Where: Zürich, Switzerland
[More photos to come soon. Check back...]
There was a super high standard of next-level snowboarding over the weekend on the Landiwiese, but when all was said and done it was 24-year-old Finn Eero Ettala who stood tallest, stomped hardest and spun cleanest in the super finals to take the 2009 title with a score of 96.50.
The weather forecast had predicted Zürich wouldn't get the blessing of glorious sunshine and summer-like temperatures that it had enjoyed for the last five years, but no sooner had we rocked into the event site than the drab grey skies and mild chill evaporated to be replaced by the blazing sun and warm weather we've become accustomed to, and when combined with the rabid enthusiasm of the bulging crowd rammed into the Landiwiese the stage was set for an epic 15th edition of the Freestyle.CH.
As ever, swarms of inebriated, freebie-philic youngsters descended on to the shores of the Zürichsee to drink deeply from the mugs of rad. It's a fully-stocked bar, this one, with not just the snowboarding on the 32 metre-high scaffold erection on tap to quench the thirsts of the attendant "action sports enthusiasts" (which sport, one wonders, does not involve an action of some kind...). No, there's also miniramp and vert skating, freestyle motocross and a bizarre form of snowsport where guys whirlybird off jumps stuck on two things that look suspiciously like skinny-ass snowboards – I think I heard it called 'skiing' – to gawp at.
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Having arrived Saturday morning we missed Friday night's qualifiers that saw Elias Elhardt qualify in first (head and shoulders above the rest, many were saying) by consistently stomping backside double cork 1080s - or perhaps late cork is a better description - and rolled in to check the shred qualis that would determine the second lot of riders who would advance to Sunday's finals.
The first thing we saw on Saturday arvo after climbing the rickety stairs to the kicker's deck was free sushi, champagne and beer. Great! And then Iouri Podladtchikov flew by, double corking a backside rodeo 9. Free food, free booze and double corks? Double great! It was a pretty nuts session - four duders were chucking some kind of double (Eero Ettala's switch double backs, Seb Toutant's backside double cork 10s and Bode Merril's double backies), and guys like Christian Haller and Stefan Maurer were making 9s and 10s in any direction look like a walk in the park. With a style jump and a tech jump both being required to score, we were spared a total spin fest and could also enjoy things like Toutant's giant backside rodeos and iPod's steezy front 3 Melons. When time was called at the kicker bar, Haller's tech consistency and super slow corked 5s meant he qualified in first, followed by Toutant, Podladtchikov and Ettala.
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Saturday night is always reserved for the Crossover Champs session – a real witches brew, this one – which sees the crowd vote with their vocals as to which sport's riders has put on the best show. Skate vs Snow vs FMX vs Ski is in reality impossible to judge so inevitably it relies on the crowd-pleasing WOW factor with more legit judging left for the individual contests, but as a spectacle it never disappoints. After the shredders had done their machine gun thang, they faced off with the other sports' athletes and after a few contentious 'cheer-for-the-homeboy-even-though-he-stacked-it' moments it was down to Swiss-Russian Iouri Podladtchikov to fight the snowboarders' corner. iPod had been stomping the double cork back rodeo 9 way down the landing all day, and dutifully held on to one to beat out the skater, skier and FMXer to win the Crossover session. He was then, in a bizarre moment of goofy campness, carried around through the 25,000-strong crowd on a chair with glitter-ball wings by some buff Swiss dudes. How odd.
Sunday was all about the snowboard finals. And the 'super' finals. Always find it a touch Tufnell-esque, that one. "Yeah, but this goes to eleven." The line up was as follows: Peetu Piiroinen, Nicolas Müller, Markus Keller, Eero Ettala, Iouri Podladtchikov, Seb Toutant, Christian Haller and Elias Elhardt. Müller and Keller were no shows, probably feeling a little tweak and wisely not wanting to jeapordise a season that has not yet begun, but there were still more than enough gnarlers to ensure we got a show and a half. It was a one-hour jam session with riders choosing when to take their required 'tech' and 'style' jumps, and once again it seemed doubles were the order of the day. A couple of riders seemed to have their first pops at them too, with Peetu and Haller coming close, but leaving with no leaf-wrapped tobacco product. Trick highlights? Here you go: iPod sent a few of the double back rodeo 9s down the landing again, and had a few epic front 7 Melons and 3s; Piiroinen span Cab 10s with his trademark solid grab and stomp; Elhardt managed to put a couple of his double cork 10s and back 5 Japans; Toutant Tootsie Rolled and back rodeod with bags of style; Haller, though not in on the double action, consistently stomped 10s and über-inverted 5s. Eero Ettala seemed to be having a quiet day at the office – if you can call switch double backs and perfect rodeo and switch rodeo back 7s – but it's just he rides so frickin' smooth you don't quite get how tech the stuff he is pulling really is. Then he reached up his sleeve and pulled out a kinda double corked backside 10 – effortless – and it was enough for him to go into the super final in first place, along with iPod, Haller and Toutant .
Super Final Highlights.
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The super final? More of the same solid consistency mixed with technical flare got Ettala the top spot, just shy of 3 points ahead of young buck Seb Toutant, who's really looking like the real deal already this year. Haller was third, spinning and slow-flipping his way throughout the weekend with barely a fall in sight and, despite having one of the more crowd-wowing tricks in his bag, Podladtchikov could only manage fourth.
As ever, the Freestyle.CH was a pleasure to watch and laid down the benchmark for all kicker contest to come this season. Cheers to all involved and see you next year.