Last weekend we headed east to check out the 4-Star TTR Monster Fridge Festival in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. As well as an excuse to tour this historic city, get spiked by paprika and sup on Palinka, we'd heard good things about this inner-city Big Air event-cum-festival. We were not disappointed.
We'd been turned on to this event by the TTR's Danielle, who was to head over to see what the gig was all about. She offered us a ride so, having never visited Budapest, jumped at the chance to hop in her car early Thursday morning and hit the road east. It's a 7-hour drive and was foggy as hell, so we passed the time discussing the event's potential (big was the consensus) and, ironically, getting deep into all the FIS/TTR Olympic stuff. Ironically because the next day all would be resolved with the TTR's receipt of the FIS's letter that was essentially a shit sandwich with glass in the butter. It was also interesting to get the off-the-record story of the recent developments, which involved clandestine meetings, Machiavellian plans, underground lairs and volcanoes that open to launch space rockets. Very Bond.
As we crossed the Danube from Buda to Pest we got our first look at the city. Impressive, but as we're a snowboard rag and not a travel supplement we had to make a beeline to the contest site, directly adjacent to the broad Heroes Square and beside some eery Gothic castle. Not a bad spot. Accreditation in the bag we made a quick dip into Budapest for some sightseeing, eating goulash, getting spiked by paprika and having a gobby Yank student explain us the antiqued underground system, before it was time to check the style session. Due to our confusion with the underground, we missed the riding which was won by Sweden's up-and-coming ripper Kevin Backström, but we were certainly bowled over by the throngs of young Hungarians swarming around the site. "Awesome, Scooter's playing," I said in jest as we wound our way in to the thumping mess of noise emanating from the stage. Only as we got to the site we discovered it was actually the Scooter - all 87 years and cropped peroxide hair of him - whipping the 30,000 drunk Hungarians into a frenzy. So 90s it was actually awesome.
In terms of scale, the Fridge Festival is kind of the size of Freestyle.ch, but without skate or MX or such a high caliber of riders. When the contest-proper kicked of Friday night with the qualifiers it was quickly apparent that for the most part the riding level wasn't the ridiculously high standards we've been desensitized by in recent years. Having a large number of Hungarian, Czech, Polish and Slovakian rippers makes total sense but, without wanting to be harsh, I think they would agree that they're not quite up to speed with where kicker riding's at today. Back and front 7s were commonplace, as were fluffed lines on landing, but while on one hand it was refreshing to see these more stylish tricks for a while you did start to think, "Ok, right. So who's gonna step up and actually send it?"
Unsurprisingly it was, with one notable exception, the Scandi contingent who brought the riding to levels we've become accustomed to. Kevin Backström, Ulrik Badertscher and Ståle Sandbech were flying the flag for contemporary hyper-spinning with front 10s, back 12s and cab 10s putting the event firmly in 2011. With the best 2 of 3 jumps counting, Badertscher looked to have clinched the win as he combod a cab double underflip with a back 10 and when Ståle (who'd qualified first) failed to land his own cab dub Ulrik's win seemed a formality, but on his last jump young Swiss buck Pat Burgener stepped up and sent it long with a switch back 10 to add to his smooth cab 9, which sealed the deal and snatched the win. Attention was immediately switched to the main stage where the improbably named Infected Mushrooms dropped some electro-noise and whipped the bulging crowd into a frenzy with their Prodigy-lite sound.
Due to an unfortunate clash of dates with the Pleasure Jam, the overall level of riding at the event was maybe not what it's size deserved but with the lure of a weekend in this east European metropolis, 30,000 people to send it for and long nights with (Scooter aside) solid music lineups and a glut of Slavic beauties to lose themselves in, there's every chance that next year - schedule permitting - the Fridge Festival will lure a higher calibre of shredders to the Heroes Square and take the event to the next level. It has the potential.
1 Pat Burgener 186.5 pts
2 Ulrik Badertscher 180 pts
3 Kevin Backström 166.75 pts
4 Matevz Peter 157 pts
5 Staale Sandbech 141 pts
6 Michael Macho 120.5 pts
7 Jan Necas 96.75 pts
8 Zebbe Landmark 58 pts