In the fifth grade, at age 9, a simple invitation from two friends changed the life of Craig Heath forever.
“Come with us after school,” they urged, inviting Heath to a join them in their weekly ritual of ice skating. The three kids took a taxi from school to the rink and for the first time, Heath laced up ice skates and inched carefully across the cool, glass-like rink.
“I was instantly hooked!” Heath exclaimed, “I couldn’t get enough so I was soon skating every day and spending as much time as possible at the rink.
“I loved everything about it, including the social aspects.”
Raised in Marin County, California, Heath was like many other kids, trying his hand at a lot of different hobbies. Some included playing piano and guitar, roller skating, and acting.
“I was always trying to start up businesses in school,” he remembered. “I always worked hard at whatever I did.”
But while all these activities were enjoyable, it was ice skating that stole his heart, soul, body, and mind. All similarities to a typical kid stopped when Heath took the ice.
Devoting himself to hours of practice, Heath continued developing his skating skills until he was a well-known young skater – known especially for his performance enthusiasm as well as his phenomenal spinning technique.
“When I was about 12, a skating teacher at my rink encouraged me to spin more every day,” Heath said.
“She taught me some unusual spins that other people could not do. I really trusted her so I started really working on spins more than anyone else around me.”
“I started to improve dramatically and it became a highlight of my performances in competition,” he added, “I started to get known for my spins and that, in turn, made me practice even more.”
Heath had found his niche.
“My parents were, and still are, very supportive of my skating,” Heath said. “I was very fortunate to have parents who could afford to have a skater in the family.”
At age 17 Heath moved to Los Angeles to train with the famous skating coach, Frank Carroll. Nineteen years later Heath is a professional performer, choreographer, and coach, traveling around the world to share his skating talent.
Two of his most memorable skating moments as a professional were winning the Bronze Medal at the World Professional Championships in Jaca Spain and winning the Nutrasweet, “Giving it 100% Award.”
“I did not expect that honor (winning the Bronze) and will remember it always,” Heath said. “For a professional skater, it was an incredible award. It gave me the confidence to pursue pro skating at a higher level.”
Heath’s favorite aspect of his profession is definitely performing.
“I like teaching and doing choreography, as well,” he said, “but performing is where my heart is.
“I love being creative to music. It is like dancing but with the added element of speed. I love spinning and jumping.
“ I really can’t get enough of performing,” he continued, “When the spotlight comes on, I just turn on like a light bulb. My personality brightens up when I am on the ice.
“I feel so “at home” at the rink and on stage,” he concluded. “It might was well be my living room.”
With such energy on the ice, Heath’s personality off the ice might surprise those who meet him for the first time. He’s somewhat reserved until he gets to know you. But give him just a little bit of time….and his passion for life will break through loud and clear.
“As a kid, I was very shy – but once I was comfortable with people, that changed and I became very outgoing,” he explained. “I am still the same way today.”
A highly-motivated, type “A” personality, Heath feels most accomplished when he’s getting things done.
“I’m an avid multi-tasker,” Heath said, “I’m not one to relax very often.”
These days, you can find Heath performing everywhere from Caribbean cruise ships to Germany.
“I travel all over the world just about all year long,” Heath said. “I do not spend much time in one place. Some of my favorite places that I have performed would have to be Australia, Japan, the Caribbean (on a cruise ship), Singapore, Malaysia, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and France.”
One of Heath’s more humorous performances was in Moscow.
“The producers told me to just go out on the ice and make up a number,” Heath chuckled. “They said it would be really easy and very short.
“I didn’t have any time to practice and it was opening night with a huge audience.
“I had never seen the costume, which came with a huge cape that was just a little bit too long and a mask that I could not see out of.”
Heath continued, “I went out on the ice when the producer pushed me out because I didn’t hear the music.
“I skated around ‘blind’ as the mask fell down and covered my eyes. The cape went under my blades and I kept tripping on it, and falling. Then I couldn’t get back up so I would fall again and again.
“When I finally got off the ice, the producers were laughing so hard, they were crying.”
Heath laughed as well.
“I like to laugh at life,” he said. “It really is quite funny and I use humor to get through the hard times.”
Another thing that gets Heath through the day is learning from those he finds inspirational – namely, Madonna and Brian Boitano.
“Madonna has always been an inspiration to me and that makes sense now as she is one of the greatest marketers on the planet,” Heath said.
“Another one of my heroes is Brian Boitano. He has been a friend for many years. He works incredibly hard but also has fun and motivates people that he is around.
“He has a huge amount of integrity and I respect that.”
Being the world traveler that he is, you would think Heath‘s favorite skating rink would be in some exotic resort on another continent.
“I think the outdoor rink in Sun Valley is the most beautiful place to skate in the entire world,” Heath said. “It was a dream of mine to perform in the ice shows here and I think of that every time I take the ice. If the day ever comes when I take that for granted, I will stop skating.
“I will never forget skating in Sun Valley in the ice show while it was raining one year.
“It is hard to explain just how wonderful it feels to be performing in such a beautiful setting with the rain gently falling down.”
Just a few years ago, Heath decided to make Sun Valley his “home,”the one place he settles down for more than just a few days at a time. Every summer, he spends three months in the Wood River Valley, teaching skating to kids.
“I got into it slowly but over the years it has become more important to me,” Heath said. “Now I feel like a real coach. I love teaching kids that want to learn…it inspires me to keep getting better myself.”
Part of Heath’s plan to get “better” includes expanding his skating skills to outside the rink.
“In ten years I would still like to be performing in some way but also be in on the creative and business side of the sport,” he said. “One thing I love is marketing, and I really have a knack for that. I can see myself managing skaters or marketing skating in some fashion.”
Were Heath to settle down for good, no doubt it would be in the beautiful Wood River Valley.
In fact, when he describes his perfect day, the Wood River Valley is its setting.
“Waking up, having breakfast, going to Starbucks, doing Pilates/Yoga, skating, having a Vegetarian Tofu Wrap from Wrap City in Ketchum, going out into nature, then going to Sushi on Second for dinner.
“Now that’s a perfect day.”