Jon Weaver returns with another installment of his always thought-provoking column, Gossip from the GoodLife, with the question: What does it take to be a pro snowboarder?
WHAT IS A PRO?
I know. I heard about that kid at your local park who just learnt a 10, and can do a double cork. Stoked for him. But what's that? Everyone from the local shop owner to the guy at the bar thinks this kid needs a deal, and quick.
Sounds like a familiar story right? It's one that I have heard a million times, from various sources, and the only thing that changes is the number of rotations as we go through in a seemingly mind-blowing couple of years of progression right now.
Seriously, I remember after Stefan Gimpl did the cab 9 to win Air&Style three years in a row, people were saying maybe that was the maximum that could be achieved on a jump. Oh my, how times have changed. A cab 9 wouldn’t even get you into a semis these days.
So back to the story. The guy who learns some tricks and then the world starts clamoring for him to be given cash money and all the trimmings for doing this. Now, way back when I imagine I thought along these lines. I mean, I know from my own riding, I was even like “come on, I can do some 7s now and so I need to get paid". You always think what you're doing is way ahead, and you should be the next Johnny Pro.
Oh, how wrong I was. The other weekend in Munich at the Nike 6.0 Air&Style we really saw the definition of a pro. Not that the gathered 20,000 kids would have ever known, but the riders at that event were truly up against it.
Thursday’s training went well for some, a few just cruised straight airs, others recovered from Jet Lag, whilst others stayed in bed. Peetu Piiroinen managed to get out of his sick bed for one run to test the speed and that was enough. That’s normal for a training on the first day of an Air&Style.
Friday was tricky as the wind had picked up and the snow warmed up so speed was an issue. Of course, a few people like Seb Toutant and Seppe Smits who are seasoned at this just set about it. Unfortunately, though, Seb managed to slam firstly on the kicker before heading to the rail and catching an edge on there, too, and breaking a rib. Mason Aguirre was sick all day, and Mike Casanova was still in the USA as he was super lastminute with his travel plans.
So Saturday around came the day of the event and as the riders got to the stadium they could see it had been raining, and raining enough so the snow had avalanched at the top of the run in. Before long the call came through: “Training cancelled". So those riders who had been sick, injured or still travelling were faced with the thought of just dropping in for 1 presentation run and then going straight for it. Pretty heavy.
This brings me back to being a “pro" and what it involves. Think about Peetu, for example. He rode Air&Style Innsbruck, and was then holed up in a hotel room all week, sick as a dog. He did one test run on Thursday then went back to bed, before getting up on Saturday and having to go straight for it. First hit b7, second hit back 10, third hit back 12. You see where I am going here? You think Johnny Local shred still wants to have a go at this stuff? It's not as easy as it looks.
Same thing with Seb Toutant, after a couple of mellow training days he breaks a rib and has to go to the doctor beforehand for a painkilling injection into his ribs to take away the pain before he had to ride. Did it prevent him from charging?. No way. First run B7, second run, b10, third run cab 9 double, fourth run cab 12 double. I repeat all without training on the jump which had changed loads during the day.
Then in the rail event, at breakfast that morning, I noticed Mike Casanova so said hello and he said “Yep, I landed at 7.30am this morning, time for breakfast quickly before heading off to the stadium". He then went off and won the rail battle.
It's not just contests. I remember talking to Jake Blauvelt about filming aswell. It can mean being stuck in a cabin somewhere like Alaska for 2 weeks straight in bad weather. Then one day it clears and you have to be ready to throw down on that day, first run, first track, no warm up runs, no building of kickers, just when it's time to get it on, buy yourself a big ass envelope and send it to the moon. Imagine how you or I feel after being stuck at home for a couple of weeks not being able to ride: it always takes a good few runs to get anything like normality back.
That’s the difference. If I spent a good week on snow on one jump I might be able to get a front 7 around again, but for the difference between the guys at the top and the rest of us is this ability to really step it up when it matters, and not let lack of training or conditions be an excuse. If I had to hit that Air&Style jump I would be just happy I hadn’t landed on the net in the middle of the jump.
The current contest schedule is pretty grueling and can mean flying transatlantic a few times a month, and riding contests in between. It's nothing short of amazing to see the consistency of these guys time and again.