Published in Onboard Magazine Issue 119, January 2011
WORDS: TOM COPSEY
Snowboarders have always been ravenous for any kind of shred sustenance, but recently the way we sink our teeth into snowboarding’s rumpsteak has changed immeasurably. Following the sport used to be a much more lethargic affair: In the days of old school shred media kids went snowboarding. If they were good they’d have pictures taken of them, words scribbled down of their achievements to be typed up six months later, and if they were really good their hucking would also be burned onto celluloid and pumped out on Vhs the following season. If you wanted to be involved, to know what was happening in the scene, you either had to be there bro-ing down, or buy the mag or video the following winter. If they weren’t from your local hill, the pros you looked up to had all the real life qualities of hollywood’s finest. Not much.
Of course, now everything’s turned on its head. Today’s generation demand their information yesterday and when it comes to keeping up with riders chances are you’re ‘friends’ on Facebook with those that get you amped, you follow their brain farting tweets and have their blogs bookmarked. The boundaries between us mortals and the pro shred-head has narrowed to the point that whereas before you might know what they were up to six months ago, you now where they’re at the moment they login, what music they’re digging, and what trick they just stomped. We are better connected than ever before with the guys and gals pushing the sport.
The medium for bringing snowboarding into the ‘now’, of course, is the internet. As the web and its workings have tweaked increasingly for ease of use for people who can’t be bothered to go full geek, so with a minimal amount of nerdiness the riders themselves are now able to use the net as a platform to take control of their image and inform, stoke out, entertain and interact with the rest of us on their own terms. Snowboarders with websites or blogs is nothing new – there’s a bunch of riders who’ll intermittently post their ramblings from the road with a couple of shots – but over the last couple of years a notable few have really tapped into the true potential the web holds – video. Let’s face it, these kids might not be so good at penning Pulitzer Prize-winning road trip reports, but when it comes to shredding and charisma, this lot have it in spades and with it the potential to churn out online gold dust.
“I’m so bad with all geek stuff, so if I can do it everyone can,” says Halldor Helgason who, along with his brother Eiki, have been leading the charge of rider-generated content with their site helgasons.com, a site where you’re just as likely to see Halldor getting a cock tattooed on his fi nger as you are some Grade-A shredding. The Helgason’s site, now with backing from the boys’ sponsors that allows fi lming nutter Johannes to tag along, is perhaps the perfect example of how riders can put themselves about in the pipes. With that winning mix of rapid-fi re clips featuring fuckwittery, fun shredding that regular Joes can relate to plus a fair amount of Hero shots too, it gives you a decent insight into the lives of these freakishly talented Icelanders.
Eero Ettala is another guy who’s got it dialled, with regular video shot by buddy Rasmus or himself, plus some awesome archived stuff he digs out from old VHS tapes. Though he initially conceived ettala.com as a kind of online diary where he could post stuff from the road and footage that would otherwise be orphaned for his buddies to see what he’d been up to, he realised from the get-go he wanted more than mere words and pictures: “From the very beginning of creating my site, I wanted it to be a bit different than most of the blogs, and have it concentrated more on the videos than photos. When I do something I want to do it as good as possible.”
Eero’s compatriot, Antti Autti, also echoes the desire to go further than the norm, which is refl ected on his site, anttisworld.com, featuring a decent amount of video, slideshows, and musings from the Finn. “I think it’s good to offer more than just blog,” he states. “Doing a blog is really easy but doing a blog that actually gets you addicted and stoked is way harder.” He also makes another good point about how having such a site frees riders from the constraints other people’s preconceptions, as he explains: “I thought it’d be a great opportunity for me to expand my riding from contests only. I guess the main reason for it is the fact that it’s really hard to get into fi lm crew nowadays. You know, I’ve done so many contests throughout my career that I’m for sure in that ‘contest rider’ box so with my website I wanted to create a chance to fi lm and post it online for people to watch.”
As much as it’s about the a bit of self-indulgent fun, the real gravy lies in the fact that now, online, these infl uential riders can now connect with the kids better than ever. Something that both the riders and the groms are equally stoked on – after all, today’s pros were groms themselves not so long ago… As Antti says: “If you actually have your own site people can hit you up with questions and have a chat with you about snowboarding and other stuff. I’d have been so stoked to do that with Kevin Jones or Terje when I was small…” Ettala believes it’s not only awesome for kids to be able to regularly check out what’s going on with their heroes, but also that “it’s something they can relate to too, just to see their favorite riders riding regular parks in resorts. If I was a kid I would like to see more footage of my favorite riders than just that 3 minute video clip in fall and then wait another year for the next clip.”
Torstein Horgmo hits the nail on the head when talking about narrowing the gap between pro and grom: “That’s the part I was missing the most when I was watching all the pros shred in the videos,” he acknowledges, “when I was 13 and watching The Resistance 10 times a day that is… I wanted to know everything there was about all the pros. It was important to me, so I just do the best I can with it now.” Though he admits that for his “snow, website good; no snow, website suck!” it was on torstein.net that he chose to drop the now infamous triple cork video. “I wanted to update it with good video clips everytime, so I knew I couldn’t post everyday,” he says, but for the coming season he has plans to hire a fi lmer to up the output.
In his column on onboardmag.com, Nike team manager Jon Weaver asked ‘So could it be that soon we’ll 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?’ Rightly he explains that without sponsor backing it would be hard to achieve, but that fundamentally, yes, why not? He alsomakes another excellent point: “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?” And when you break it down to the barest, most cynical bones, professional snowboarders are there to sell product and a big part of that is how kids relate to your riding and your personality.
Connecting with them is therefore a big deal and, with a good site, chances are the kids will be down. Though Jon admits it’s not essential yet that potential team riders are active online, it’s certainly something he takes note of when scouting: “It just shows that the rider is aware of their role and people who do it well can carve themselves a great niche.” Needless to say his charges are all encouraged to get involved with producing
internet-friendly material. Backing up to the riders who don’t currently sit at the apex of snowboarding’s Pyramid of Awesome, at the time of writing the online video part is kind of a big deal. Ok, your Rices and Rüfs have no need, starring as they do in one or more of the biggest productions around, but for rookies looking to break out or those who can’t get in to the bigger movies it’s an ideal way to get your footage uncaged and into the wild. Recently we’ve seen Ståle Sandbech, Kevin Backstrom and Ethan Morgan fire out solid edits of their riding highlights last winter and surely more will jump on the bangwagon. Let’s face it – if you’re not locked in for a movie part right now and your sponsor’s not footing the bill for a fi lmer, there’s no better way to put the footage to good use than chopping it up and chucking it in the boiling oil of the internet’s deep fat fryer. These guys went it alone, whereas the True Color Films guys bandied together to release their roadtrip movies through last winter and Miika Hast and Jonas Hagstrom convinced Protest to let them live the dream and simply ride pow, the only caveat being they had to fi lm it all with their GoPros. For riders like this who, no disrespect intended, aren’t in the A-lister bracket, saturating the internet with quality content is a good way to keep your name on people’s lips.
But what does this all mean for you? Aside from being better informed than ever of what your favourite riders are up to, and having a never-ending cascade of content at your fingertips with which to amuse yourself until your next shred fix, it also means you and your crew can get yourselves amongst it. As Halldor says, if he can do it anyone can, so what’s stopping you? Get out there with your iPhone, GoPro, whatever, Google yourself
a tutorial or tap up your speccy mate, get posting and at the very least your buds will be pumped. At best, well, who knows what team manager might stumble upon your creation? And the worst is it’ll just be fun way for people to check out your haps. Not exactly ‘bad’, then…