Archive for April, 2014

I am honored to release the final episode of A NZ Freeride Story. Rather than focus on snowboarding, we made a push to delve into surfing in one of the picturesque locations in New Zealand with a good friend of mine, Warrick Mitchell, Founder of Awarua Guides.  However, this was no ordinary surf trip.  Due to the remote nature of the Awarua Guides lodge, access is limited to helicopter, plane, boat and by foot.

 

Warrick, has spent a lifetime discovering the hidden gems of the region and showed us just a few of the daily rituals such as offshore fishing and diving, surf hunting by boat, sunset bonfires, feasts of epic proportions and story telling around the table. Some friends Lyndon Hutton, Lachlan Humphreys, Alex Carter and Warrick helped to etch a moment in time for a few days before all our paths led a in different directions and mine commenced onto the Freeride World Tour.

 

Thanks to Carlton Dry, iON, Epic TV, Awarua Guides, Greenstone Helicopters, and Mons Royale for helping to make this trip a success.

 

Produced by:
Clean Line Productions | Lachlan Humphreys & Colin Boyd

 

Music:
Civilian Sol – Danny Fairly
1st track – Maskless Masquerade
3rd track – Brother Man
4th track – Patupaiarehe

Smoke Stack Rhino
2nd track – Riverside

 

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After completing my initial year on the Freeride World Tour in 11th place and getting knocked off the tour, I was hungry to prove I had what it takes to stay on.  In order to qualify for the 2015 FWT I had to defend my position as the top North American snowboarder on the FWQT (Q for Qualifying).  The last win in Andorra put me into the top spot but there were two more 4-star events and a handful of riders capable of grabbing one of just two spots for the 2015 FWT.

 

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 On the road again, the San Juan Mountains sit in the distance. 

 

Sofi and I had a couple days in Tahoe before I jumped in the car again and blasted out on another 20+ hour road trip for another contest, this year has been ground hog day on replay.  We arrived in the European styled out town of Telluride and my good friend Kingston met me on the main street and looked after me with kind generosity over the next five days.

 

The venue for the first day contest looked like mini golf, however there were loads of snowboarder features which typically works well for my style of riding.  The line up of riders was stacked, however I knew all I had to do was achieve a top three result to hang onto my top spot.  All the calculations of points and results flew out the window when I dropped in and I had a blast on my run hitting about six features on the way down.  On the qualifying day, it all came together really well and I managed to qualify in first with a bunch of talented guys just behind me.  I was honored to have pulled it off and head into the finals day knowing I was already halfway there.

 Screen shot 2014-04-10 at 10.31.02 AM

Backside 360 tail on the qualifier day.  Photo: Jake Niece.

The finals day started just like the qualifiers with an hour long solo session on perfectly manicured groomers.    Over the past year I have fallen in love with groomer riding again, especially when we are granted early morning lift access and can session groomers without a single person in the way.  This is perhaps one of my favorite parts of these ‘extreme’ contests.   Anyway, with the weather pressing, the event organisers pushed hard to get as much completed as soon as possible.  As the male snowboarders began to drop the snow got heavier and heavier and by the time they called my name, I could barely see the bottom of the venue.  With all the riders already at the bottom and seeing the high level, I knew I had to put down a solid run to keep my top spot.  I aired a method into the top of the face, threw a little 360 onto the main face and proceeded to the more technical section at speed.  The venue was much shorter than I imagined though and before I knew it, I had missed one feature and ended up below a critical air… not good.  I managed the terrain with speed and aired out and into the final section with confidence.  The bottom wasn’t as smooth as the day before, but I hit four features before the finish and rode in knowing I stayed on my feet, which is usually the hardest thing to do.  Click here to check out the Subaru Freeride Series webcast, my run is around 1:52.30.

Down in the village I was stoked to see so many old/new friends on the podium and I was again blown away when my name got called up in first place.  It was the first four star I had won in years and this had a proper stacked field of talent so it really meant a lot.  That night, a Talking Heads cover band literally burned down the house and we celebrated one roller coaster of a year.

Screen shot 2014-04-10 at 10.36.01 AMGoofing around with the Tahoe Crew. Photo: Jake Niece.

IMG_7881So stoked to get on the podium again with my amigos –  5th – Rob Vandervort | 4th – Dave Brumm | 3rd – Chris Galvin | 2nd Vincent Remmel | 1st – me. 

 

I cruised back through Utah with fellow FWT riders John Rodosky and Laura Dewey and caught the midnight train from Utah to California.  Some Tahoe friends were on board, so I caught a ride back to South Lake with them and reunited with Sofi.  We made a plan to hit North Lake for the remainder of the week and a couple of mega storms were on the forecast meaning we were again in the perfect place.  We had the week to try and plan out the next two months and have some much needed time together to relax.

 

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IMG_7971Tahoe Legend showing me around the local South Tahoe Backcountry.

 

With one more contest remaining, we made the decision to pack the gear again and make the move to Big Sky, Montana to finish out the year.  How could we say no to just one more 15+ hour drive and the open invite from our friends Gabe, Tracy and Lizzie?  Before we knew it, we were back in Bozeman and then in Big Sky preparing for the contest.

 

The first day of the contest had perfect weather and relatively amazing snow conditions.  With another stacked field of riders and nothing to lose, I decided to let it rip right off the top throwing a switch 540 to enter my run.  A very wind loaded cornice was too powdery to pass up, so before I knew it, I was getting face shot after face shot as an added bonus before the main part of the run.  I entered a chute with a cross-court air out of the bottom and as I exited over a slightly rocky section, I hit a rock causing me to lose control and take a mid fall run without even doing a trick!  I pulled it together pretty quick though and hit my final two airs solid and styled.  At the finish I was pretty gutted, but Sofi assured me that a lot of guys fell and I should just squeak into the finals.

Screen shot 2014-04-07 at 1.10.39 PM Day 1 air out of the bottom.

 

Her prediction was correct and I snuck into the finals the next day in 11th position knowing I would need a high scoring run to catch up to the guys at the front.  Jonathan Penfield, a very talented rider was placed just behind me, but had the same thought and we rode identical lines back to back; he just bossed it and won the day, where I landed in his bomb hole, tomahawked into a no fall zone and was unable to hold it together on the big air below.  I was gutted not to end the season on a high note, but the contest results confirmed I would hold the top spot for North American riders qualifying for the 2015 FWT and my fellow shred buddy, Chris Galvin would take the second spot.

 

Screen shot 2014-04-07 at 6.30.16 PMDropping into my finals run with a consequential air at the top. 

Screen shot 2014-04-07 at 6.31.12 PMTaking a FWT style line out and into the main face. 

Screen shot 2014-04-07 at 6.32.13 PM Unfortunately I made a poor decision and didn’t carry enough speed off this feature, meaning I hit Penfield’s rocky bomb hole and tomahawked into a very precarious section, catching myself just in time. 

 

Its been a really wild roller coaster of a year with loads of highs and a lot of lows.  I feel I now understand the competitive freeriding game a bit better given all the recent experience.  Right now I am looking forward to taking some time off the snow, working on some new projects and taking life in a bit of a different direction in the coming months.  Keep posted for travels across AMERICA!

 Screen shot 2014-04-07 at 7.34.27 PM2014 Freeride World Qualifying Tour Results, stoked to be at the top and have so many buddies in the top 10. 

Screen shot 2014-04-08 at 8.45.59 AM A shot from the Swiss Magazine 30 Degrees published in March. 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t have been more stoked to arrive in San Francisco late in February.  I was coming into the fourth stop of the Freeride World Tour with fresh steam after my latest win and knowing my amazing girlfriend was arriving the following day. A quick night in San Fran catching up with old friends and Grain Surfboards was had and I was reunited with Sofi the next day. We hit the road for Lake Tahoe where we spent a couple days lounging, shredding and prepping for the next few weeks and 2,000+ mile journey ahead.

 

IMG_7761Sofi enjoying her first days in California!

 

My fellow FWT comrade, Brian Bozack, scooped us up and led us on a quick tour of his home resort in Tahoe, Sugar Bowl on what was one of the best days of the season. We then shot across the desert for Snowbird, Utah and the fourth stop of the FWT.

The contest was meant to run immediately, but an avalanche on the contest face (again) left the FWT management scrambling to sort out a new venue. Silver Fox was proposed to us and many athletes had mixed opinions as it was in bounds, skied by the public daily and because of that, a field of moguls. However fresh snow was on the forecast and we were granted an in course inspection, something rare on the FWT. The contest went ahead and I was feeling really positive about my line choice and chances on the venue.

IMG_7663Scoping lines with John Rodosky and Tom Burt.

 

IMG_7668 Silver Fox, the back up venue at Snowbird.

I put down a big method right off the top and went into a quick air through the top section and then into one of the best backside 360’s I’ve ever done in a contest. I rode out and into my next set of features which were a bit close. On my first, my landing was a bit weak as I was attempting to slow down to spin the next feature. This landing through me off so I changed my mind and straight aired a funky air, then into the next.  My mind was already off and I was unable to pull the air I wanted, but stuck it and rode away towards the finish line. Unfortunately I tried to pull one last slash at the bottom and got hung up in the funky snow and crashed right before the finish! IDIOT!

 

Check out my run here!

My score came in putting me into 7th place where I stayed as I was one of the last riders. I was happy with my line choice, but disappointed with my riding as I knew my chances for re-qualifying were that much more slim.

We hit the road early heading for Jackson Hole where we skied a mushy spring day and headed next for Bozeman, Montana, my west coast hub. Tracy and Gabe put us up for a few days to relax and recover before making the 18+ hour journey to Revelstoke, Canada.

 IMG_7669Shredding the legendary Jackson Hole with Sofi!

 

We had an epic crew for this journey consisting of (Sofi, the Chickering-Ayers brothers, Hadley Hammer and Sasha Dingle). The journey was a riot and after one blow out, a night in Fernie and a few detours for hot springs etc, we arrived in Revelstoke for the last and most anticipated stop on the FWT.

 

IMG_7696Silas keeping spirits high on the road.

IMG_7693Captain Larz dealing to the mega blow out.

 

Conditions were not looking great as a huge warm cycle was increasing instability in the snowpack by the hour. On our inspection day, ski patrol took to the air to heli bomb the face as they typically would. A ten kilo charge was dropped on the top cornice and did not explode for about two minutes. In that time the cornice dropped from the top ridge which was enough to trigger a slide as wide as most of the middle of the face, ruining our chances to compete on the legendary Mac Daddy Face. Just minutes after our riders meeting explaining the circumstances, another human triggered slide occurred on a different aspect in the back country and within reach of our crew. A heli was put in the air and patrol eventually rescued the punter that triggered it.  Needless to say conditions were scary and not getting any better.

 IMG_7705The legendary Mac Daddy Face of Revelstoke.

 

After seeing these events and hearing of the 50 year avalanche down in Rogers Pass, the FWT management made the decision to cancel the event leaving many riders, myself included, unable to have a chance to qualify for Verbier and for next season.

 

Gutted, but relieved the FWT season was complete for me, we spent our last day sledding with local legend Scotty Heale and another Kiwi and old friend Dre. This was the best part of the trip as Sofi got to check out snowmobiling and we got an amazing view of the available terrain accessible from Revelstoke. Unfortunately we blasted out the next day, but I can’t wait to go back.

 

IMG_7721 Kiwi/Revelstoke legend, Scott Heale showing Sof the goods!

 

Drew Tabke whisked us away to Seattle where we spent a night with one of my cousins, however we scurried away early the next morning for the journey South to San Fran for another cousin’s wedding a few days later. Robin our Craigslist Rideshare Captain had just purchased a rare RV Campervan and was making the journey south back to California and seeking company. As soon as we stepped on board I realized the journey may be a bit longer than anticipated. About 10 hours later we made it about 300 miles to Eugene, Oregon, about 1/3 of the distance to San Francisco.  Not ideal, however an old friend saved us from a night in the van and we carried on the next morning for San Francisco, making it just in time for the wedding and a rad family reunion.

 

IMG_7740Robin’s legendary 1973 Chevy TVS-4 RV (STRIPES Version)

 

IMG_7827A rare West Coast McInnis family reunion.

IMG_7828Half Moon Bay

 

IMG_7829Our new whip, thanks Kiel and Olivia

We didn’t stay in the city very long and we were fortunate enough to move into a new Alaskan rig for the next leg of the journey.  Patty, pictured above, was lent to us for an undetermined amount of time by some generous friends and Sofi and I were off back to the Sierra Nevada mountains to see what might shake out next.