Kat Monk

Go, go Indigo

The team the United States will send to the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, which begin next week, is dominated -- logically enough -- by teenagers from locales like Utah, Colorado and Minnesota. Places where it's cold or there are big mountains or that are hockey hotbeds.

Of the 57-member U.S. team, there's one name -- just one -- on the roster from California and, at that, not from a mountain village but Manhattan Beach, the epitome of the surf-style lifestyle in L.A.

Meet Indigo Monk.

Indigo is such a good surfer that she had to decide whether to stay in public school and be on the surf team -- really, they have a surf team at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach -- or pursue her 2014 Olympic dream and surf, as it were, on snow.

Indigo competes in -- what else -- snowboarding.

Slopestyle, to be precise -- the Olympic world's newly approved variant of boarding in which riders do tricks and rip through rails and bumps and other features rather than executing jumps and spins in the halfpipe. She finds it more creative.

Understand that Indigo comes from a hugely creative family.

Her mom, Kat, is an accomplished photographer widely recognized for her work especially in the beach cities -- Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo -- and, truth be told, well beyond. Kat works with her husband, Drew Heidreich, a digital designer.

Indigo will turn 17 on Thursday. When she was born, she was named Indigo because, well, Kat liked the Indigo Girls' music. To be clear: Indigo is not named for the Indigo Girls themselves. Simply, Kat was inspired by the band's music.

Indigo's middle name is Anaïs. Like Nin.

Indigo gets asked about her first name a lot: "A lot of people ask me if [Indigo] is on my birth certificate. I say, 'Of course it is.' "

She also said, "I love my first name. I wouldn't change it for anything."

Indigo has an older brother, Julian, who's now 19 and a college freshman in San Diego. She started snowboarding when she was just 2, up at Big Bear in the San Bernardino mountains, about two hours east of L.A., trying to keep up with her big brother. By 3, Kat said of her daughter, "She was fully riding."

This is -- and always has -- been the secret to Indigo's mojo: "I was fearless."

At 6, Indigo won an 8-and-under boarder-cross race. Kat said, "We were like, 'Oh, wow, now what do we do?' "

The folks at Roxy, the sportswear company, promptly offered to sponsor Indigo, which they did until she was 13, Kat said.

At 9, Indigo could hit the 40-foot jumps at Mammoth Mountain, up in the Sierras. Kat said that's when she thought her daughter was really talented.

At 10, Indigo won the age-group slopestyle nationals. That, Indigo said, was when she herself thought she might be pretty good.

"That was when my head was the biggest," she said, quickly adding, "Snowboarding has always been a love-hate deal of mine. It makes you feel like a million dollars. And then it kicks your butt."

Or -- in Indigo's case: Her pelvis. Her knee. Her neck. Her left ankle, which is her front foot when she rides. All of these have been broken or otherwise hurt.

She also, she said, has had her "fair share of concussions," adding, "These things humble you, they tell you you're not invincible."

Indigo trains now up in Colorado from December to April. She made the Youth Games team with her performance in contests at the end of last season. "It was crazy that I qualified," she said. "I didn't know anything about it."

She added, "It all still surreal to me. I don't know how to explain it. It's a really big deal to represent America. For snowboarding, it's a great honor. It's overwhelming. To be honest, all the Youth Olympic stuff that we're getting, how important everything is, how official it is … I'm really excited more than anything."

So is Kat, who is going to Austria, too. Expect lots of pictures. Really good pictures.