"Irie stepped up to this feature, poked one out and hyped the crew.”


Irie Jefferson

PERFECTLY STRANGE: At Home with Irie Jefferson

Living near the top of the Blue Mountains, the largest range in Jamaica, Irie Jefferson likens his childhood to that of Mowgli’s in The Jungle Book. Damming rivers to hunt for crayfish (or janga as they’re known in Jamaica), cliff jumping and thieving pineapples from local farms were all part of young Irie’s life. From Jamaica he moved to Chicago, then onto Samoa, a small Polynesian island in the South Pacific. Next was Armenia, a country in eastern Europe where Irie lived for a few years before eventually coming back to the States. His early trajectory is rather uncommon for any snowboarder, let alone one who rides at Irie’s level. Having recently joined The North Face’s Athlete Development Program, the 25-year-old’s successful jump from the Caribbean to wintry locales is sort of like the snowboarding version of Cool Runnings, but perhaps even cooler.

To clarify: there is no snow in Jamaica, not even at the tippy top of 7,402-foot Blue Mountain Peak. “It does get permafrost, occasionally,” Irie says. Growing up, he was one of only 15 kids in his village who climbed to the highest point in the country. Apparently, most locals have little interest in hiking up there, but something drew Irie to the top. His village, Hagley Gap, is next to Blue Mountain Peak, roughly 10 miles north of Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston. Hagley Gap is where Irie’s mom, Denise, founded and directed The Blue Mountain Project, a grassroots non-profit organization that serves rural communities in the Blue Mountains. “It started with providing healthcare and education then sprawled into all types of stuff,” Irie says, proudly describing his mom’s positive influence in the area. “She works with the Jamaica Aids Foundation, helping with testing, and with business development inside the village. Now we have two different computer labs there for people to use for free. It services the 3,000 people living in that region that can’t always make it to Kingston, or Morant Bay on the other side of the mountain, because it’s difficult and expensive for them to get there. It’s come a long way and is still developing now.”…

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