Lake Wanaka in New Zealand was overrun with snowsports fans last weekend for the Burton Open Snowboarding Championships.
The NZ Open kicked off the 2006-2007 Burton Global Open Series with crowds of more than 8,000 gathered over the weekend to watch over 180 competitors battle it out for the $50,000 cash prize pool, including prizes supplied by Motorola.
The Open got off to a great start on Thursday with the slopestyle event, where Kevin Pearce and Hana Beaman, both of the United States, impressed judges over the technical course to win their events and take away $5000 cash each.
On Friday, riders fought hard on the halfpipe for a hotly contested place in the finals. Friday night’s main event, the invitational quarterpipe, blew away a crowd of about 2,500 as some of the world’s best riders performed tricks and got huge air for cash prizes.
New Zealand’s biggest snowboarding event concluded on August 5th at Snow Park NZ with eight women and 16 men pushing their limits on the massive 500-foot long halfpipe, encouraged by a crowd of more than 1,500 and spurred on by the top prize of $5000 in both the men’s and women’s competitions.
US Olympians Mason Aguirre and Kelly Clark took away top prizes in the halfpipe competition. Aguirre’s winning run included back-to-back 1080s and back-to-back 900s, while Clark was consistent with her amplitude, getting about 12-feet above the lip.
Clark has returned to top form after a five-month break following an arm surgery and concussion. “I’m so stoked. To come back and do well in two different contests is really encouraging," she said.
Aguirre said he felt a bit rusty after not riding the halfpipe for three months, but the high standard of competition being displayed pushed him to ride harder. “I didn’t think it was going to be that high caliber of a contest, so the pressure was on."
The Open Series constitutes five snowboarding events in five regions of the world. The winners of the 2006 Burton NZ Open slopestyle and halfpipe competitions are invited to compete in the next Open event, the European Open in Laax, Switzerland on January 20-27th, 2007.
For complete results and more information on the Burton New Zealand Open Snowboarding Championships, visit www.opensnowboarding.com.