Talking Points

The Backflip – Satan’s Dirtiest Trick?

Why "hucking a backie off a punter jump" is a criminal offence

Backflips. Yes I’ve done them, we’ve all done them. But I’ve also taken my own clothes out of the wardrobe, put them in a bathtub, and had a shit on them too (tequila, it does odd things to my mind). Do I get a badge for that too? No of course not. For a start, what would the emblem be?

My point is, the backflip isn’t even that hard to do. You throw your head and arms back, try to grab your knees, and think of England as the ground fast-approaches and you brace yourself for a massive shock. It’s less of a trick and more of a list of instructions. A list that also works for giving birth, ‘what to do if you’re imprisoned in Russia’ and ‘how to stop swallowing your tongue if you’re electrocuted’. In short, it is not a sophisticated move.

“So where did it come from, this filthy, filthy trick?”

And the difficult thing to accept is that there’s never been more of them. Blame GoPro wearers, blame the Freeride World Tour, blame Candide Thovex, I don’t care, I just need to see fewer people doing what a dog can do if it fucks up catching a frisbee.


So where did it come from, this filthy, filthy trick? Well, around three-million years ago an ancestor to what looked like a chimp fell out of the tree, knocked his head slightly on the way down and managed to flip over backwards. The rest of his troop were amused and bared their teeth in approval.

The ape had a headache, and was confused as to why his level of status within the group had raised, but nonetheless he profited by being able to mate at a high frequency rate with the females, thus ensuring his genes – including this crucial ‘accidental stuntman’ gene – were passed down to further generations.


Fast forward to modern man: the headache is long gone, but the gene is alive and kicking. And what easier way to impress his fellow university ski group than to chuck one off the nearest, flattest jump within eyesight?

And for those of us who’ve spent far too much of our lives learning the intricacies of snowboarding – tweaking our methods with a protractor; studying how Nicolas Müller controls his powder butters with his trailing arm; watching Torgier Bergrem put outrageous tweaks into his modern-off-axis spins – it’s just plain annoying. It’s the snowboard equivalent of streaking onto the Ryder Cup course with ‘19th Hole’ written in marker pen pointing at your arse. It’s attention grabbing fuckwittery that the least-amount of practice-time will allow.

Travis Rice, guilty as sin. / Photo: Aaron Dodds

Imagine you’re Hubert de Givenchy, dressing Audrey Hepburn after a lifetime’s dedication to fashion. And as she emerges from the fitting room looking divine, someone with a B-Tec in crocheting from Humberside Technical College throws a tracksuit at her and tells her it’s “well more comfortable”. And then she gets off with him. To applause from the Parisian crowd at your own, final show. That’s how gut-wrenching it feels to watch a backflip.

And the thing is, there are so many amazing-looking tricks out there. Tricks that are things of beauty: a nose-boned front three; a backcountry method caught in the pocket of a windlip; a back five stalefish held so late only the board does the last 180. Yes, sexy tricks. Tricks that give you the eye. Tricks that have their own premium rate numbers. Tricks that own a nun’s outfit.

“I’m talking about the kind of backflip you see on postcards: straight-legged mogul smashes where the victim is in the ‘star-jump’ position throughout… I hate that guy”

They ain’t all bad – ‘acceptable’ versions of the backflip include this effort from a neckbrace-wearing Halldor Helgason

Sorry, I digress. Anyway, yes, I will concede that the backflip has been elevated to some incredible heights. Damien Sanders did massive big method backflips back in the 80s that were on equal par to U2’s The Joshua Tree (that is: leagues above what was considered acceptable by contemporaries, but still relatively dated now. See also “the Goonies Conundrum”).

Halldor Helgason did that roof gap one in a neck brace that was pretty good. And Terje Haakonsen chucked some OK ones off a cliff or two back in the early 2000s – but he could probably pull off a scorpion-to-front-flip with a good amount of panache, so that hardly counts.

No I’m talking about the kind of backflip you see on postcards: straight-legged mogul smashes where the victim (let’s be frank here: these people are the product of their genes, so it’s ok to call them victims) is in the ‘star-jump’ position throughout and lands so flat that their arms are nearly jarred off. Then claims it with a whoop and probably gets sucked off at après ski.

Yeah, that guy. I hate that guy. Can we make them all go away now please? I preferred it when we were all snobs.


Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.