La Jolla High student carves out spot in boarding world

La Jolla High School junior Nirvana Ortanez is an aspiring professional snowboarder. A few weeks ago, the Bird Rock resident competed against Olympic medalists and professional snowboarders in the Supergirl Jam competition and placed 2nd. Before that, she placed 2nd Overall and got Best Trick at Boardfest. With the snow season at Mammoth opening Nov. 4, she is preparing for a new season by practicing yoga and running.

Q: When did you start snowboarding?

A: I went up to Mountain High one weekend when I was 11, and then just went every weekend after that. It’s a family sport. Everyone in my family likes it. My brother competes also. He’s in 5th grade right now. My parents volunteer for the USSA (United States Snowboarding Association). Its like the ISF (International Snowboard Federation) or NSAA (National Ski Areas Association).

Q: How do you think you got so good so fast?

A: Well, I surfed every summer since 3rd grade, that has helped with my balance.

Q: What’s your favorite surf spot?

A: South Bird.

Q: Do you do other sports?

A: I used to pole vault, but then I couldn’t stay on the team because I was snowboarding so much.

Q: How did you get into competition?

A: I started doing rail jumps. I just did the Supergirl Competition, competed with the pros. I got to hang out with Leanne Pelosi and Gretchen Bleiler, it was sick. I got 2nd place in that one. I did the Chevy Revolution Tour, slopestyle, jumps and rails, and I got 4th in that competition, in Oregon.

Q: How have you learned?

A: My dad helped me a lot with rails. I learn a lot just by watching up-and-comers and snowboarding with people who are also competing.”

Q: What’s next on your list of tricks that you want to learn?

A: Trick wise, I already know how to do front 270’s on rails. I want to learn how to do back 270’s. I want to do what guys are doing. The level that guys are at is so high.

Q: Have you been injured on the slopes?

A: I haven’t had any injuries yet, thankfully, knock on wood. I almost fractured my knee. I’ve had a lot of bruises, bumps and swelling.

Q: Do you think it’s a disadvantage to live in Southern California as a snowboarder?

A: I don’t get as much snowtime as most of the people I am competing against, but I think it’s more about the quality that you put into your practice time, getting tricks in, than how much you practice.

Q: Do you want to go to college closer to the snow?

A: There’s a community college in Mammoth. I want to go there and see what happens with snowboarding.

Q: What do you like studying?

A: I like Spanish and history. I think school’s really important.

Q: Do you think you are putting La Jolla on the map as far as snowboarding goes?

A: Yea. With people like Shaun White, it’s getting known that people who live by the beach can be good at snowboarding too.

Q: How often do you compete?

A: I compete every weekend once the season starts.

Q: How do you prepare for the season?

A: I went up to Mt. Hood in Oregon at the beginning of summer and snowboarded for like a week. That helped. I think yoga also helps. If I wasn’t somewhat limber, I think I would have pulled something by now.

Q: Is it hard to adjust to the season after you get right back into it?

A: First day back, you are always sore. After awhile, your body gets used to the altitude.

Q: Do you want to snowboard in other countries?

A: I really want to snowboard in Switzerland, and other places in Europe. Chile too.

Q: What’s next as far as competition?

A: Bigger rails, getting to improve my flip style. A lot of technical stuff. I have to compete in more Chevy’s, then Grand Prix, then US Open, then X Games. It’s like a series of ladders.

Nirvana’s next event is the Chevrolet U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix in March in the slopestyle category. For more information visit Her sponsors include Forum, Special Blend, Oakley, Nirvananda beanies, and Utility Board Shop in Del Mar, where she works. To help support Nirvana, buy a beanie from her at or