Anarchy In The U.K.

The Board-X snowboard festival has established itself as the largest snowboarding event in the United Kingdom–and this year's event was no exception. On November 12—14, a crowd of 19,600 made their way to Battersea Park to witness the highest standard of riding the U.K. has ever seen.

More than 50 riders from United States, Canada, Europe and Indonesia participated, and approximately 80 exhibitors and 80 distributors had booths at the show–with the largest booth belonging to the UK's premier snowboard retail specialists, Snowboard Asylum.

However, distributors were also welcome: “We make a big effort to attract distributors so the show won't be simply a retail event,” says event co-founder Andrew Mattle.

But this was a show that also catered to beginners. The Burton- and Xscape-sponsored Trial Slope was booked back-to-back throughout the weekend, with visitors getting free snowboard lessons on real snow.

The big-air event garnered the most attention, however, especially after Stefan Gimpl's Cab 900, Ben Hinkley's backflip 540 and Gian Simmen's rodeo 900–a trick that had never been pulled before Board-X.

With most U.K. snowboarders traveling to the Alps to make their turns, fifteen specialist wintersport travel companies also exhibited. “We run a tight ship,” says Mattle. “Efficiency is forced on us. I could hold three decent events for no more than the cost of the ramp at the X-Games.”

The people behind Board-X also run the British Snowboard Championships, which are held at a European resort. This led to as many as 600 people booking travel packages for the event. The company has also started running an event called the Urban Games, with events such as BMX, skateboarding, street basketball, and dee-jaying (check out www.board-x.com and www.urban-games.com).

Despite the encouraging growth, founders Mattle and Mark Adams have found that success doesn't always ensure the continued interest of the U.K.'s fickle corporate sponsors. “We thought as Board-X grew and became more successful, sponsorship would be easier to find,” says Mattle. “Some of the sponsors we had last year–such as PlayStation, Kellogg's, and Calvin Klein–withdrew about 100,000 dollars of sponsorship this year. But due to some great TV coverage, we now have backing from the Daily Telegraph and Red Bull.”

Total U.K. sales of snowboards hover at around 10,000. So although the U.K. scene is hardcore and enthusiastic, the lack of critical mass has meant that in recent years corporate sponsors have backed the sport largely based on its lifestyle image and seem less interested on grassroots promotions.

“Snowboarding was the media darling for a couple of years,” says Mattle. “The lifestyle sponsors have decided soccer and clubbing is the best way to appeal to kids this year. Maybe they wasted all their budget on the Eclipse (a disastrous and much hyped rain-soaked full-solar eclipse that took place earlier this summer) or on the Millennium.”