Jon Weaver is back with a new edition of his vastly popular 'Gossip from the Goodlife.' This time he ponders the question what makes Halldor Helgason such a loveable character...
The Rebirth of the Antihero
Contest snowboarding is bringing snowboarding to the masses on a weekly basis it seems now. The Dew Tour is on national TV in the States, Air and Style should be on Eurosport, and it’s just cropping up all over the place.
Many of the riders who are in this realm though are brought up through the various schools and national teams who are churning out riders who can do the latest double cork and put it into a contest run. However, at some of these contests, watching that gets old rather quick.
So where have all the rockstars gone?
Think in music terms. The mainstream might love Lady Gaga, Beyonce and her ass, and Take That. But what the people really want is that chance to watch Pete Doherty, because you just don’t know if he will even turn up. Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Biggie: The list goes on with rock stars who we all were privileged to have listened and loved once upon a time, and why? Because they just did whatever the hell they wanted, and whenever they wanted. They wouldn’t have been at the start gate waxing their boards or running through a back 10 whilst grabbing round their leg in some kind of ugly homage to Shaun White, would they?
No, quite simply. They would have been waking up in a ditch, shaking off the remnants of last night’s excess and dragging themselves up the hill for a few laps in the park, dropping a couple of hammers here and there, and if you were lucky enough you would get to see it.
So who have we got in these realms these days?
Well some would remember the antics of Romain De Marchi jibbing the car at Air and Style as the last real rockstar, we also have Dimitry Fesenko, who on team trips instead of a physio would bring another person for relaxation. I guess nowadays comparisons in Europe could be drawn to Iouri Podladtchikov, who only matches his riding by his excessive love of cars, which draws his own status. We also have the Grillionaire, who seems to have an aura around himself and Chris Sörman, who seems on a one-man mission to make the playboy mansion before he meets his maker. Then the other rider who is carving the niche in the market is the one the Americans love – Halldor Helgason. After spending the last few weeks on the road with Halldor, I can honestly say I haven’t worked with many riders who are as loved around the world as this guy.
In China, a land without blogs, the people love him, despite never seeing his website, in Europe he has girls throwing themselves at him on the hill, and in the States, they stop him in grocery stores and on the hill. To quote a 50-year-old snowboarder on meeting Halldor, Lonnie Kauk and Chuck G “Oh my God, dude! You guys rule, I gotta get my picture taken with you three guys, you’re three of the baddest motherfuckers in the game!" That’s right, a 50-year-old guy.
Upon meeting all these fans, Halldor is as mellow as ever, just loving the fact that people enjoy his snowboarding, and everything that comes with it. His outlook on snowboarding does just revolve around having fun snowboarding. And I don’t mean the way some brands market themselves as “having fun since 2002" or whatever bullshit to try and make you think they are cool. Halldor actually just enjoys nothing more than cruising - same as me and you. The difference is when he straps into a contest he can send it like the best of them, he just doesn’t need to get all serious to do it. To quote Snowboarder magazine “this shot on the loon jump looks pretty amazing, it’s even better when you think he was puking in the woods just before this was taken."
It's not all good when he touches things though, and you will see a pattern whereby in each event he enters, he will either be winning or come in last. At the Dew Tour last year he won prelims and qualis before coming last in the finals, by trying something just different to the rest. That’s Halldor all over. And if he does come last, you know he will still make the most of it, as we saw in China at Air and Style, when he did his contest run with a camera in his hand and doing a backflip for the Chinese crowd, probably the first they had ever seen (before posting it on helgasons.com and getting more views than the original Air and Style recap video).
So why do people love him so much - from riders, to media, to fans?
Well let’s look at America’s golden boy, Shaun White: He does amazing things for the sport, including a bunch of mainstream PR which brings the sport to a new audience for which he must be commended upon. On the other hand, though, he rolls into China for Air and Style, doesn’t mix with any other riders, doesn’t even seem to have a grasp of who any of the new generation of riders are, and gives a few handshakes and waves like the queen mum, before leaving on a jet plane. A private jet plane. It seems he is almost separating himself from the sport that heralded him as the king.
Meanwhile, you have Halldor, who is exciting people with his riding, making them laugh on the internet, probably getting in your way on the dance floor, before buying you a drink, and then getting up and riding the park with you. I guess we have always loved this kind of riders who aren’t doing it by the rulebook.
Think about Eric Cantona. He literally dropkicked a fan once. You think his stock went down? Hell no. He sold more shirts than ever before that season, for sure. People love those who are true to themselves and a bit unpredictable.
And though there's little chance you'd see Halldor kung-fu kicking anyone, apart from accidentally on the dance floor, he is modern snowboarding’s anti hero. And we can’t get enough of him.