Born in Alert Bay, BC, Spencer O'Brien grew up as a member of the Haida Kwakwakw’wakw First Nation and learned from her mother that creativity and strength should guide her life.
“My mom Dixie is First Nations and is the oldest of six. She’s a strong, creative and outspoken woman. Her strength, hard work ethic and strong sense of self has always inspired me to be myself, to follow my heart, and not to care what others think of me," said Spencer.
She's been following her heart ever since.
From the moment she first learned to snowboard at the age of 11 – turning pro just 5 years later – she's channelled this spirit to become one of the most progressive snowboarders in the world and the winner of five X Games medals.
After battling pain, stiffness and swollen joints kept her off snow for seven months in 2013, Spencer was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis just months before Sochi 2014.
"I started to get joint injuries where my joint capsules would swell up and cause a ton of irritation," O'Brien recalled. "I wouldn't be able to lift my arms above my head."
After the diagnosis, and with her symptoms under control, she resumed training and completed a lifelong dream, winning the slopestyle event at X Games Aspen in 2016.
Now a 13-year veteran of the Canadian National Team, she's taken her leadership responsibilities to heart – and into communities throughout British Columbia where sport can work for social change.
She's a founding Ambassador for the N7 Fund to support aboriginal youth sport in Canada, works directly with the First Nations Snowboard Team out of North Vancouver by donating product for young athletes, and volunteers to do speaking engagements at schools because she strongly believes in being a good role model for youth.
She's also an active part of the Women’s Sports Foundation and has done volunteer work with ACE (Alliance for Climate Education) to help educate young people on the importance of protecting the environment.
All of this while leading the progression of women's snowboarding and pursuing the Olympic podium in PyeongChang 2018.
One thing is certain about Spencer O'Brien:
If her heart is in it, she will find a way.