Portrait: James Fuller.
It’s often easy to forget that Jamie Nicholls is only 14. His prodigious talent on a snowboard, combined with a gob full of northern wit that’s as far removed from the stereotyped shoelace-studying teen as can be, make him seem way older than he is. Regularly touted as the great white hope of British snowboarding, he is peerless in his age category – taking on proper sized park booters with backside 9s already - and you get the feeling it is only his diminutive stature that’s holding him back from dominating riders twice his age. More pies is the key, Jamie reckons. Last winter he had a small part in Blank Paper's 'In Short' giving the Halifax booter a good workout and he certainly impressed Jukka Erätuli and Frederik Evensen when Onboard toured the northern dryslopes last summer, so as he starts to spread his wings and dip his toes in the icy pool of European riding, we decided to have a quick catch up with the boy Nicholls. Jamie rides for Nike 6.0, who've got a neat comp called Killing It that's well worth a gander.
Onboard: Hello mate. Where are you right now?
Jamie Nicholls: In my office…
OB: Running tings ... does that mean you're at the school IT department?
JN: No, I’m at home. In my mum and dad’s office.
OB: Where is home for you?
JN: Home is in Bradford, on a hill.
OB: For those who don't know, where is Bradford exactly?
JN: Bradford is on the Pennines and in West Yorkshire, close to Leeds and Halifax.
OB: Right. So how come you're so frickin’ good at snowboarding when you're, what, 14, still in school and live in Bradford?
JN: Because I live 2 mins away from Halifax Dry Ski Slope and half an hour away from the Xscape snowdome in Leeds.
OB: And how long have you been riding for?
JN: I have been riding for nearly 8 years.
OB: Wow. Can you explain what riding dryslope's like for those who've never tried it?
JN: It can be quite harsh but it’s fun, and when you are used to it you can do the same tricks that you can on snow.
OB: And how was it for you to make the transition from dryslopes and snowdomes to real mountains? Did you find it pretty easy? Stepping up to bigger kickers, pipes and so on?
JN: Yeah. At first it was quite hard but now I can do it pretty easy.
OB: When was the first time you rode real mountains?
JN: The first time I rode a real mountain was in Kitzbuel in Austria with the family, about 6-and-a-half years ago.
OB: Do you think being fortunate enough to get out and ride real parks from an early age has contributed to developing your riding?
JN: Yeah, I think that has improved my snowboarding a lot. It definitely has…
OB: Because for a lot of UK guys the first time they can spend any significant time on snow is after they finish school...
JN: Yes, but my school is very good to me because it will probably be what I do for a living hopefully but they only let me go if I catch up on all the missed work.
OB: And do you catch up on all the missed work?
JN: Of course! I’m a very hard working student [laughs].
OB: Good stuff. So how did this winter go for you? How much time did you get to ride outside the UK?
JN: This winter has been great and I have had so much on snow. In between trips to the mountains I’m back for only a couple of weeks, or 3 at the most.
OB: Did you do many events or was it shooting?
JN: I did quite a few events and also a bit of shooting.
OB: Which ones, and how did you place?
JN: I did the O’Neill Evolution where I came 56th in the pipe and the Burton European Open but it was really bad weather so I don’t know… and the Brits where I came 1st in my category for pipe, big air and slopestyle, and 2nd overall in slopestyle. All the results are on my blog if you need to check.
OB: Do you ever get bored of coming first in all the British comps for your age category?
JN: Nah, it’s cool.
OB: But do you think about trying to compete against more Euro kids in the future to give yourself a bit more of a challenge?
JN: Yes definantly, but it’s getting to them [the contests] and if the weather is good. Like it would of been great at the BEO in the pipe if there wasn't 4ft of snow in the bottom. It is the same for everyone but they are used to all that bad weather, and I’m not coz when I go away it’s usually bluebird.
OB: I hear you. Which riders of your age do you look to and think, 'Well, that guy's frickin’ killing it so bad. I’d better step my game up.'?
JN: I don’t really know. I never think who’s better than who and who’s worse.
OB: OK. What about style? Or is it mainly the older riders you look to? Or do you just do your thang?
JN: It is mainly the older ones but some of the young riders have style. Ståle Sandbech has a good style, and Ben Watts does too.
OB: Yes they do. I bet you'd own them in a game of conkers though. Do they still have conkers or does every kid just play video games and rob grannies these days?
JN: I don't really know, but I’d probably top them in a game of S.K.A.T.E. snowboarding on rails, or kickers. Maybe not kickers but defiantly rails.
OB: Are you calling them out? Haha!
JN: Naaaaaaa, they are sound and I just like to have fun and not think of snowboarding as who’s better than who.
OB: A lot of people are talking about a bright future for you. Do you feel any pressure from the hype or do you not think about it so much and just concentrate on enjoying your riding and progressing?
JN: It does feel good when someone says that because you start to believe in what could happen in the future.
OB: And the fact that you've got a super cool family that support you too must help heaps.
JN: Yeah, it definantly helps a lot. My family are great support.
OB: If we were to fast forward 10 years when you'll be the grand age of 24, what would you like to have achieved with your snowboarding?
JN: Win massive comps and be living in the mountains, filming with big film crews and to still be enjoying snowboarding as much as I do now.
OB: Do you enjoy snowboarding to infinity plus one?
JN: Ooooooo yes.
OB: Who'd be top of your list of film crews you’d like to film with? What movie productions do you like?
JN: Blank Paper Productions ‘cause it was so good filming with David. I really want to film with them again. And Mack Dawg.
OB: Would you want to hit one of David’s crazy step over jumps that he builds? Got any plans for the double cork?
JN: Yeah, I’d have ago but only when I’ve eaten some more pies. And for sure I’d like to have ago at the double cork…
OB: Haha. How did you end up meeting and filming with David for ‘In Short’?
JN: I don’t really know, he just came to Halifax and… I don’t know.
OB: But you have the same sponsors, right?
JN: Yes, I do. How cool is that! He is my favourite rider, well one of them.
OB: You had a section in the extras of ‘In Short’ cracking jokes. Can you tell us a joke right now?
JN: What’s the hottest part of the sun? Page 3. Weeeaaaaay!
OB: Hahaha. Buhdum, tisch.
JN: That’s a good one.
OB: Are there any tricks you really want to work on over the summer and next winter? Or is it more about eating more pies so you can hit bigger jumps?
JN: I would like to get a switch 10 next year.
OB: Cab or switch backside?
JN: Cab, and a switch backside 7 off a big jump.
[The phone rings and it’s the local Bradford newspaper wanting a word with Jamie. I figure he gets a lot of people asking him questions all the time…]
OB: Hmm. Do you want to ask me any questions Jamie?
JN: Yes Onboard. Are you having a pint?
OB: Errr, no. Not yet. Anything else?
JN: What are your goals for snowboarding in the future?
OB: Easy: better handplants and getting more than 8 inches out the pipe.
OB: If you could only do one trick for the rest of your life, what would it be?
JN: I don’t know, maybe a cab 9 coz they feel stylish and good. Or backside 7 melon.
OB: Damned kids! I’d have said a method…
JN: Hahaha. Old school methods are sick. Hey, I got to go now for me tea, then I’m going down to ride at Halifax after.
OB: No worries Jamie, thanks for your time mate and have a good session on the plastic. Shoutouts?
JN: My Mum and Dad, Bert Coneely and Chris Coppin at Salomon and Bonfire, Stu & Spencer @ Soulsports, Chris Moran, Phil Young and Posy Dixon at Nike 6.0, Lizzie and Ferg from Anon and RED, Sno!Zone, Skullcandy, Jeremy Sladen from TSA, AKA Snowskate, Wayne Taylor & all my friends I ride with at Halifax and Xscape & anyone else who has helped me over the last few years.
Age: 14 Sponsors: Salomon, Bonfire, Nike 6.0, Anon, Red, Sno!Zone, TSA, Skullcandy Home 'mountain': Halifax Ski Centre and Xscape Castleford. Favourite resort: Laax in Switzerland
Go check out the Nike 6.0 Killing It competition.