Seacoast Snowboarder Callen Hwang Soars to New Heights
On the surface, Callen Hwang is like a lot of other New Hampshire teens with her mind focused on friends, school, braces and her family. But that is where the similarities end for this 13-year-old Rye resident.
Instead of attending Rye Junior High School this winter, Callen is taking an intense training program for snowboarders and skiers at Killington Mountain School in Vermont. Her days are split between making runs down the mountain in the morning and academics in the afternoon.
Her goal is to compete in more United States of America Snowboard and Freestyle Association (USASA) tournaments across the country as she hones her skills. She competed in her first USASA event at Waterville Valley when she was eight and won her first bronze medal at age 9. More recently, Callen captured another bronze medal at the USASA National Championships at Copper Mountain in Colorado in 2021. She won third place in “slopestyle” and finished fourth in “rail jam” where Callen was the youngest female athlete in the field.
“I was super stoked, super happy,” reflected Callen in December between her daily training and her studies.
Callen also believes her success will inspire other Asian girls to take up winter sports like she did when she was just 2 or 3 years old. Whenever she competes at USASA events and sees more girls who are either older or younger and Asian like her, it makes her feel great.
Her father, Frank Hwang, accompanies Callen when she travels out west and competes in states like Colorado and Oregon. Callen is Amerasian, half Korean and half Caucasian, but 100 percent New Englander. It is not lost on her dad how important it is for his daughter and his son, Ryder, 11, who also skies, to identify with other Asian-American winter sports athletes.
“One of the biggest insights that I can share from the last Winter Olympics is that both Callen and her brother made me realize that diversity encompasses so much. We were watching amazing athletes of all colors, and they said, ‘they look like me.’
“To me that was Americans or Koreans. What I didn’t realize until later was they specifically meant half-Asian athletes like Hailey Langland or Eileen Gu,” says Frank.
“It was super cool to see Hailey (Langland) there. She’s like me, yet she has such good style on her snowboard,” Callen says.
Callen was invited to the inaugural Soy Sauce Nation’als in Mount Hood, Oregon, which is a celebration of Asian snowboarders. It brought together over 100 Asian snowboarders and half-Asian snowboarders from pro athletes to those who work in snowboarding or up and comers like Callen.
“It was a great experience to see people who looked like me and were super nice,” says Callen. “I enjoy the community of it and the progression. I enjoy the aspect of sports, exercise and advancement.”
For Callen, her journey to become a national teen snowboarder began when she was just a toddler, Frank recalls. “She didn’t want to ski,” he says, “but was attracted to the snowboard right away.” She started her snowboard training at Gunstock Mountain in Gilford and Loon Mountain.
Callen said that when her parents introduced her to snowboarding, “I got addicted to it.”
From the moment she experienced snowboarding for the first time, Callen’s love for the sport snowballed.
Frank said his daughter began competing in USASA events when she was six. By age 9, Callen won her first bronze medal in slopestyle.
Just recently, Callen competed in a USASA event held at Loon Mountain in Lincoln. She was the only snowboarder in her age group, and she actually helped a 7-year-old who was doing her first competition — Callen could reach the youngster on the slope where coaches are not permitted to go.
Callen has not set her sights on the Winter Olympics just yet. For now, she is content to compete in national USASA events and gain more experience and ability. Whenever she has a good run, whether it is in the morning at the Killington Mountain School or during a competition, Callen says “it’s an adrenalin rush” she always enjoys.
“We’re all incredibly proud and excited. What has been so impressive is this is really Callen’s show. We’re lucky to help as parents and support and advise. The best part is the adventure and experiences that come from it and the places we get to travel and experience,” says Frank.
He and Callen’s mom, Megan, are impressed that she remains strong in her academics with straight A’s. “I have been there in a hotel and she is on Google Classroom taking a course after a day of working out and snowboarding,” says Frank. “One day, if she really wants to focus on other activities, we’re here to support that.”
Frank works in marketing in Boston for a real estate company called Senné. What originally brought the family to New Hampshire was a return to New England, to the mountains and the seacoast. He worked at Timberland in Stratham before Callen was born.
“We’re just along for the ride,” says Frank when he reflects on his daughter’s successes and her drive to be an accomplished snowboarder. But what a ride it has been.
This article is featured in the spring 2023 issue of 603 Diversity.
603 Diversity’s mission is to educate readers of all backgrounds about the exciting accomplishments and cultural contributions of the state’s diverse communities, as well as the challenges faced and support needed by those communities to continue to grow and thrive in the Granite State.
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