When 21-year-old Joel Howley flew to the United States from his hometown, located outside Brisbane, Australia, last May, he didn’t have much of a plan. In fact, it was only three days before the trip — his first out of Australia — when he heard from April Coble-Eller that he could help out at her ski school, in Lillington, North Carolina, in exchange for ski sets. With a place to train secured, his only goal was to ski and see how much he could progress. “Prior to the trip, my PB was 1 at 39, and I had only skied in three or four record events,” Howley says. He quickly realized how much a surveyed course and expert driving could help his skiing, and within a month he was running 391⁄2 in practice, and he began eyeing Nick Adams’ Australian slalom record of 2 at 41 of.
“I only had $5,000 to cover my airfare and all of my expenses, so I only planned on staying for a month,” he says. He extended his trip when his dad told him to go for it. By late June he had increased his buoy count to 4 at 391⁄2 of, and competed in the Malibu Open in August with a 19th-place finish. Not exactly record-breaking results, but this is a skier who says things like, “When I compete, I’d rather go to the hospital than not get to the next buoy.” You know he isn’t easily deterred. Howley’s big payof came in October at the Gary Pressley Memorial record event, held at Trophy Lakes in Charleston, South Carolina, where he ran 21⁄2 at 41 of to break Adams’ record. The celebration was brief, however, because two weeks later Adams fought back with a score of 4 at 41 of while competing in a record event at Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach, Florida. “Although I only held the record for a short time, I’ll never forget my summer of skiing in the States,” Howley says. “I’ll be chasing the record again this year.”