According to American preacher Harold Camping, the world was meant to end on May 21st 2011 and as people all over the world prepared for the impending apocalypse, a group of UK snowboarders had other plans. This dedicated bunch of keen folk decided to spend what could have been the last day on earth shredding rails, hitting kickers and winning prizes at the first round of the Southern Freestyle Series at Swadlincote Dryslope.
Riders from all over the UK descended to the perma snow slope where an array of kickers, boxes and rails awaited them before the rapture was due to begin. The set up had features for all abilities and the competition was to be run in a relaxed jam format with the top riders going through to the finals. The judges were ready, the sun was beating down, the music was pumping and after a mellow practice session riders were ready to get stuck into the competition.
There were a bazillion more skiers than snowboarders, which was a bit of a shame. I guess that kids start skiing with their parents and now that freeskiing is â€œcoolâ€ again, kids don’t feel the need to grab a shredstick and rebel against their folks by being the cool freestyler snowboarder kid. There was also an abundance of skinny jeans which was refreshing compared to the factory produced style of tall tees and baggy pants which seems to dominate the freeski world.
Anyway, that’s enough snowblade chat for one article. Despite it being hotter than hell, Doug Johnson was holding it down for the snowboarders, stomping his tricks with style and ease. Super tech tricks such as a backside nose slide tap 360 out on the gaspipe saw him qualify in first, representing for his Grindhouse brethren.
Riders were treated to a spot prize giveaway where some top quality stash from various sponsors was given to whoever could land the tricks the MC called out. There weren’t many big name UK shredders and the event was suited to all the up and coming supergroms where the focus was on progression and pushing yourself rather than serious competition.
The chilled vibe continued once the finalists had been announced. As riders were ready to drop in for their 2 runs it felt more like a session with friends rather than a serious competition. However, this didn’t stop the riders from holding back.
13 year old Becky Menday rode with her usual style and stomped all of her tricks including a huge frontside 180 off of the kicker to claim first in the girls category, leaving Sam Rogers and Melissa Brandner to settle for second and third respectively.
In the males snowboarding category Doug Johnson was unlucky to fall on both of his runs and was pipped to the podium by youngster Curtis Taylor Tipton who took third place. The youngest rider in the final, Tomski Robinson, rode with more style than most of his peers and walked away with second place. It was Jack Labbett who claimed gold after hammering down two solid runs which saw 270s on and off of most of the rails and a crowd pleasing frontflip over the kicker.
The event was a great success and saw loads of up and coming UK riders getting involved in the competition scene. The features at Swadlincote might be a million miles away from the hard pack groomers of the X games slopestyle parks, but everyone’s got to start somewhere right? The Southern Freestyle series is a great, chilled out introduction for younger riders to compete and gain a bit of competition experience, so if you fancy having a bit of fun and maybe winning some prizes then get on it!
Luckily fire and brimstone didn’t consume the earth in a fiery Armageddon, so get down to the next two events at Chatham on the 4th of June and at Bracknell on the 18th of June.
Big shout out to all the sponsors, the organisers and the crew at Swadlincote dryslope for making the first round happen despite the prospect of impending doom!
Words and photos by Rhys Crilley