World snowboarding champion Todd Richards’ autobiography, P3: Pipes, Parks, and Powder is more than the life story of an iconic pro athlete. It is a definitive insider’s account of the emergence and explosive growth of a sport that, at the heart of the X Games phenomenon, has changed the face of youth culture. Snowboarding went from being virtually unknown, to a fringe novelty hated by skiers, parents, cops—all but its supposedly delinquent practitioners. Time magazine even called Snowboarding “The Worst New Sport” in 1988, an historic moment Richards responded with “finally, credibility!” Within a decade, the “worst new sport” blossomed into a highly developed professional sport and Olympic event. In P3: Pipes, Parks, and Powder, Richards gives snowboarding’s millions of fans a revealing, action-packed, and often hilarious look at what it was like to be at the forefront of the revolution.
If anyone knows what being in the eye of the snowboarding storm that hit in the last decade of the 20th century was like, it’s Todd Richards. From turning pro and getting his first sponsorship deal when snowboarding was still in its infancy in the ’80s to competing as a veteran in the first-ever Olympic event in Nagano, Japan, in 1998, Richards grew up with his sport. He has also been one of its most successful athletes. He was among the first to make a seven-figure income from sponsorship and contest winnings; he took home the halfpipe gold medal in the inaugural 1997 X Games and has won world championships and countless pro tour events; his image has graced the covers of innumerable magazines. He’s been immortalized in PlayStation video games, and he even has his own action figure.
But P3: Pipes, Parks, and Powder is more than just a vanity-job listing of Richards’ accomplishments. And while there’s an abundance of heated contests described in detail, as well as analyses of different tricks and how and by whom they were invented, there’s a lot more than that, too. It turns out Richards is a charismatic, down-to-earth, humble, and surprisingly funny character—the perfect spokesman for snowboarding. His stories about the early days, when few ski resorts allowed his kind on their slopes and competitions were ramshackle affairs, are full of wry, self-deprecating humor. His reverence for the sport’s real trailblazers and his affection for the young pros he semi-matured with come through and give the book a great atmosphere. “I was by no means a snowboarding pioneer, Richards writes half way through, “but I was around near its beginning, and that could never be taken away. I was mostly a spectator for the Coghlan/Kidwell/Kelly/Palmer reign, the first modern era of snowboarding. I was part of the second wave of freestylers, including Jeff Brushie, Jason Ford, Noah Brandon, Chris Roach, and Terje Haakonsen, who saw the sport through the X Games era. We were determined to continue the progression of ourselves and the sport.”
By this point as a reader you not only know who all of these people are, you know their exploits (who was pulling frontside 720s in competition before anyone else), know how they feel about each other, and know the wild pranks they pulled together in the middle of the night while on tour far from home in foreign lands. Richards conveys a real sense of snowboarding culture’s mythology, complete with its heroes and their legendary deeds. He gives this thing, this bastard child of skateboarding and surfing a true voice of its own.
The pleasures of P3: Pipes, Parks, and Powder aren’t limited to pro snowboarding. Along the way Richards recounts his childhood in Paxton, Massachusetts (skateboarding addiction, Star Wars fanaticism, experimental hair styling, major overall hyperactivity); his foray into Hollywood (one film, and a long drunken evening at the mercy of Steve Austen, the Six Million Dollar Man); the tragiic loss of his father; and the joys of becoming a father himself. Tales of culture shock in exotic travel destinations, of learning to surf with his wife, Lindsy (she was better), and of the thrill and rabid media frenzy that came with being part of the first American Olympic snowboarding team make it into the mix. Richards relates it all with the humor and keen insight of a natural storyteller.
But of course, it all comes back to snowboarding. Because P3: Pipes, Parks, and Powder isn’t just a snowboarding book—it’s the snowboarding book. Written with Eric Blehm, former editor of TransWorld SNOWboarding (the sport’s bible) and every bit the insider Richards is, P3: Pipes, Parks, and Powder offers a window into a world that millions more people are becoming part of every year. P3: Pipes, Parks, and Powder is a compelling and fun read—and without a doubt a book that not only every snowboarder but every fan of the wildly popular X Games world will want to own.
ABOUT TODD RICHARDS: Todd Richards continues to compete in and win the world’s most prestigious snowboarding competitions and is currently producing his second trick-tips video. He makes frequent television appearances, but is avoiding a commentator job for as a long as possible—at least until he lands a major role in a future Star Wars movie. He lives with his wife and son in Encinitas, California, and Breckenridge, Colorado.
ABOUT ERIC BLEHM: Eric Blehm is a freelance journalist who obtained his degree in journalism with the sole intention of becoming the world’s first accredited snowboarding writer. He is a former editor of TransWorld SNOWboarding and he lives with his wife in Cardiff by the Sea, California.
Upcoming Todd Richards events:
December 6th @1-3PM
#38 BOARDRIDERS CLUB — THE GATEWAY
136 S. Rio Grande
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
December 6th @5-7PM
#23 BOARDRIDERS CLUB–PARK CITY
363 Main Street
Park City, UT 84060
435-649-4100 (ph)Signing–January 10th 3PM
BARNES & NOBLE # 2785
1040 N. El Camino Real Drive
Encinitas, CA 92024
(760) 943-6400Signing–January 24th at 6PM:
221 East Main Street
Aspen, CO 81611
If you can’t make it out to the signing, be sure and click Here to Buy P3 right now