So just off the back of another contest in London, this time from the great unloved folks at FIS, it struck me, and well a few other people, that contests are back again, and well, its going to be a long winter.
So whats the reason for it seeming like such a long season? Well the primary reason has to be the fact that 80% of snowboarders are morphing into the same rider. If you watch any event, you will see that the majority of riders will try their damndest to land a backside 1080 double cork as you hear it screamed every 5th second of an event. Now its not the riders fault, I mean on paper, a 3 rotation spin with 2 flips is definitely impressive, and scores pretty well. However in any 1 contest there might be 2 or 3 guys trying a frontside double cork, and maybe 12 doing backside 10s. So what does that tell us? Yep, the frontside version is tougher. So should be scored higher, and in general it is, but there are alway instances that its not….
In the same vein though, quite often it seems that a lot of people are falling into the crowd pleasing style of events again. That if someone does a B10DC as i am now calling it, it gets way more points than for example a flat cab 10. It seems that in the last couple of years a lot of contests seem to have forgotten about style and how difficult a stylish flat spin is. For example if you watch how someone lands a front 10, it takes a lot to slow down into landing, wheras a back10double people can fall out the sky and land them.
Anyways, this shouldnt sound like a rant towards a single trick, and definitely not against Judges, but it just seems that some riders or coaches are so focused on a rider landing that single trick, just so they can sign it off the trick list, instead of learning how to actually snowboard properly.
Grillo. A boss. The man.
I spent most of October on the knuckle of the big jumps in Hintertux, jumps which are way beyond my ability (although i will huck my meat with the best of them on the medium jumps), and standing their filming, the number of people I saw trying tricks off those jumps, who didnt even look like they had real board control was insane. Just tuck, grab, flip and hope for the best. And then some people, who plainly should be just learning how to spin all directions on the medium jumps are there trying to land a backside 3, and then every 6th try going 450 and clipping a heel edge. Throughout it all, you see people like Marco Grillc, doing maybe 20 backside 5s into cab 7s off the toes all day, just getting his riding feeling back and trying things with different grabs or slightly different techniques. You can see from watching that he just knows how to ride his board properly. and pop.
One day Beckna cruised through aswell, and did the biggest straight air all Autumn, a huge method. Right up there. It just makes you wonder, how much time many of these riders have actually thought about getting their pop right on a front 3 or straight air, instead of just scrubbing round as quick as possible and claiming a ten. Its worse in the states at times aswell, the art of popping seems to be lost on some riders.
To be fair though, who can blame them?
If you look at TTR schedule there are Six 6* events and of those 3 are Big Air events, which are pretty much a single jump. So to seperate the riders, if you were to drop in and do a switch backside 5 and send it up to the rafters tweaking until your back snaps, you wouldnt get much points, and so the riders have to try and learn as many flippy spins as their young bodies will allow. It kind of means the room for us to find a new Nicolas Muller or Gigi has been lost. People talk of legends, but its quite like at the moment we arent really giving ourselves to find new legends, because the ability to differentiate yourselves is lost.
Remember a few years back, when the Air and Style had 3 jumps, and one had to be a style jump. That was one of the parts that most hardcore snowboarders would look forward too. It meant an opportunity to see Joni Malmi or Shaun White take a rest from spinning to win, to show us how on earth they see a backside 5 should look. It was the part which made Air and Style different from other big air events, and really connected with Snowboarders, but there is the argument that for the mainstream viewer to understand it has to be just each hit can be whatever you want, spin until your outerwear rips off. I definitely understand the need for that, so that mummy and daddy can understand what Little Jonny is watching but yeah somethings lost.
Freestyle.CH have done a good job of incorporating the idea into their event, which again means you can see some style in the game. Stale Sandbech for one was showing the world a new way of doing a front 3 tail grab, whilst Halldor was showing a new way of doing backside rodeos. There must be a new system possible for the Big Air events to try and allow for some style. Without that, we wouldnt have maybe seen Nico trying Backside 7 one foots in Air and style once upon a time.
I wonder sometimes if it were better if there were certain specifics for an event to be a 6* event or something like that, for example, last year Oneil Evoloution was a 6* Slopestyle, which was just a single jump and a crappy rail set up, which had been “masterminded” by someone who was famous once. The next week was European Open, with 3 full rail features, a quarter pipe and 3 jumps. Both got you the same points on the TTR. Kind of doesnt make sense, as to win BEO you have to have everything on lock, and not be a one hit wonder pony. Maybe the slopestyle events should carry more weight than the Big Airs or something. If you look at Grillo, he can spin backside 10s, cab 10s, switch back 10 doubles and front 10s with amazing style, he can spin cab off the toes or heels and is definitely more versatile than some of the guys that only ever seem to spin backside or cab. Watch how many runs in contests are backside 10, double back rodeo, cab 10, you will see what i mean. How can he show his full range of snowboarding on a single jump?
The thing which Snowboarding is known for is being different to mainstream sports, and Style has always been a huge part of snowboarding. It seems that at the moment, that key element is being forgotten slowly and the few riders who are trying to seperate themselves, do get noticed, but somewhere along the line its getting lost, as people search ever more for the perfect spinning machine.
We aren’t figure skaters but unless something is done to encourage individual style especially in Big Airs we will be soon enough.