We believe that the "meister" suffix should be used sparingly-and perhaps not at all after college. But behold John "The Shovelmeister" Strader. At six-three, 260 pounds, the 36-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, is arguably the biggest and best participant in the (fringe) sport of shovel racing. The pastime became a "sport" 29 years ago, when lifties at Angel Fire, New Mexico, discovered the following equation: scoop shovel + gravity = one bitchin' ride down the mountain. (No gates here, just a high-speed showdown.) Since then, shovel racing, and its tubby superstar, have been featured on ESPN's X Games and was a hit-albeit unofficial-freak show during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games (there are now Formula One-like modified and supermodified categories). We caught up with The Shovelmeister to learn about his proclivity for ass-burning speed and his dreams of getting his sport into the Olympics.
Skiing: Uh, shovel racing?
Shovelmeister: Yeah, it slides pretty damn well. Plus, the shovel is such an important tool in society.
Skiing: Yes, but 72 miles per hour, with a shovel handle between your legs? Sounds like a recipe...
Shovelmeister: Getting racked in the balls is rare. If you're doing it right, you're holding the handle parallel to the ground so it's not right up against your boys.
Skiing: The Stealth Warrior, Thor's Hammer, the Viper. Those are some of the supermodified machines you've raced. What's the key to winning that category?
Shovelmeister: Teflon, silicone, car wax, rubbing Spam on the bottom. There are lots of theories. Some guys spend as much as $8,000 fixing up one sled.
Skiing: You had a big accident in the Viper at the X Games, right?
Shovelmeister: Yeah, that one almost killed me. I broke my back in three places. Our team won the gold, but we came home in body bags.
Skiing: You're a pretty big guy. What do you wear to protect yourself?
Shovelmeister: I used to wear jogging tights, but once I was doing 60 miles per hour, and I fell off the shovel and burned a big hole in them. My whole ass was road rash. I've moved on to a downhill racing suit. It highlights the big speed hump around my midsection, but it produces the right downdraft for speed.
Skiing: You got the chance to try out a shovel on the bobsled course up at Salt Lake City. What was that like?
Shovelmeister: Pure heaven...on a shovel.
Skiing: What do you see for the future of shovel racing?
Shovelmeister: I know we can break 100 miles per hour. That's what I'm focused on. And the Olympics. But they haven't been returning my calls.