks, joined the U.S. Para Snowboard Team in 2015, and showed impressive results on the World Cup circuit. Schultz competed in his first World Championships in 2017, taking home a silver in the banked slalom LL1. A year later, he won silver in the same event and a gold in the snowboardcross at the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic Winter Games. Schultz added three World Championship medals from two more appearances — including a bronze in the snowboardcross this past March — and another Paralympic silver at the 2022 Beijing Paralympic Winter Games to his resume. The 41 year old is coming off a dominant World Cup season that saw him reach eight podiums and finish tied for the most points in banked slalom LL1.

Schultz’s hobbies include motocross, snowmobiling, mountain biking, horseback riding, skiing and, of course, working in his shop. In 2010, he was inducted into the Athletes with Disabilities Network Hall of Fame, along with being a published author and public speaker who has even given a TEDx Talk on adapting to golden opportunities.

Noah Elliott

Elliott burst onto the international stage as a 20 year old at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, where he won gold in the banked slalom and bronze in the snowboardcross LL1 competition - only three years after his left leg was amputated due to bone cancer.

After winning the world title in dual banked slalom in January 2022, the St. Charles, Missouri, native battled through injuries at the Beijing Paralympic Games and just missed medaling in the banked slalom. Elliott, now 25, returned healthy this year and earned five podiums on the World Cup circuit, and two silvers at the 2023 World Championships. 

Elliott takes pride in hard work and dedication and enjoys sharing stories with others and learning new things. Outside of snowboarding, Elliott’s hobbies include skateboarding, snowboarding, fishing, camping, hiking, traveling, cooking, being outdoors, playing guitar, hanging out with family, and simply enjoying life. 

Peggy Martin

Martin is one of the first competitive snowboarders in the world, between able-bodied and adaptive snowboarding. Along with being the first, she is also one of the oldest competitors active on the Para snowboard circuit. Despite her age, Martin continues to push boundaries and win events. 

Martin started snowboarding in 1986 while working as a ski instructor in Colorado. She used borrowed and homemade equipment to start her snowboard journey and quickly was up on her feet, flying down the slopes. As the snowboarding world expanded, competitive events became more popular; in 1988, just two years after starting, Martin began racing competitively. 

In 1996, she seriously injured her arm in a snowmobile crash and started snowboarding with her arm in a sling to be pain-free while riding. In 2015, Peggy learned that she qualified to compete in Para snowboarding events due to her arm injury and the rest is history. Despite her success on the Para snowboard circuit and the sport being included in the Paralympics for the first time in 2014, Martin wasn’t able to compete at the 2018 or 2022 Paralympic Games because her category was not yet included; however, that is something she hopes to help change. 

At the 2023 Para Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Martin took home two silver medals in dual banked slalom and dual banked slalom team, a testament to her dedication and perseverance in the sport. Martin is a trailblazer in able-bodied and Para snowboarding and has helped to grow the sports to where they are today.

Zach Miller

While Miller is the youngest national team member, he doesn’t lack international experience. Only two weeks after turning 20, the Silverthorne, Colorado, native won bronze in snowboardcross at the 2019 World Championships in Pyha, Finland.

Daniel Gale recruited Zach to join Adaptive Action Sports at age 13 and helped him become an elite athlete. Miller credits him as the most influential person in his athletic career as he offered him so much support and taught him how to be an ambassador, not just a snowboarder. 

Miller quickly moved through the international ranks and earned a spot on the U.S. Para Snowboard Team in 2018. He is a two-time world champion, five-time World Championship medalist and Paralympian (2022). Miller’s goal is to “be a guy you always want out on the hill with you. Maybe [to win] a Paralympic gold medal too.” His favorite sports memory is winning his second World Championship title with Mike Minor. Recently, Zach was awarded the 2023 “Best Athlete with a Disability” ESPY Award, a testament to the impact he has beyond the sport. He wrapped up last season with three medals at the 2023 World Championships in La Molina in banked slalom team (gold), dual banked slalom (silver), and snowboardcross (bronze). 

Miller describes himself as a massive nerd, a huge gamer and highly competitive; his favorite thing about snowboarding is how fast he can go. He's also a big motorcycle rider. Additionally, he works as a coach at Adaptive Action Sports, teaching new development athletes to snowboard and start racing; he also set up some new PCs in the office so they can start building a local adaptive eSports Program.


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