Austin Smith's Crusade to Get Action Sport Athletes Insured

February 20, 2024

We initially connected with pro snowboarder and Season Eqpt co-founder Austin Smith over something he’s pretty passionate about—finding a way to get action sport athletes injury insurance coverage through their brand partners. This being the topic of many of our conversations with Austin throughout the last year, we were beyond excited to support his recent expedition to Antarctica and work with our partner Blister+ to provide him with injury insurance coverage for exploring the frozen wilderness. We still have a long way to go in this space, but we’re excited to work with folks like Austin who share our passion for protecting people in their pursuit of adventure—whatever adventure means to them.

Words: Austin Smith / Photography: Alex Pashley

If you are looking for information or inspiration to visit Antarctica, Endurance and The White Darkness were the books that motivated me to plan our trip. As I finished the last few pages of The White Darkness, I was in tears and said to myself “I have to see this place.” Books can be life-changing and much more impactful than this blog post or any viral internet video. Books paint pictures of landscapes, adventures, triumphs and failures, but it’s impossible for words to do it all. You’ve just gotta see it to believe it.

So rather than raving about penguins on icebergs or the rocky peaks jutting out of the ocean, let’s dive into how Spot fits into this or how I fit into Spot. I’ve been a pro snowboarder for roughly 20 years and the only bummer has been the injuries. Bumps, bruises, sprains, tweaks, broken bones, five knee surgeries and, most concerning, is the number of concussions. Our job as athletes is to do stunts and brands leverage the tricks to sell products—the crazier the stunt the more products are sold, in theory. In recent years the increased use of GoFundMe has highlighted how many athletes are uninsured and how challenged our healthcare system is as a whole. This prompted a question: “Could brands provide athletes with insurance?”

In 2012 I tore my ACL for the third time in three years. I wasn’t sure if I could miss another winter, mentally, and wasn’t sure if sponsors would keep me on the roster. At 21, I felt old and needed to prove my worth to sponsors. I planned to keep my injury unknown, work out to strengthen the muscles around the ACL and get surgery at a later date. The risk is you are more susceptible to damaging other ligaments, cartilage and bones if you crash without an ACL. In my mind, it was worth the risk. A few days later my team manager called and said he heard that I’d torn my ACL again. I told him my plans, but he said I’d be dropped from the team unless I got surgery. I got the surgery and this instance represents a rare circumstance where a brand was looking out for an athlete’s long-term well-being.

Back to the question I’d become more intrigued with: “Could brands provide athletes with insurance?” It’d be a commitment to athletes’ well-being and ideally lead to fewer GoFundMe’s. In the past, this idea has come up but always hit red tape and roadblocks with liability concerns. Then came along Spot Insurance, a seemingly unicorn of insurance companies tailored specifically toward action sport enthusiasts. Now I am on a crusade with a bushy-tailed level of enthusiasm to see the first brand provide its athlete team with insurance via Spot. It’d be a national brand PR sensation and create a snowball effect of brands opting in and, soon enough, the entire professional action sports community would have some level of insurance just like other sports organizations. And fingers crossed this would lead to fewer GoFundMe’s for my friends and yours.

And yes, Spot Insurance can work everywhere, even in Antarctica.

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