My deafness didn't stop me becoming a competitive snowboarder
At the age of four, Spencer Faithfull, who was born profoundly deaf and has cochlear implants, knew he wanted to snowboard.
Little did he know, though, that at 23 he would be a competitive snowboarder, with the Deaflympics in his sights.
“It’s always been my dream to become a snowboarder, but we couldn’t afford it when I was younger,” says Spencer. “So when I got my first job, I started hitting my local indoor slopes every two weeks.”
Spencer has now snowboarded in France, Austria, Italy, Holland and the Czech Republic. And despite the challenges, Spencer’s dedication to snowboarding, and his sponsorship with Rebel Square, even qualified him for the 2019 Winter Deaflympics in Italy.
However, he has faced accessibility challenges along the way. “It’s a catch-22 choosing between wearing my cochlear implants and being able to hear on the slopes, or being safe and wearing a helmet comfortably without it messing with my implants!”
Communication on the slopes and in the winter sports community can be a challenge. “The two hardest aspects of communicating when snowboarding are talking and listening to other skiers and snowboarders without my cochlear implants; I have to rely on lip-reading,” Spencer explains. “And communicating with my sponsors and the Great Britain Deaf team on the phone. I find it hard to catch every word.
“I competed in the 2019 English Indoor Slopestyle Championships in Manchester, against all ages and levels of snowboarders, placing ninth out of 23 snowboarders,” Spencer recalls. “But taking part is the most important thing; even losing is great experience!”
With the next Winter Deaflympics taking place in Canada in January 2023, Spencer isn’t sure he’ll make it, but he’ll continue to train hard at his local indoor slopes. “The National Deaf Children’s Society has helped me pay for my snowboard slope passes to keep my skills going and expand my learning.”