I’m always going around with what is more or less this claim: It doesn’t matter how many people learn to ride every season, or how many media-made superstar groms come into being, there will only be a handful of people who truly know how to ride a snowboard-ever.
Of course, I’m talking riding-the efficient use of a board as dictated by its design. Hucking phenoms don’t fit into this puzzle because what they do, although impressive and wholly respectable, is not snowboarding. They could just as well be-as many of them have been and are-on a trampoline, gym floor, or diving board.
Back to my point (of view). In a discipline full of variables and chance, Shaun Palmer rode away with the Boarder-X for the third year in a row. He’s the only guy who’s ever won the men’s Boarder-X at the X-Games. Lesser competitors try to write it off (“It’s the start,” “He has a world cup ski-tech working on his board,” whatever). The fact is, Palmer led every heat he was in from start to finish. In between runs, he’d switch into his ski boots and scare the snowboard pants off of big-name “freeskiers” in the Skiercross (he finished sixth in that, by the way). Add it up and Palmer etched a thick underline below his unquestionable strength and talent. He was the only show at the Games. I can’t even imagine an X-Games without him.
Men’s pipe was a different but equally cool story. In typical fashion, riders and spectator/judges (we all wish we were judges, don’t we?) wussed at the pipe. “The pipe sucks, the judging sucks,” etc. Ironically, it’s the guys who’ve been around forever that still haven’t figured out the nature of a judged event. You see, only the judges get to judge; it’s always been that way. If you enter, then you accept the terms and conditions of the contest.
Jimi Scott, who spends most of his days in Southern California, picked a good time to come outof hibernation and proved my point again, taking advantage of today’s crop of complaining pro riders. Solid riding carried him to the top of a heap of media-made pros who could hardly ride. Aside from a handful of stellar moves from guys like Michalchuck, pipe riding barely seems to have changed over the last ten years. An emphasis on recent big-air jumping trends showed through as most riders were no more than one-hit wonders. One big trick, no good riding. Engelsman rode the pipe well in the run I saw, but it was Jimi who put it together with a variety and consistency the others couldn’t muster. I was stoked to see him take it.
In the women’s events, there was some innovation on Shannon Dunn’s part-she was at least pulling progressive moves. Cara-Beth made the most of the box extension much to the stoke of the skate-biased announcers. Tricia Byrnes was riding solid. She just seems stronger than the rest. None of them won, though.
Hoy’s X-Games Fact Sheet
Lamest “New” Sport: Skiboarding, without a doubt. Not worthy of either half of its name. Make fun of a snowboarder or skier by calling them a skiboarder. (e.g. “Hey Joe, heard you’re in the skiboarding finals.”)
Best Event By Far: Snowcross (“snotocross,” or snowmobile racing). What I’d do for a slled like that! These guys go big and fast and make midwesterners look rad. This one girl watching kept saying, “Oh my heck! Oh my heck.” She couldn’t believe Billy Bob qualified.
Most Embarrassing Moment: Big-name hucksters and one-hit wonders who couldn’t get over the lip of the pipe. You know who you are-better take the money while you can.
Most Embarrassing Moment Two: Women’s Boarder-X in general. Couldn’t ride the whoops well enough to make the step-up jump. Even more embarrassing was to take the option around the jump and then complain about the fact that there was an option during your television interview. Some shit never changes.
Best Athletes: Palmer and Maelle Ricker (Thank you!). Barrett Christy and Shannon Dunn were good, too.