Optimism for Snowboarding
This past weekend, we were in Bend, riding Mt Bachelor for the 10th annual Dirksen Derby. A hand dug course with the tightest turns imaginable, a few icy spots and a good few hundred of the great and the good snowboarders from current heroes like Austin Smith, Louif Paradis, legends like Scotty Whitlake to the industry folks to the washed up snowboarder aka me.
Anyways, we’ve all read the articles from the New York Times and whoever else claiming the downfall of snowboarding over the last decade or so written by some ill advised hack, and I suppose at times Snowboarding has had its tough times, especially when you compare back to the glory days of the end of the 90s early 2000s, but Snowboarding is still amazing, and ultimately what YOU make of it, no matter what else is going on in the world or whether or not there are less people strapping in. Sure twin tip skis probably got a generation of kids into skiing but it kind of feels like a rebalancing is happening, and not just because the next generation of kids are automatically snowboarding instead of skiing, but maybe because after years of struggling, Snowboarding is once again regaining its identity.
Events like the Derby or the Banked Slalom in Baker, really showed me once again all thats great with snowboarding. And it sure as hell didn’t involve ESPN or the X Games. Just a lot of people pitching in to make a great experience for EVERYONE who showed up. Young, old, grandma Patty, 2 year old Lenny, anyone really felt like they were part of the event, whereas as an X Games its pretty damn elitist and if you’re not with the band, you sure as shit aren’t coming in.
Lenny being part of the event at the Patagonia Worn Wear truck teaching people to fix their gear instead of throwing it away with Rudy the legend.
So whats been the turning point? Well, probably we should have all listened to Terje way back when and just boycotted the whole Olympic thing, but it has made household names of a few of our own, so thats been good, but for the masses, in the clamour for progress driven by national teams and sponsors (and yes I do realize the irony here knowing my old job), Snowboarding has almost progressed to a place where its so far away from most peoples reality it almost feels like it almost became less inspirational and more intimidating. Its no-ones fault but just a natural progression.
It seems that for many we’ve all been collectively guilty of elevating the riders spinning the latest triple cork or 1620 or wall to rail to wall to butter out combo. In that process, we forgot about ensuring we have many of those inspirational figures that surfing and skateboarding have. Sure we have a few with Terje, Bryan Iguchi & Jamie Lynn (amongst others) but for many it seemed like they’d hit 30 and the shelf life would be over. Kudos to Volcom for believing in their team and thinking longer term. We had Gigi & Nicolas on Nike and those two had such an impact on our brand it was amazing to see how much their message, video part and hype for snowboarding spoke to kids around the world.
Thankfully now though (and yes I’m late to the party here) but we seem to be finally embracing riders who are making snowboarding aspirational once more. Like it was way back when we all first saw Snowboarding. Its just looked as cool as hell. Not intimidating. Fun, something you wanted to be part of. I read this recently from Bryan Fox, Liverpool fan, great futsal player, drink water founder & snowboarder which struck a chord with me.
“Probably some of the super-tech shit that hinders snowboarding culture from moving forward because it’s so acrobatic. That stuff is crazy to watch and I love that it exists, but it seems like they’re trying to make snowboarding a viewer-oriented sport instead of a cool activity that people can participate in. And there’s no culture that comes with that. There’s nothing for people to identify with.”
And fairplay to Bryan, Austin, Curtis, Steven and the drink water crew as their last few films have made snowboarding look fun. Not cheesy high fives, but just like you could imagine to go on a trip with them. and thats how you get people to want to participate more. That also speaks to the content going out now too which thankfully is also looking way more fun than triples and rail combos. This video from Carlino and Bryan for Quick was really nicely done :
Much like the Derby, you see just the sheer love of cranking out a turn. We can all appreciate that. I certainly can now my back aches whenever I get 3 inches off the floor. This year thankfully we’ve seen such an ode to the turn and I don’t think anyone is doing it better than the dudes from Korua Shapes. Everyone can get down with imagine groomers at full lick on some nice transition. Its amazing to see Stefan Maurer getting after it both on the board and producing this.
The other video that really spoke to me this year was SHE. Side Hits Euphoria from Oliver Gittler and Arthur Longo. Back when I did my first season in France we didn’t have a park. I think there was one that was built by March but hardly ever shaped. So that meant a good 3 months of your season was spent building jumps and hitting natural jumps wherever you could find them, especially little side hits. Man I even made a sponsor me photo album using backside 180s from side hits. Sounds awful now but back then that was everything. The fact that Longo and Gittler made a whole part from that is amazing as everyone from the 4 year old to the 60 year old knows exactly what its like to try and catch some arm on a little lip somewhere. Just these two frenchies boost of every lip like mach 10.
and yes much of this as I say above, I realize has been shifting over the last few years and with all the mainstream events we went too I probably missed whilst it was happening under my nose, I’m just so hyped now to see new riders coming through who are focused on being great snowboarders and inspiring others to ride. Ultimately as a sponsored snowboarder thats got to be one of the goals. And seeing riders like Alex Yoder who just rip turns and yes I imagine he can jump like a mad man too but he’s inspiring others to get up, crank in the bindings and rip turns, and that I salute.
Whilst we’re on the subject of amazing snowboarders who just have board control way beyond a humans abilities, it wouldn’t be right to leave out the crew from Zillertal of Wolle, Beckna, Steve Gruber amongst others all of whom are a joy to watch snowboard. Wolle has been working on his Aesmo project of boards. I need one of these sooner or later. and of course powder to ride one….
So what is this post all about?
Well I just hope as Lenny grows up and rides more and enjoys time in the mountains, he has idols as the dudes who are using snowboards the way they were designed. To rip the most fun turns imaginable down a hill.