In his latest Gossip from The GoodLife column, Jon Weaver raps on the logistical nightmare that is a pro snowboarder's winter season and the dream of a streamlined events schedule...
If you take a quick look at a snowboarder’s calendar from mid-August to mid-March, it looks like one huge globetrotting spider’s web crammed full of TTR contests, Dew Tours, X Games, Freestyle.CH, local events… and that’s before the riders have even thought about filming a video part or shooting some pictures. Oh, and of course most riders also have to do a few FIS events to keep their national team funding going until the next Olympics, which is a whole other story. The contest scene has always been a big part of snowboarding, as in essence it is in such circumstances that riders can test their mettle, win some money, hopefully get on the podium, and do it in an arena to keep the public happy and entertained.
However, we seem to be at a crossroads now, which is almost going to become like a pile up at Oxford Circus. Overcrowded and not very pretty. The riders' season starts off down under, and then comes to Switzerland for Freestyle.ch before heading to the states for the Dew Tour, then back here for the O’Neill Evolution and Burton European Open, before jumping on the plane for another Dew Tour and X Games back in the States. Guess what happens then? Back to Europe for Air&Style, Arctic Challenge, then back to the US for the Open. It basically means that riders spend more time in the air than George Clooney, which obviously takes a toll on them physically and mentally, before setting to work on a video part.
Now, no one is at fault for this pile up, I mean everyone wants to have the best event they can local to them, but at the same time sooner or later there has to be some kind of streamlining of the system. I know at the moment there are regulations there cant be two TTR 5 and 6 star events on the same continent at the same time, however we have examples like the 4 star Big Air in Stuttgart falling at the same time as the qualifications at the O’Neill Evolution, and due to the prize purse in Stuttgart a lot of riders are questioning which to do, and who can blame them?
It would just seem, though, that we need to bring everyone into some kind of order. I know the TTR are trying their hardest to do that with some of the big US events, which would be great for the industry as with Europe being arguably a bigger market for some brands than the US, who wouldn’t want US riders to play a part of this flagship tour.
If you look at surfing, they have 10 events that are the main events through the season, which seems to make sense for the riders on that level. The good thing with this is that the average Joe, or average Jon in my case, can understand much the same as Formula 1. Every 2 or 3 weeks, along comes another event with amazing streaming quality which you can watch, and then we have a crown at the end of the season, which Kelly Slater just won for a tenth time. Congrats.
In snowboarding it seems less clear-cut. We have a TTR winner, Burton Global Open series winner, Dew Tour Champion, X Games Gold Medalist, Olympics, and now we hear in 2012 there will be a World Snowboard Championships, so we can add the world snowboard champion to the list of accolades which a rider can win. That's 6 major titles. Surely it would be easier for the man on the street to understand if it was like, “This year’s winner is XXX". Well, that’s the very admirable goal that TTR are heading for, and we hope they achieve because it would be great to bring some cohesion to the sport. It’s a shame that the people in charge at those events not complying don’t see the benefits it would bring.
Imagine if we could bring some form of cohesion to the whole thing, where we had the big 10 events, every 2 weeks, so the weeks in between the riders could try and film some stuff, or even “ride for themselves" (which I know for many of the contest guys is something they wish for but due to the tough schedule they never seem to find time to do). In order for that to happen it would mean the governing body - be that TTR, WSF or whoever else - would have to actually take a stand and start telling events when they happen, which when big sponsors get involved would be like pushing water uphill. We would then need a serious webcasting formula of each event, much the same you see at the World Cup, with a presenter, studio, pre-produced content, and it becomes a focal point so snowboarders around the world know that every other Saturday afternoon there is the latest stop on the snowboarding world tour, and they’re able to watch perfect quality streaming of it in their living rooms.
So what is the point of today’s words? Well, just really a call to arms for everyone to work together for the good of the sport, and for the riders, so we can make snowboarding understandable and accessible to all, which would in turn help grow the sport we all love. Only by doing that can we seriously increase the numbers of participants in snowboarding.
Jon will return in roughly two weeks time for more musings on snowboarding, depending on how much time he spends Clooney-ing and growing his slightly disturbing mustache. In the meantime, check out his blog: www.the-goodlife.co.uk