[Arthur soul surfing during a break from the contest merry-go-round. Photo: Matt Georges]
Arthur Longo is one of the rare breed of riders who are capable of going from filming a heavy backcountry freestyle part one year – see his part in Pirates Unique 8 – to making the cut for his country’s Olympic team the next. He’s beaten the contest circuit a bunch over the duration of his career, and ridden in the multitude of different tours and event formats, so we thought he’d be the perfect guy to shoot the shit with about competitive snowboarding…
Competitive snowboarding’s structure is currently fragmented. You have WST, FIS, Dew Tour, Air+Style tours… Which of these have you spent time on and of those which do you prefer?
I pretty much experienced all of them over the years. I think the Air+Style has always been up there because of its history and the big crowd in the arena. I like it when an event is made for the public and not only for the live stream – it really gives you some feelings we’re not familiar with as snowboarders. Also the people in Innsbruck are so passionate; it’s nice to see that. But at the end of the day any contest can be great when the set up – course and conditions – is right, and sometimes it even happens during a World Cup.
As a rider, are the differences really that strong between the tours?
Every contest – even if they seem to be somewhat classic – is different. On the WST tour at some point they really tried to be closer to the riders’ opinions and wishes. So of course there are differences like the amount of riders, the contest format and also the judging approach. What’s really different and kind of new is that it’s become “normal” to have a coach and staff around you, which was concerning only World Cups a little while ago. The competitive vibes start to be felt at every single contest, whether it’s supposed to be a cool event or not –especially in halfpipe, which seems to be still different to slopestyle I feel. And regarding the setups: we would tend to think that some contests are better, but it’s only in the way that there’s more or less money involved so they can do a nice big course, rather than something less perfect. But we keep seeing the same halfpipes and the same straight slopestyles when creative courses could be the best progression and challenge for snowboarding. But it doesn’t concern every contest, don’t get me wrong. I love to see new setups like the double pipe, Peace Park, the Arctic Challenge, all those funny banked slaloms… At bigger events the list of riders is usually way shorter, which is too selective sometimes, but also easier for us to share with the others and to feel part of a group.
Everyone talks about the craziness of the situation, but then no one can ever seem to pull together in a unified direction to effect change. Why do you think this is and can it be fixed?
It’s true that it became really messy at some point with the WST tour and the World Cups on the side that are for our selections to the Olympics. We all care and would like it to be more simple, but it’s difficult to individually take action. I feel that [as riders] we always try to do what’s good for us in the short term, because a season is short and that we always have to prove ourselves so we go to one event after another without having much control, just doing our best. It’s hard to harmonize all those contests mainly because of the FIS that want to hold on to snowboarding, but it will perhaps be easier if one day we manage to be independent. I feel that the only problem is the Olympics and its selection, other than that – even if the events are not part of a bigger structure – I don’t think it’s a problem. Independent contests are not a bad thing as long as they are cool for the riders to attend, and there will always be a natural selection of events to go to, or events to avoid. I think the biggest challenge is for the kids to have a good base so they would have an actual way to build up to better contests with a structure in place around them.
“Personally I start to get good when the rhythm is a bit intense and I’m usually really bad when I’ve been waiting one hour to take my run, it’s just more scary and less comfortable.”
Three runs and done or jam session? Which side of the fence would you be on?
At some events we don’t even get three runs. I think that having three runs is already a really good thing – they allow us to make mistakes and take some risks, which is way harder with only two runs. That format is probably the best option for serious events; cameras are not missing anything of our runs and neither are the judges. But in a final with 12 people and almost as many girls it can get pretty long for the riders. That’s why a jam session, or just a quicker rotation and more runs (if the riders want to), would be great for us. Personally, I start to get good when the rhythm is a bit intense and I’m usually really bad when I’ve been waiting one hour to take my run – it’s just more scary and less comfortable. If we could find a good solution for the TV and the judging I would sign up for the jam session over anything else.