Native American Sledder Punk Coby Shares His Love of Riding
I was recently asked to interview a friend of mine out of Idaho, by the name of Punk Coby. A somewhat quiet guy—but full of talent and positive attitude—Punk was on all of the Alpine Assassin film trips, always there to lend a hand, have some fun and get a little rowdy!
I first met Punk when Randy Sugihara brought him out to the Sierra for a riding trip. It turns out that Punk grew up with Randy, and the stories they have are great! Punk was the first Native American I had ever seen on a sled, which I thought was awesome. His commitment to the sport of mountain snowmobiling is right up there with the most addicted…like me. 🙂
For the first couple days of that trip Punk was pretty reserved. Later, I found out that he had only gone riding like three times before jumping in the truck and heading west to ride with a bunch of experienced riders. Needless to say, Punk picked up the sport really quickly and was hanging with us all over the place. In fact he made the trip even better, and from that first day on we have been great friends.
Punk is a sledder first, and a true native to the land we all get to ride. In my eyes he is an amazing dude—not only stoked on sledding, but also stoked on passing it down to the next generation and spreading the awesomeness of the mountain snowmobiling culture. So here’s some words that I thought people might like to hear from Punk!
Interview with Punk Coby
What’s your name and what do people call you?
Alonzo A. “Punkin” Coby, but my friends call me Punk.
Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Fort Hall, Idaho (Fort Hall Indian Reservation). I’ve been living there my whole life, although I left for a few years to attend college at Utah State University in Logan, Utah.
What Native American Tribe are you from?
I’m a proud member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
In college you rode bulls for the Utah State Rodeo Team! And also you were a jockey for Indian Relay, in which you won the National Championship six times, on four different teams! What can you tell me about your rodeo days?
Growing up on the reservation, my friends and I did a lot of things from playing football to basketball and baseball. Then one day my cousin asked me to go to a Little Britches Rodeo. I didn’t know that he had entered me in the rodeo. That’s when my rodeo days started.
Eventually, I rode bulls in high school, then started travelling with my friends Dustin and Jimmy Young to the IMPRA Rodeos, and friend Aaron Broncho to some of the Indian Rodeos.
After graduating from high school, I went to Utah State and was able to ride for the college team.
– Punk“Riding bulls was a personal challenge for me. I loved the adrenaline rush and the competitiveness.”
Indian Relay is really important to me; my dad and grandpa were both jockeys. So I decided one day that I would try it and I was hooked. Again, it was the competitiveness within myself and the adrenaline rush that kept me doing it. After being a jockey for 25-plus years, it was more about doing it for my family, my tribe and representing my tribe in a honourable way.
If you haven’t seen Indian Relay I would encourage you to watch it. I remember taking some good friends of mine, Steve Martin and Randy Sugihara, to it for first time—and they were shocked. They said it was better than the Kentucky Derby, and a lot more fun to watch.
Riding bulls and being a jockey for Indian Relay was very rewarding—a blessing, and I would do it all over again.
When did you get into sledding, and how did that happen?
I went sledding here at home for the first time with some friends and ended up totaling a sled. I went off a cliff by accident.
But I really didn’t get into sledding until a good friend of mine, Randy Sugihara, asked me to go to Tahoe to ride. He told me that we were going to go ride with some guys he had met earlier in the year. So we went to Tahoe and rode with Duncan Lee, Grant Korgan, Ken Evans and Ryon Oddo.
From that day on, I was hooked. I was actually intimidated at first—these guys were on a totally different level, so I knew I had to ride a heck of a lot better if I wanted to keep up with them. After spending four days riding in Tahoe with them, I knew that this is what I wanted to do.
What is it about sledding that gets you fired up?
Riding is addicting. I remember when I rode bulls when I was younger, I always wanted the weekend to come so I could get on the road to ride bulls. Today, when it comes to sledding, I think about it, dream about it and want to be on the mountain every day.
I just love being in the backcountry with my boys Billyzane and Azeri, and watching them progress in the sport of sledding. Each winter I challenge myself to go bigger, but know my limits.
I also really look forward to riding with fellow Alpine Assassins riders. When we do get the chance to ride together it is such a great time. Riders like Randy Sugihara, Steve Martin and Duncan Lee really inspire me to be a better rider. I think we build off each other, and the level of riding goes to the next level. It’s always fun to watch one of the guys go big, climb a chute or do an awesome line in the trees. It makes each one of us try to step it up and do something crazy.
It doesn’t seem like there are that many Native American sledders. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know of many Native American riders. I believe it really wasn’t in our culture to sled. Growing up on the Reservation it was, and still is, basketball and football.
I remember last winter we were riding in Utah, and during a break from riding a few guys came over and asked where we were from, and said they noticed us hitting some jumps, etc. In their own words, it was awesome to watch us ride. One guy said, “I didn’t know Indians rode sleds,” which I thought was funny.
But I have noticed more Tribal Members riding since I first got involved in sledding. After the first Alpine Assassins movie was released, and a few Tribal Members seeing it, I would get asked questions about riding, and how long I’ve been riding, etc. And I do remember two fellow Tribal Members that rode years ago and competed in the Rocky Mountain Cross Country races though—Kelly Trahant and Tony Hernandez.
One day I hope to see a lot more Native American riders. I believe the snowmobile industry is missing out on promoting and getting more Native Americans involved in this awesome sport.
I feel fortunate to have support from good sponsors like SS Autobrokers and ADtriples Motorsports that help us out on gear and sleds.
It is so awesome that you get to ride with your two kids and some close friends from Idaho. Is that your regular riding crew?
Yes, I usually ride with my two boys, Billyzane and Azeri. I will tell you one thing; they sure are darn good riders. My boys and I spend a lot of time on the road with my bro, Tyce, and nephew Blazer each winter, traveling from Idaho to Utah, Wyoming and Montana. And we try to ride with Randy, Kobe and Cooper when we get the chance.
What do you guys have on tap for the rest of this season?
It’s been a fun year thus far, and we are looking forward to riding for the rest of the season. We plan on putting a lot more miles on the sleds and truck, getting out in the backcountry and meeting new people who love the sport like we do.
I know my boys have personal goals that they want to reach. I tell my boys just to have fun in whatever you do in the backcountry; do it with a smile and you will remember it for the rest of your life.
How do you guys prepare to be out in the backcountry, as in, avalanche training and backcountry safety?
We always look forward to attending avalanche and backcountry training. Heck, we tried to get into your class, but it fills up fast! 🙂
After witnessing some close friends getting hurt in the backcountry, we take the backcountry seriously. My son Azeri is always making sure we do our beacon checks before we start the day of riding. We always make sure we have the proper gear and we are always looking at the avalanche forecast in areas in which we are going to ride. We don’t ride with people who don’t have the gear and/or proper training.
Another thing I try to do is exercise before and during the riding season. My boys and I do a lot of mountain biking during the summer months, and found that sport to be a lot of fun.
One of the best things about this sport is the people who are doing it. Punk, you have to be one of the most passionate sledders out there, and your stoke to spread it to your kids is so awesome. What would you say to someone who is just getting into this sport, to set them up for success?
The first thing I would say is to surround yourself with people who are passionate about the sport, and get the proper gear and training. I’ve been blessed to have boys like Billyzane and Azeri who share the passion of sledding with me.
I would also say to have fun, do it with a smile, create a lot of good memories and go at it 110 percent.
My goal in the future is to see a lot more Native Americans get involved in snowmobiling. I would really like to start reaching out to the Native American Communities (Tribes) and share the passion that I have for this sport. I’ve been blessed to have such good friends in the snowmobile industry.