Published in Onboard Magazine Issue 120, February 2011
TEXT: ULI KÖHLER
Behavioural change theories are fairly big these days. They aim to explain the reasons behind change in behavioural patterns and are quite popular in areas of health, education and criminology. One of the decicive factors in changing Stephan “Heisä” Markhauser and Basti Rittig’s snowboarding behaviour was a storm in 2004 that brought down the apple tree behind Heisä’s family’s farm. We were not there at the time, but in our imagination Heisä and Basti were staring at the dead tree and scratching their heads when they suddenly had a fl ash of inspiration: they would turn it into an obstacle!
“Basti and I asked ourselves how we could ride the tree. So we decided to build a drop-in from the barn roof. That same year we added a small straight rail and a rainbow,” a smiling Heisä recalls of those early days, speaking in his soft Bavarian drawl. The two of them started what became the best and worst kept secret of German snowboarding: the so-called Heisä-Park, a wooden jib park of gigantic dimensions, located on an isolated farm hidden in the rural country south of Munich. Since those early days many bigger crews have stopped by to shred the many features and catapulted this private park project into international stardom: the Nike 6.0 crew, Isenseven, the S-Cut crew and La Famiglia all have joined the local crew for long shred sessions. Walking around the farm and checking out the obstacles, we can understand why. Despite the fact that they built everything themselves and without a big budget, there are impressive straight boxes, double kinks, a wallride, a stair set and an elevated jib line including a large propane tank. Everything looks professional and tantalisingly inviting for some shred action.
Even though the drop-in ramps alone are more than double overhead, everyone stresses that setting up the park was not too hard. Heisä explains: “All we needed was wood for the boxes, and we cut the trees ourselves in the forest. We built whatever came to our minds. The main goal was to have long features, because at the time most obstacles in resorts were pretty small. And since we were supported by Ingo from IOU Ramps, the surfaces weren’t an issue from the start.” It sounds fairly simple indeed, but trees aside the other materials must have cost a fortune. “We spent 2,000, maybe 3,000 euros max.” Luckily, Nike 6.0 started supporting them two years ago, and this helped keeping the personal fifi nancial outlay within budget. And how did they make sure the ramps didn’t collapse in the next storm? “We used enough screws! No one is a trained carpenter, we did everything gipsy-style.”
The first time we went there, we had the German Strauss twins with us as well as Marco Smolla and local grom Max Horn, the latter being integral in building the park (and giving us directions to fi nd the covert spot). Everyone is stoked on the place; take Fips Strauss’ testimony: “The guys built everything themselves just because they thought it was cool. The sponsors they have now gave them the opportunity to improve the park and make it bigger.” Did this affect the spirit of the place? Fips does not think so: “The spirit and the idea is the guys behind it and their love for the sport. You can feel how they live the park. That’s just sick!”
This passion is contagious. We wanted to know from Heisä what it takes to build such a park yourself: “Make sure your terrain has on an incline, this
works better than a level area. Then all you need is a small ramp, put some jib features in front of it, whatever you can find, and that’s it.” We noticed most obstacles in this Upper Bavarian shredorado have a strange wood-like surface mounted on top of the wooden structures. “That’s Skatesmart, a professional skate surface.” Once again it was Ingo who suggested using it. “We did most things farmer-style. But without him [Ingo], it would have been very diffi cult.” While you can turn most things into a jib obstactle, creating a slick surface for boardslides is a different story. “You should try to do things professionally. I wouldn’t just take some old ice hockey boards or rusty metal. You should love to ride your own features. That’s what it’s all about.” According to Heisä, the easiest way to create something yourself is checking out your favourite obstacles in a resort, rebuild them according to your own requirements, and make sure to use the best possible surface, or whatever suits your planned usage. According to our little research plastics like Lexan or PE are supposed to work magic – or you happen to be friends with a rail builder like Ingo.
“It was funny to execute this project with a bunch of guys who aren’t exactly dab hands at constructing things,” Ingo recalls working on the park. “It was also an interesting challenge to build a shred park with drop-ins from the roofs of houses onto a flfl at piece of lawn. And Heisä – he really deserved it, and I enjoyed helping out.”
Apart from the joys of manual labour a self-made park is quite different from your average resort funpark: “It is not a resort at all as we built it ourselves,” Basti Rittig explains. “Everything has been constructed exactly the way we wanted it. It is not as sketchy as a normal park. Well, come to think of it, maybe sometimes it is…” To Heisä, it is the creativity that is most intriguing: “It doesn’t have to be that big. A friend of mine always got some snow from the local skating rink and rode an old plastic tube. Be creative! You can build whatever you want, however you want it!”
Heisä’s perfect jib garden has already lured many world-class riders to his backyard. Is there anyone left he would like to tick off his list? Being one of the most humble people you are likely to meet, he cringes at the question: “Every rider who is motivated is welcome at my place.” Then, after some thinking, he adds: “Maybe the sickest would be JP Walker… yeah, I’d like to have the Walker at my home! But I’ve already had so many sick riders come over: Jed Anderson was here, and so was Louif Paradis. That’s really Ok for me. I am not one to complain.”
When it gets dark Heisä goes inside the old cowshed next to the park and switches on the floodlight he and his buddies installed in the park. His mother briefly appears to collect some money for the power bill (after all, they use dozens of halogen spots, and the nightly costs easily climb beyond the costs of a crate of beer). Then the shredding continues, often well into the night. One wonders why there aren’t many more of these private parks. Basti has his own answer: “People are just too lazy. They don’t want to build something from scratch and go shred in a resort instead. And this despite the fact it is not even that hard to build something like that!”
Heisä, however, plays things down and points out another, similar park only a ten minute drive away from his own. And right now his focus is on a new project anyhow: “Maybe we start building something new on a hill, because riding in the flat has reached its limits.” They already have the right spot, and all they need now is an old T-bar lift. But apparently you can get used ones quite cheap, sometimes even on eBay. On leaving the park we are convinced: If you have an idea, there’s always a way to turn it into reality. Next time maybe think about this before you moan about expensive lift tickets…
HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN STRAIGHT BOX
AFTER WETTING YOUR APPETITE WITH PICTURES AND STORIES OF ONE OF THE SICKEST SELF-MADE PARKS IN THE WORLD WE DEEMED IT ONLY FAIR TO GIVE YOU SOME MORE PRECISE ADVISE ON HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN LITTLE JIB WORLD. INGO FROM IOU RAMPS SENT US AN EASY-TO-FOLLOW TUTORIAL ON HOW TO BUILD A STRAIGHT BOX.
Wood panel, ideally sealed plywood, at least 21mm thick and dimensions according to the planned size of the obstacle
Chipboard screws – at least 4×60
Right-angled metal coping with rounded edge
Plastic panel for the surface
Chipboard screws – 6×30
Saw, ideally a circular saw
Cordless screwdriver (or grandpa’s drill)
• Let’s say we want to build a box with dimensions of 50cm high, 25cm width, 3m in length.
• Take a wooden panel measuring 150cm x 300cm that is 21mm thick. Cut two 50cm slats off for the sides, one 25cm slat for the lid, and another 25cm slat as reinforcements in the box, cut into at least four even pieces.
• Align the two big slats parallel to each other and mount the reinforcement slats in between using the 4×60 screws.
• Screw the lid on top of it.
• Cut the metal coping to length, countersink holes and screw them onto the corners of the box using the 6×30 screws.
• Finally mount the plastic panel flush with the coping. Countersink the holes and use 6×30 screws.
• Enjoy your new straight box!
More information about IOU Ramps on their website.