In our bi-weekly column ‘Gossip from the Good Life’ Jon Weaver will give you the lowdown on what’s been going on in the European shred scene. After examining the UK shred scene in his first post this time he marvels about the wonders of modern technology and what it means for snowboarding...
Internet killed the video star?
Each year the coming of autumn brings with it more and more premiers which you just "have to be at", with every crew going to increasing lengths in their efforts to bring their video to the people. Pirates are midway through a tour stretching the length and breadth of Europe, whilst Isenseven seem hell bent on making sure that every snowboarder from Munich to Milan spends an evening enjoying the finer things in life in the company of their finest snowboarding heroes. Forum and Absinthe embarked upon a European tour bus idea, with varying degrees of carnage being caused throughout, with Forum having stories about bars being wrecked, team riders being lost/missing planes, and then of course the associated stories of life on the road which you can check on my blog.
"Hey I was busy all day, I have been kevinbackstrom.com'ing"
But it got me thinking, though. We are all living in the age of the Internet, so much so that now when my team riders get off the hill, their first priority is to check Facebook, rather than the other normal requirements of eating or washing. One of them says that he needs to do this to take care of business, in his words: "Hey, I was busy all day. I have been kevinbackstrom.com'ing" so it seems that we have to tell everyone our every movement just to justify our existence. Now snowboarders seem to be fairly quick to catch on technology and so nowadays every man and his dog seems to live his life through a blog. I do it, you do it, this magazine does it, and if your parents don't do it yet, mark my words they will soon. My mum recently set up hollingbournewi.blogspot.com and so she is all up online now commenting on posts, and getting involved.
So the online world has definitely changed for the upwardly mobile snowboarder, and the question is just how far can it change the game for a rider? In skateboarding we have the best example in the form of theberrics.com which has really shaken everyone up. A non-branded website, dedicated to creating content, with quality stuff of the world’s best and the finest up-and-comers, has set the cat amongst the pigeons. The snowboard industry has been quick to try and catch on, but everyone seems intent on making something brand related – after all how else can you get those all important click throughs to your product? And pretty quickly I guess the savvy snowboarders out there get bored of this and see straight through it. So the best example of this working right now would be helgasons.com, which is a monster of a site, with videos, pictures, more videos of non-snowboarding and just the general life and times of two of snowboarding’s rising stars.
So could it be that pretty soon, we will see a rider who never wins a contest, never has a video part and is on a pro team, purely on the strength of his online presence?
I imagine we have the chicken and the egg situation. If a rider doesn't have the backing from sponsors to hire a filmer and or a web mastermind then he can't do it, yet if he is good enough why could it not work? We could have our first Truman-style superstar in snowboarding. In surfing, a website set up by Stirling Spencer called pinchmysalt.tv (a pro surfer who has built himself an alter ego as a "centaur" and made some amazing movies) basically calls out his fellow surfers, which in an industry seemingly going with the flow of Jack Johnson is pretty out there. He is as close as you could get, but again Billabong are backing him big time so this time the chicken has paid for the egg to get himself online. Want an example? Watch this video - funny shit!
The thing it boils down to is that times have changed, and that unless you're Travis Rice and doing shit which is just on a whole other level and coming out with stuff every two years, then you have to be up in amongst the internets. Even Eiki and Halldor, whilst their blog is the cornerstone of the Icelandic operations for them, without the insane video parts with Pirates for kids to be able to have something in their hands of value from these two, maybe the site wouldn't have the same credibility. Why else do you think Halldor was rocking the hand-drawn mustache with the web address seconds after winning the X-Games big air?
The nights draw in and you know that you can go riding soon enough and throw some shapes of the jumps to try and get somewhere near the new tricks laid out by the pros.
So the middle-of-the-road pro snowboarder who now makes a video part once a year, well what connection does he have to the kids? Do they know his personality? Is he a nice guy? How does he shred his home mountain? There is, of course, the other school of thought that says we shouldn't know too much about these guys and leave some mystery surrounding them. This is all very well, but that 45-second video part you’re putting out better make kids go wild, as otherwise it's another twelve months till they see you if you’re not gonna be riding near them, or on tv anytime soon.
It’s probably like the local hero playing for your football team. Why were Everton fans so happy when Wayne Rooney first scored for them, and went on a tear through the season? Because they feel like they know him, and so feel a deep connection. That’s the part the Internet can play in connecting kids to their stars.
So has Internet killed the video star? Probably not, as kids still want a good video early September to ring in the new season. It's a kind of right of passage-type deal: as the nights draw in you know that you can go riding soon enough, you watch them religiously knowing it won't be long till you can throw some shapes off the jumps to try and get somewhere near the new tricks laid out by the pros in the movies this year. Magazines, too, will still remain relevant, as kids want something to read whilst taking a dump. And has the Internet meant riders don't need to do contests yet? Again, probably not, but it just means that now the riders can talk shit on that event in the relative safety of their own blog, which is of course something that any young shred wants to hear so he can tell his friends the news that "so-and-so hated riding this slopestyle as the jumps were too small". It just seems that nowadays snowboarding has become more than a a one-trick pony, and so the guys destined to slay it are going to be winning the X-Games, iPhone in hand blogging the whole thing whilst doing a triple cork before riding off into the sunset to go and film pow with his crew... and then, of course, posting up the behind-the-scenes pictures from their day.
Jon will return in (roughly) two weeks time with more thoughts on European riding. In the meantime head over to his blog under www.the-goodlife.co.uk!