Chocowinity couple follows grandson’s success from a distance

Published 7:30 pm Monday, June 11, 2018

Almost 2,000 miles lie between Chocowinity and Big Sky, Montana, but that doesn’t keep two proud grandparents from keeping up with the exploits of their talented grandson.

Chocowinity residents Hodges and Marsha Hackney may not be able to see their snowboarding grandson Holden Samuels compete as much as they’d like, but the couple will do what it takes to watch him when the opportunity arises. That includes waking up in the middle of the night to watch Samuels compete at the Freeride Junior World Championships in Kappl, Austria last March, where the snowboarder finished second.

“The World Championship that took place in Austria, that was actually streamed live on the Internet,” Hodges Hackney said. “So we were able to go on the Internet, it actually started at 8, 8:30 in the morning in Austria, which is about 2:30 in the morning here. So we had to get up in the middle of the night to watch it online.”

But most of the competitions Samuels takes part in don’t provide a livestream of footage, so the Hackneys usually depend on phone calls and emails from their daughter, and Holden’s mother, Acra Samuels to keep them up to date on Holden’s achievements.

And there have been several achievements over the years to keep up with. Along with placing second at the FJWC in March, Samuels also won the North American International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association Championship the last two years. The most recent IFSA championship victory is what earned Samuels a trip to Austria.

Despite not being able to witness most of their grandson’s competitions, the Hackneys get great joy from all that the young Samuels accomplishes.

“We’re very excited about his accomplishments,” Samuels’ grandfather said. “We’re obviously very proud of his accomplishments. It’s something to be two-time North American champion and in his 18-year-old year, he ended up finishing second in the world. That’s really unique for an American to accomplish.”

While many are familiar with freestyle snowboarding, which is an Olympic sport that Shaun White helped bring to the mainstream, freeride snowboarding isn’t as well known. Freeride snowboarding, and skiing, differs from freestyle in that competitors start off at the top of the mountain, dropping off ledges and cliffs on the way down. Each are judged for how they handle the terrain and the airtime they get on the big drops. The snowboarders are not permitted to practice on the run prior to the event in order to judge their creativity in handling unknown terrain. They are only permitted to make one run during the competition.

Samuels’ talent in snowboarding shouldn’t come as much of surprise, considering the love his family has for winter sports, starting with the Hackneys.

“We used to go out skiing (in Montana with Samuels and his family) but we don’t really go skiing much anymore,” Hackney said about himself and his wife. “We used to (ski) as a family sport. My wife and I started back when we were in our late twenties and then we had three daughters. We took them with us on trips out west for many years while they were growing up. So they all fell in love with skiing and winter sports and they kind of continued that; (Samuels’ mother, Acra) to the biggest extent because she decided to move out there. She and her husband just kind of fell in love with the Montana area and decided to move there.”

While the Hackneys haven’t been able to watch most of Samuels’ biggest accomplishments as a snowboarder, they were on hand to witness him walk the stage as salutatorian when he graduated from Lone Peak High School on June 2. Samuels will attend the University of Colorado-Boulder and intends to qualify for the Freeride World Tour next season, according to Hackney.