Mountain GOAT: Shaun Palmer, Snowboarding’s First Prodigy and One-Foot Pioneer

Shaun Palmer, the OG of letting the hoof breathe. p: Jon Foster
Shaun Palmer, the OG of letting the hoof breathe. p: Jon Foster

Originally published in the 30th Anniversary Issue of SNOWBOARDER Magazine, Mountain GOATS celebrates the most influential snowboarders of the last thirty years (1987-2017), otherwise known as the Greatest Of All Time list. With over 70 men and women riding into the ranks of the Mountain GOATS, check back as we release their bios and celebrated accolades over the course of the next few weeks!


Mountain Goat: Shaun Palmer

In the early 80s, the "Pizzalm" became our sport's first prodigy and "Mini Shred" was soon tapped to join Lake Tahoe's Avalanche team before Tom Sims swooped him. Palmer's patented attitude was already on display by 1987 when Shaun rode straight down the middle of the World Championship halfpipe with a middle finger extended from each hand in protest of the venue not being up to his standards. Nearly three decades later, Kazuhiro Kokubo would mimic these gestures at the X Games but now you know who did it first. Undoubtedly, Palmer had a big mouth, but at every turn he backed up his bluster by besting the field, proving he was always the baddest of the bunch. While Shaun's pair of Legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom victories would be a harbinger of the fast times to come, freestyle was always his forté. In a classic showdown of technical trickery versus amplitude and style, Shaun emerged from the 1990 Swatch World Halfpipe Championship arena as the victor over the most dominant contest rider of the era, Craig Kelly.



Although big air was always his bag, Palmer also pioneered one-foot tricks by bringing bonelesses, judos and fastplants to snowboarding, even dropping into the 1993 US Open finals with his back foot unstrapped! Derived from a Greg Stump skit, boardercross made its debut in the early 90s. Palmer's open-throttle, high-octane approach was ideal for racing five wide. After ESPN and the X Games saw the potential of this in-your-face event and its protagonist, snowboarding's first mainstream star was unleashed. Shaun's 6 X Games medals is extraordinary, but it's his bravado and showmanship that made these wins so memorable. For example, in one post race interview on national TV, Palmer quipped, "Ya know, I might have to quit 'cause it's just too damn easy for me." This from the man who, in 1998, USA Today declared in a cover story was the world's greatest athlete.



Next came Shaun Palmer Pro Snowboarder for the Playstation 2 and a side career as a downhill mountain biker (in which, at one point, Palm was the highest-paid professional mountain biker on the planet), which was so impactful that Shaun probably appears on a Greatest Of All Time tally in that sport as well.



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