Our guest blogger Hamish Duncan (@hambourine) ponders what the relentless march of snowboarding progression means to the public looking in, and whether it is at the expense of personal style and expression
This year’s Freeze was yet more proof that snowboarding has come a long, long way since the first ever London big air extravaganza in 1995. Back then, the likes of David Vincent and Jamie Lynn put down frontside 5s to a bemused Covent Garden crowd. Today, everything about snowboarding has advanced, with the technicality of the tricks, the overall presentation of the competition, prize money and sheer number of spectators testament to the strides in popularity snowboarding has made in just fifteen short years.
Even practise showcased just how big the level is these days, with most most riders locking straight into 9s before upping it with 10s, 12s and the-now standard double corks.
As an ex-rider, trick development is moving at a ruthless pace. One year you’re seeing double corks, the next it may be triple. But how sustainable is all this? Will we soon start to see quadruple corks? And what does mean for a key component of snowboarding personality: style, grace and personal expression?
To the untrained eye, represented by the vast public crowds watching the event, it must all be very confusing: a lot of spinning and people going upside down with a twist. But the question that keeps recurring in my mind is this: what are they taking away with them? What does snowboarding mean to them, and what are we doing to ensure they get the best representation?
At this point, it’s good to remember another side of snowboarding and what got you stoked on riding in the first place. Everybody remembers his or her first snowboard video. That whirring black screen, the tinny audio as the opener showcasing all the bangers kicks in. Your favourite section that you anticipate even before it begins. A certain trick that gives you goose bumps for the sheer style and glory of its execution. Maybe I’m going too far. But there was something you took away that meant more than a prize cheque, more than just a medal.
This is a time when our sport is entering a new era. Snowboarding version 2.0. Or maybe it’s already Snowboarding 3.0. But to my mind, we still haven’t defined what the legacy of our sport to the outside world will really be, and what spectators at the likes of Freeze will take away with them. Are we a sport based on the advancement of tricks to stratospheric levels? Are we creating performance machines based upon a narrow-minded judging system? But more importantly, why are we unique from other sports?
Maybe one day we’ll see the inclusion of a style statement heat, giving the riders a chance to showcase a trick under a 540º rotation that says everything about your character. A super-sized no-grab backside 1 or a floated switch backside 5, tweaked to within an inch of it’s life. Something that sums up what snowboarding is in a competitive environment. Perhaps we have to lose our identity to remember exactly what we need to showcase. The glory, magnificence and great beauty of what snowboarding can be.
Thanks to @Scott_McMorris for inspiring this post with a conversation we had at Freeze.