While this section is designed to instruct you on the techniques of ridingin halfpipe competition, keep in mind it is not telling you what the judgeswant to see. By no means is this article meant to instruct riders on whattricks to perform. The Halfpipe is a “freestyle” competition and in no wayshould the judges violate any competitor’s effort to ride freely in a creativemanner. Rather, this section is meant to give you an idea of how to designyour own halfpipe runs to be competitive.
Sometime ago, riders were trying to devise how to put together the ultimatehalfpipe run, the ideal, the paragon of mixed tricks. After many years ofprogressive rationalization, it was generally agreed upon that the perfectrun is based solely upon three major concepts and not on any particularmaneuvers. The foundation is on DIFFICULTY, EXECUTION, and VARIETY.
Let’s recap what we have learned from part one and imagine what the judgesare doing as you progress down the halfpipe. Basically your strategy is goingto be based on the system of judging. We have five judges, each one lookingat a different criteria, and within each one of these criteria, each judgeis looking for the same three “sub-criteria,” (except the Amplitude Judge).The sub-criteria are once again: VARIETY, DIFFICULTY, and EXECUTION.Thus, each judge is looking to reward one third of his points to eachsub-criteria; in other words, 3.3 points maximum for each. The three sub-criteriaare an important concept to keep in mind. Now, lets describe how to impressa judge in each general category, and then how to put it all together intoone ultimate winning run.
STANDARD MANEUVERS: These are all “straight airs,” as they are sometimescalled. In other words, all airs that are under 360 degrees. While this areamay seem limited at first, it should be obvious to the expert snowboarderthat this includes a high number of maneuvers. These maneuvers may be groupedtogether into several “sub-groups.” The basic kinds of standard maneuversall group into one of the following: straight airs, airs to fakie/fakie toforward, alley oop airs, and straight switchstance airs. In able to scorea high variety, it is advisable to try and include a maneuver from each sub-group. For example, performing different backside airs with grabs shows a goodvariety, but including also a switchstance air, an alley oop air, and anair to fakie, shows a much greater range of variety, as well as increasingthe difficulty. Plus if the tricks are performed well, it increases yourscore for execution. The grab should be solid and smooth, the legs and bodymaneuvered into the appropriate position, and then the grab released: allin one fluid motion.
ROTATIONAL MANEUVERS: These are all maneuvers that include a rotationof 360 degrees or more. Rotations can be separated into several areas includinghorizontal rotations, vertical rotations, and inverts. (Note: inverts aretechnically not necessarily 360 degrees and above, but are placed into therotational category for point value balance). Some key points: Make sureto try and grab all your rotations. A grabbed 540 is certainly better thana 540 without a grab. Also, again, variety plays a major role. A low scorein variety may mean doing 3 frontside 540’s all with different grabs. Whiletechnically these are “different” tricks, it doesn’t show a high variety.A higher score for variety means doing maneuvers that are more dissimilar.Such as, a 540, a 720, a McTwist, and a handplant. Also, your execution forrotations means smooth, precise, and under control rotating. Higher difficultymay be added by including stalling or off axis combinations.
AMPLITUDE: This is a very simple category. It is purely a measureof how high the rider gets above the lip of the halfpipe. It is very importantto remember it is the AVERAGE of the height of ALL hits (except handplantsand lip tricks). Thus, it would be wise to try and get as high as possibleon EVERY hit. It is also importanto remember that every hit counts. Thus,if you have enough speed at the end of your run for a little half-foot highair, it might be wise to make it a lip trick, or possibly not take it atall and finish your run strong, rather than fizzle out.
LANDINGS: The landings judge looks at all your activity on the snow,on the wall, on the transition, and in the flatbottom. This is not only wherefalls and sketches come into play, but also where execution, smoothness,and edge control are measured. Additionally, the landings judge is alwayslooking for a variety of different and difficult landings. In other words,the type of maneuver you attempt can influence your landings score. If youride down the pipe, do perfect plain one foot airs, and stick all of them,the landings judge will not award you a full ten points. Landings must beof different types; for example, straight or rotational, and also of highdifficulty. Ideally, you want to ride across the halfpipe on your uphilledge, catch air, land, and ride out again on your uphill edge. This meansno turning unnecessarily, no large direction changes, no use of hands forbalance, and no accidental landing on the rollout deck. Also, remember, afull fall may carry a significant point decrease, but by no means will itdestroy your score completely. Always keep riding hard and never give up.
TECHNICAL MERIT/OVERALL: The TM judge looks at the overall schemeof how the run progresses and flows. Basically, everything is taken intoconsideration. However, more importantly, the TM judge is looking at howyou have designed your run to show a mastery of tricks that are executedwell and are difficult. Most often if you are getting high scores from theother judges, you will do equally as well in this criteria. Nonetheless,here are some tips. First, the more obvious, don’t fall. Falling in yourrun not only affects you when you crash, but also on your next few hits sinceyou have lost momentum. However, the TM judge also considers your ridingintensity, smoothness, and overall execution. Thus, high amplitude and higherrisk taking will increase your scores. Try doing a difficult maneuver atthe very beginning of your run. It is more risky and shows a better mastery.Also, your combinations are important. For example, back to back frontsideand backside 720’s may be more difficult than splitting them up in your run.The major theme is variety, difficulty and execution. Make sure you neverdo the same trick twice as it is a waste of time. Don’t be lazy and alwaysgrab your tricks if possible.
The key is balance. The best winning runs are completely balanced. A goodshow of as many types of tricks as possible. For example, this does not meana stalefish, a roast beef, an Indy, etc… These are all similar kinds oftricks. “Different types” means including all different sub-groups of trickswhich we have discussed. This would be more like Method, Alley oop Indy,360 mute, Switchstance Melanchollie, BFM, etc… Instead of just doing straightairs like the previous example, we have in this example included a straightair, an alley oop air, a horizontal rotation, a switchstance maneuver, anair to fakie, and an invert. This shows a better mastery of halfpipe riding.
Always remember each judge is monitoring one unique criteria and they wantto see a balance of sub-grouped tricks within that criteria. In other words,you must impress each judge. If they are doing their job correctly, you willbe rewarded for your efforts. Gaining an average high score from every judgewill in the end always give you a higher total score than say outstandingscores in a few categories and low scores in others. Also, remember thatyour strategy may want to include half standard maneuvers and half rotationalmaneuvers since these are the two major trick categories. That way you willbe maximizing your scores. Again, the key is balance.
Another point made often, is the one of necessity. One rider may think, “Icannot win unless I go upside down.” Not true. If you look at the designscheme of the judging criteria, inverted aerials make up only a small integralpart of the rotations criteria; just as switchstance does in standard maneuversor falling does in landings. Therefore, it is possible to do well while notperforming every sub-group of tricks. However, remember, the best runs mayinclude the entire spectrum of maneuvers and in order to do well, withouta full variety, you must make up for it in other areas. Putting it all togetheris crux. Truly it is a challenge to try and outperform everyone in each categoryand impress every judge. Design and practice your runs carefully, but takerisks, be creative, and be original. What works best for one rider may notwork the best for yourself. Good luck!n.” Not true. If you look at the designscheme of the judging criteria, inverted aerials make up only a small integralpart of the rotations criteria; just as switchstance does in standard maneuversor falling does in landings. Therefore, it is possible to do well while notperforming every sub-group of tricks. However, remember, the best runs mayinclude the entire spectrum of maneuvers and in order to do well, withouta full variety, you must make up for it in other areas. Putting it all togetheris crux. Truly it is a challenge to try and outperform everyone in each categoryand impress every judge. Design and practice your runs carefully, but takerisks, be creative, and be original. What works best for one rider may notwork the best for yourself. Good luck!