When you break snowboarding down to its core, there’s no doubt it’s an individual sport. You don’t pass your board to anyone else or share the same uniform or jersey, you don’t make line changes or substitutions and in the final rounds of a competition you either throw down, or get out of the way.
Progression is developed on an individual basis and in the end snowboarders launch into the air or onto a rail one rider at a time. However, this isn’t to say a snowboarder is completely abandoned and stranded. When it comes to travelling around the world and competing in contests, it would be most difficult to accomplish what many riders do every season without a team, a crew and a few friends to back you up, call you out and ultimately push you towards your best. "Every contest, every night, we are always talking about it telling each other what to do" says FRENDS member Jack Mitrani. "We are always mean to each other as well. If he's not doing good enough we're going to tell him straight up, just so they do their best."
Mitrani knows what’s up when it comes to pushing his buddies, but he's not the only one helping out his bros. Here we take a look at some of the crews, friends and teams currently rocking the Swatch TTR World Tour, who always seem to flock together towards the sickest competitions around the world.
First up, a closer look at the ‘FRENDS’ crew. These guys have established themselves as both party animals and contest destroyers. "It just keeps the fun in snowboarding," continues Mitrani. "Anything we go and do, we know it's going to be fun and it just keeps the vibe good."
But don’t let their spontaneous and friendly demeanour fool you, because once these guys drop in it’s all business. The FRENDS crew is comprised of US riders Danny Davis, Jack Mitrani, Keir Dillon, Kevin Pearce, Luke Mitrani, Mason Aguirre and Scotty Lago.
"Just being with those guys at events when I travel, it's good to have a solid crew of friends" says Mason Aguirre. "Its not just like we ride for the same company, we actually all really get along and have each others backs in snowboarding and in life in general. And it's all good when we get in the finals, but you know if Kevin doesn't make it, or Danny or myself don't make it, you just got to step up and support the person that is doing well."
With a line up so diverse in riding style, it’s no wonder why the FRENDS crew has produced some of the finest TTR competitors and Title-holders and even the 07/08 TTR World Champion, all injected with fresh personality to keep things interesting. Over thepast couple of seasons, Davis, Aguirre, Lago and Pearce have developed into the definitive slope and pipe riders on the TTR Tour, with half the crew already in the TTR Top 20.
Next up, the Finnish. These guys are less of a team or crew and more of a few Finnish dudes who always seem to make stand out appearances and mix things up, for the better of course. Antti Autti, Risto Matilla, Peetu Piiroinen, Marku Koski and Janne Korpi are the most notable competitive Finnish riders who consistently give the US riders a run for their money and are among the best and favourites on the Tour. They all belong to the elusive Finnish national A-team, together with Markus Malin, Ville Uotila, Meri Peltonen and Ilona Ruotsalainen. Autti’s signature spins in the Halfpipe, Mattila’s tight inverts on the Quarterpipe, Korpi’s relentless drive, Koski's focused ninja style and Piiroinen’s recent climb to the top of the TTR World Rankings, garnering international recognition, has proven the Finn's dedication and hard work resulting in countless TTR podiums and Titles. In 08/09 already five Finnish riders have set up camp in the Swatch TTR Top 15.
If you spend any decent amount of time in the Austrian Alps you’re bound to run into one of the Aesthetiker, a crew of board riders “united by their specific vision of snowboarding and their love for nature and the mountains." While the crew’s focus is more on the movement and style of snowboarding rather than competitive ambitions, the Aesthetiker still produce a healthy crop of contest riders. The crew itself is quite robust, but some of the stand out contest riders that shred the euro scene, with the utmost style and flavour include: Steve Gruber, Rudi and Chris Kroell, and Andy “Mone" Monsberger - five guys who know how to get it done. Rudi Kroell has also made himself known as the best Austrian on the Swatch TTR Tour, finishing last season as TTR World No. 32 and consistent Top 100 finishes over the past few season.
When it comes to simply going huge the DC team seems to have all the angles covered. Riders like Travis Rice, Chas Guldemond, and Torstein Horgmo have pushed the boundaries of competitive trick progression. Double Corked 10s, BS 12s and straight up beefy style results in a team of snowboarders that are always ready to work hard and play beyond the boundaries of the conventional snowboarder’s sandbox. Rice, Guldemond and Horgmo are always at the Top of the TTR rankings, with Guldemond leading the Tour as World No. 1 since the Southern hemisphere and somehow they always have something new in every contest they enter. It’s a testament to their natural abilities to go beyond expectations.
In terms of dishing out fresh, supreme female talent, the Roxy team takes the cake. At nearly every TTR contest, Roxy has churned out an epic line up of women riders such as Kjersti Oestgaard-Buaas, Lisa Wiik, Aimee Fuller and most notably Torah Bright, the 06/07 TTR Tour Champion. In 2009, the Roxy team has continued their success with three riders in the Women’s TTR Top 15 with plenty of more opportunities for progress still on the way.
After a brief look and some of crews and teams currently at the top of their game, it’s clear to see that snowboarding contests are more than just a turn-based-be-the-best jamboree. These contests are also about the characters and people you meet on the way and the friends and team mates that push each other to progress and develop. With the current TTR season at full throttle, be sure to keep your eyes glued to ttrworldtour.com for highlights from yet another epic 6Star Burton European Open and get ready for some high class Quarterpipe action at the 6Star Billabong Air & Style in Innsbruck, Austria. This season features a truckload of contests on the horizon where you can witness these crews, teams and friends doing what they do best.