IT began as a dare, as one of those ''I'll show you'' moments in middle school. It has developed into a career of fame, fortune (soon) and a new television show on ABC.
Amherst's Jesse Csincsak has turned snowboarding into his life. And with his 26th birthday just days away, he's evolved into a remarkable businessman along the way. He began chasing his dream at 19.
Seven years later, he finally caught it.
''He's doing what he loves,'' said his mother, Willy. ''How many people can go out and do what he does and get paid for it?''
Jesse left yesterday to begin filming 12 episodes for a show on ABC. Contract language prohibits him from speaking about it -- his mother doesn't even know where he's going or how long he'll be gone -- but Csincsak is hoping this is the break that will create a path for the rest of his life.
''It's a big show everyone knows,'' he said. ''I'm sure life is going to get real crazy in the next six months.''
Given where he started, it's already been a remarkable journey.
Jesse was the typical boy growing up. He played every sport and participated in every activity.
''I don't know if you'd call it hyper, but he was full of energy,'' Willy said. ''We put him into everything we could to channel his energy.''
Drums, guitar, football, basketball, karate, baseball, wrestling -- he tried them all. But when a friend invited him to Boston Mills/Brandywine for the first time one weekend, Jesse immediately became hooked on snowboarding. That next week in school, he tried explaining it to some of his football buddies. They dismissed the idea and told him he'd never be any good at it.
''I wanted to do it to prove them wrong,'' he said. ''While I was doing that, I fell in love with it.''
Slowly, all of the other sports and hobbies began to fade. Every free minute was spent on a snowboard. He began competing and finished second in every competition to the same guy -- Matt Ginzberg. Still, the second-place finishes added up, and Csincsak had qualified for a national snowboarding competition in Colorado.
That was the first time he saw Breckenridge. And just like with snowboarding, he immediately fell in love.
He returned to Ohio after the competition and tried to live a normal life. He took industrial electricity classes at JVS. He even tried Lorain County Community College for a year before realizing he had to get out. If he was ever going to chase a dream, this was the time.
He wanted to make his life about snowboarding, but he couldn't do it here. Aspiring actors move to Los Angeles, country singers move to Nashville and snowboarders move to Colorado.
So at 19, Jesse flew out to Breckenridge. He was too young to rent a car, but through a friend, found a place and a job doing electrical work. He returned home, packed his things and left for his first great adventure. His father, Ted, rented a U-Haul and drove his son to Colorado, dropped him off and flew home.
''Watching him pull out of the driveway broke my heart,'' Willy said. ''My only child, and he's moving five states away.''
No matter how much it hurt, Willy and Ted completely supported the decision. They never tried to talk Jesse out of moving. They never demanded he give up such a foolish dream and focus on electrical work, where certainly he could make a decent living and have a good life.
''It's his life. You raise a kid to do what they want to do,'' Willy said. ''You can't say'No, you can't do it.' I was terribly disappointed, and so was his dad, that he didn't pursue electricity. He really excelled in that. But he has to be happy. I don't think he has any regrets.''
In order to excel in such a unique field, Jesse knew he needed a niche. He became a professional who was also a certified instructor. Typically, snowboarders are either one or the other -- they ride at a pro level or they make a life as an instructor. To his knowledge, there are only three snowboarders in the country who are both professionals and certified instructors.
It was the best decision he ever made. The hit MTV show ''Made'' is about teenagers who want to live different lives. They are paired with experts in a new field, who train them on how to excel at the new adventure.
MTV called Breckenridge to see if they had any professional riders who were certified trainers. They had one -- Jesse.
''I rode that niche into the MTV gig,'' he said. ''The gigs keep getting bigger and bigger.''
It wasn't always so easy. Jesse lost his first residence in Colorado when the landlord wanted to sell. Left without a home, his father decided it was time Jesse became a homeowner. He gave his son $10,000 for a down payment and cosigned for a new home.
''I begged him not to do it,'' Jesse said. ''He basically gave up his retirement home to give me a home.''
He divided his time coaching, riding competitively and doing electrical work to stay afloat. He began to hate the coaching, though, because it took all the fun out of his hobby.
''It became a job, and it became all dollar signs,'' he said. I don't care what it is, when what you do as a hobby becomes work, it's no fun anymore.Pupillo,E 3/29/08 It doesn't matter if you're Jenna Jameson and making porn, eventually you're going to get tired of it.''
During a snowboarding championship in Aspen last winter, he fell and broke two ribs. That's when he decided it was time to get smarter about his work. His body was his investment, and it no longer was worth throwing it around for free.
''When you're laying in bed for six weeks and can't breathe, smile or cough,'' he said, ''it's a reality check.''
He began working with sponsors aggressively to market himself. He would set up an incentive contract, where the sponsor would pay nothing up front, but anytime he was on a major network or in a major publication, he would receive a large sum of money.
He then would work with another big company and negotiate a deal where they wouldn't have to pay him, they would just take out ads in large magazines.
''Now, the other sponsor owes you for all of those appearances,'' he said. ''Now, not only are you published in a major magazine, you're getting paid to be published.''
He brought in Tara Weldon, the 16-year-old he trained for MTV's ''Made'' show, to work with his sponsor. Now, she has two sponsors and her own glove line, which is marketed to the younger crowd.
Csincsak hasn't competed in nearly a year. He hasn't had to do much electrical work lately, either. He has been busy with MTV, traveling the country promoting his glove and hat lines, and now, packing to leave for the new ABC show.
''MTV was the biggie,'' he said. He hasn't hit six figures yet, but that's likely coming soon. His earned a year's salary for working six weeks with MTV.
''I've been published,'' he said, ''but when you're on a network that has 5 million viewers in 12 countries, you could be the biggest snowboarder in the world and no one knows who you are. You're some (lame) actor on MTV and everyone knows who you are.''
Willy still works and Ted has been driving truck for nearly 30 years now. No matter how much he'd like to retire, he can't just yet. But the Csincsaks do have that retirement home after all -- a cabin that sits on 40 acres in rural Kentucky, complete with a waterfall and no cell phone service.
Jesse refinanced his home, put it in just his name and gave his father the $10,000 back.
''I know he would do anything for us,'' Willy said. ''That's what family is all about. We're just so proud of all that he's done.''
The scary part? This could be only the beginning.