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There is a storm brewing… Clouds are building over the mountains of America as the sport of Snowboarding begins to look itself in the mirror…. and isn’t sure it likes what it sees…
It had truly been years, decades even; since I’d attended a world class professional snowboarding event. The names whom I last watched perform the aerial acrobatics of the halfpipe have all but vanished, replaced several generations ago by kids with bionic legs and a gymnastics background. Ten foot method airs used to be the banger Hollywood hit, now it has to be 15’+. But the pipes are so much bigger, or ‘super’ if you will; that even 15′ feet is no longer the mind-blowing number it once was.
Stepping into the inner sanctum that was the X Games neighborhood, vendors peddled their warez to the masses as dubstep blared from the over head system. One booth looked like a bar scene, but looking closer everyone was drinking canned energy drinks.
I had several hours to kill before the pipe so I wandered into the press tent. It was buzzing slightly with people on laptops editing pics and facebooking… I grabbed a braised pork sandwich and piece of carrot cake from the buffet and sat down in an open seat. Striking up a conversation with an American photographer sitting there, I asked him how he shot the event. He said that all the photographers were allowed in certain “photographer corrals” and these were the only places we could shoot from. Thoughts of an occupy Aspen movement entered my head for a brief second. I got the sense that they wanted every photographer to have the same shot…which this other photographer then confirmed. “Herd” was the word that bubbled to my frontal lobe, and clearly the press were equally as controlled as the riders and spectators.
Lets face it, the X Games are the main stream manifestation of an industry that has rallied for years to get recognition, but then perhaps didn’t realize through the process that a monster was growing from within. The result, a pervasive and entirely predictable shift in the industry towards ‘corporate mainstream culture’ and its gluttonous habit of swallowing things that are cool; and monetizing them.
I ‘spose it was inevitable, once the Olympics featured Snowboarding; the die had been cast.
#terjewasright … Don’t do it skateboarding!
At 4:30 I walk up to shoot the pipe practice, some of the biggest guns on the planet were stepping up to the towering pipe. I can only ponder what it might be like to drop in with thousands of screaming people, and another couple million watching on tv… Drop in and boom! To the sky!
The riders in this field are very much the redeeming quality of the spectacle, the stunts they are doing are other-worldly. Huge towering spins, and equal number of massive styled out Methods…
Parked with my camera under the first hit for the event, the riding I witness is on the cutting edge of technical pipe riding today, the evolution of this discipline should make the pipe OG’s from yesteryear proud.
Observing these athletes hurl themselves in the pipe, with the world watching; and the sponsors ringing their cash registers…. One cannot help but ponder the price these young adults will pay in injuries over the course of their careers. The anti to play in snowboarding’s big leagues is extreme, the competition is stiff… and the walls of the super pipe are high, and bullet proof. Concussions do happen… and these kinds of injuries can have long term deleterious effects; especially on a person who suffers multiple knock outs.
Is it worth it? For the riders, It seems like the opportunity to push the envelope is worth the risk regardless of the setting. But everyone likes money and one can only hope that these artists on boards are reaping their fair share of the proceeds in exchange for putting it all on the line as they do.
As the event unfolds a blizzard begins to blow in, the pipe slowly is filling up with powder. The snow starts to slow things down. Within a short time it quickly becomes apparent that the pipe was un-rideable due to the heavy snowing and blowing. The event was shortly called with first run scores deciding the outcome.
Riding the bus out that night I ponder snowboarding’s uncertain future. With forces pulling from all sides, it will be interesting to see if the sport, and the True School who honor its roots; can weather the storm of corporate commercialism and exploitation.
Fuck it lets go ride powder.