You might have heard of this little brand that's recently dipped its toes into the murky pool of snowboarding, and as they prepare to launch Gigi Rüf's pro model Kaiju boot they decided to celebrate by holding a five-a-side football tournament in Innsbruck and then let us have at the kit on Hintertux the day after.
One thing's for sure: these Nike boys talk a good game. As we were whisked through the Nike Snowboarding range we were bombarded with tech from NASA, taking inspiration from Jordan and Kobe's footwear, rigid environmental and workplace standards and a constructive and forward-thinking way of bringing together a team. Yes, Nike do have a solid wedge of cash behind them but to use a football analogy, the team that they've built is more Chelsea than Manchester City, with the added bonus that their guys (Gigi Rüf, Nicolas Müller, Justin Bennee, Danny Kass, Austin Smith, Annie Boulanger, Laura Hadar and Eric Jackson) are not a bunch of horrendous scummers.
With our brains fully laundered we were all kitted out with head-to-toe football kits and headed to the front of Innsbruck's X-Double snowboard shop where a small pitch had been erected. Our team, the spectacularly-named FC Mullet, were a touch fearful of having to play the first game of the tournament against FC Gigi, made up of Rüf himself, Austin Smith, Spaziba's Florent De Maria, Nike boys Jon Weaver and Brian Craighill, and the weaving Swissman Nicolas Müller. We needn't have worried, we spanked them 4-3 and our momentum carried us smoothly past all-comers until we found ourselves facing off FC Gigi once more in the final. These boys are athletes, while our team was comprised of desk jockeys and semi-pro drinkers plus we were a little overawed by the occasion and let our concentration drop. We were well beaten 4-1 and FC Gigi took the inaugural Rüf cup. Well played gents.
Excuse the shaky camerawork. Our correspondent had just done more exercise than is good for him.
Nursing injuries and hangovers, we bezzed up to Hintertux the next morning to test out Gigi's Kaiju boot. Inspired by the football boot of his hometown team, FC Bregenz, the first thing you notice is they are light. Well, actually the first thing you notice is that bits of them turn pink in the sunlight but Bendtners aside they felt great out the box on my usually-troublesome feet. The regular laces with an internal Flywire cuff locked the foot in like a limpet and the cush you feel slipping these on cannot be overstated. But these boots ain't just made for walking... The product guy made a big deal of the Nike Free-inspired sole, which allows the sole to move more freely while maintaining length-wise stiffness and you could really notice the extra feel this gave. The feeling was one of being better connected to your board than I've felt in a while and you can really imagine the benefits this would give bouncing pillows on a pow day.
In terms of stiffness, the Nike lot claim this is their softest model, but it wasn't noodly at all - pretty much middle of the road and responsive enough to quickly dodge the random kids who'd come out of nowhere as they do, and when patches of glacial ice would pop up you had enough in 'em to make sure your edge was held. The funny thing was that everyone we spoke to seemed to get on with them pretty good, which is pretty unheard of for a first day bezz about. And there wasn't any Nike guys around when we were talking about this either... Being lazy Euros a few of us would like to see a speedlace version, but the product guy claimed it was on the cards for the future. "Like nothing you've seen before," was how he described it. "So it'll be the Back to the Future II lacing system then?" we asked. Poker face was all we got to that question...
Big thanks to Weaver, Bjorn, Brian, Gigi and co. at the Swoosh for putting on the football and letting us play on their new gear. We'll go one step further next time...