(All photos: Patrick Steiner)
Each year, at the end of the winter season, a recurring story unfolds in Ischgl, with groms as far as the eyes can see and racoon faces wherever you look and everywhere a babble of German, Spanish, Japanese and Finish echoes through the streets of the Austrian mountain village. Welcome to the Völkl World Rookie Finals! The crowds have been as big for the event than this year: After a long season with ten events on five continents more than 110 promising snowboarders from 24 nations travelled to Ischgl at the beginning of April to battle it out for the World (Rookie) Title. For the first time ever in the history of the World Rookie Tour the crown went to Japan, with our 17-year-old team rider Keita Inamura reigning victorious!
Keita Inamura’s winning run did not only impress the judges: After a backside 1260 melon and switch backside 1260 on the kickers, he pulled out a lip to front boardslide gap 50-50 followed by a 50-50 frontside 360 out and a backside 360 on the pink ball. Rookie? This performance would have earned him a place on the podium at any snowboard contest! Soon Keita will be able to prove that he has the skills to beat the pants off seasoned pros as he not only won the World Rookie title but also a wild card to the first Air & Style 2014/15. In a short interview he told us about his time in Ischgl.
Keita Inamura, 17, Japan, World Rookie Champion
How did you like the park set up?
The first kicker had a 20meter table and the second kicker was even bigger, so you had to perfectly land your first trick in order to be able to have enough speed for the second. On the rails there was no room for mistakes either as they were built really tight. Overall the park was pretty icy on the contest day because the slushy snow had frozen overnight, but nevertheless I had a lot of fun riding in Ischgl.
What was your personal highlight?
Being able to take part in the competition was definitely my highlight. But actually everything there was pretty exciting for me! (Editor’s note: The traditional Tyrolian food and the supermarkets were also pretty unique experiences for Keita!)
What was your impression of Ischgl?
Big, big mountains, and there is a lot to discover off-piste.
Anything else you want to say?
Florian Priet, 17, Austria, 9th place Rookie
The World Rookie Finals in Ischgl are such a cool event and I’m pretty sad that it was my last time there. The weather was doing great and so did my Squad Prime! I tried to show some stylish and bigger tricks in my last runs and was rewarded with a 9th place. Big respect to Keita who was dominating the contest from the beginning and pushing the level in the finals!
Tit Stante, 15, Slovenia, 19th place Rookie
My run was backside 7 to frontside 7 on the kickers, method out of the pole jam, 50-50 transfer to backside boardslide, frontside noseslide over the double kink, 50-50 frontside 360 out from the donkey tail, and shifty backside 180 on the bonk. I’m pretty happy with my runs but I could have done better! Ischgl is a bit different to the other tour stops because the level of riding is a lot higher!
Max Grünwald, 12, Germany, 12th place Groms
My personal highlights at this year’s Völkl World Rookie Finals in Ischgl? My backside 720, table tennis matches with the Japanese riders and also I got to ride with my friends Tobi, Noah, Moritz and Santiago.
Tobi Grünwald, 14, Germany, 13th place Groms
I’m a bit sad that I missed the finals because of 0.5 points. However, I was happy with my run: a backside 360 and a big Indy nosebone. In Ischgl everything is bigger and the riding level is extremely high. I hope I can come back next year…
Mathias Wicki, 13, Switzerland, 16th place Groms
I liked the set up and did quite well despite the tightly set rails: frontside 360, backside 360, 50/50 to boardslide, 50/50 to front board, 50/50 to noseblunt and backside 180. Overall the contest was very well organized and the vibe was really cool.
Berenice Wicki, 11, Switzerland, 8th place Groms Girls
It was a great experience to compete in the World Rookie Finals as you get to see so many good riders, which really pushed me. The rails were pretty technical. It’s a pity that there is no halfpipe competition but the park was fun to ride.
Noah Gasperi, 13, Austria, 28th place Groms
I was able to compete thanks to a wild card, so everything was still pretty new for me. I was happy with my runs though: 360 and frontflip on the kicker line and 50-50 boardslide and 50-50 180 out on the rails. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the finals but I had a lot of fun riding with my friends.
Ingvild Nymoen, 14, Norway, 10th place Groms Girls
I wasn’t too happy with my runs because I failed at the first rail in both of my runs and had to skip the next rail. The jumps went well: on the first I did a rocket air and on the second a straight air with nosegrab.