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Bowl & Banks, Fukushima, Japan 2015 Recap : A freestyle event

Alts Bandai Resort, Fukushima, Japan, March 14-15, 2015

By Alex Yoder

Sneaking through the ski school line onto the snail-paced two-man lift was the only way to get back to the course without shuffling through the line that was the ski hill equivalent to the opening scene in the film Office Space. Once on the lift I was surprised by an unfamiliar sound, English. The woman sitting next to me was a Canadian who had moved to Japan 16 years ago. She wasn't a pro rider or an instructor or anything, just a pretty good snowboarder that travelled five hours from a far less crowded powdery paradise to come ride the Bowl & Banks course created by the legendary "Bubbles" or as his mother knows him, Hayato Maruyama.

"Yeah, you know, it's a course that anyone can ride. Little kids, pros, and old guys can all have fun riding this," said Domi Churiki of Gentemstick as we're strapped in, groovy reggae tunes echo off the slope behind us.

If you can get down the bunny slope, you can get through the course, likewise if you're a proficient rider, you can find high speed lines, big airs, and tight corners to slash. It's built for just that, to be inclusive. To give the shredders something to shred, the cruisers something to cruise, and to inspire the future rippers who realize how much fun that kind of riding is.

The most important part about these sessions is how the simplicity of the course allows individual style to shine. There's nothing that you have to do, nothing that could kill you, and no points or scores. It's free style.

Gentemstick rider Okado Osamu (aka Om) is a surfer. He surfs frigid winter swells in Hokkaido and guides surf trips in Bali in the summer. When Om drops in to the Bowl and Banks he sees waves. He literally surfs the course, carving incredibly low heel-side bottom turns into big sweeping forehand cutbacks on the banks. Tim Eddy on the other hand loves this course, "Because I can do everything I wish I could do on my skateboard." Tim drops in, pumps high on the walls of two banks, does a massive frontside air hip transfer, carves another couple of banks finds a steep section to plant a frontside invert at the bottom.

I'm pressed to find another place where all of the board sports come together like this. We all draw inspiration from different places, be it surf, skate, snow, nature or music. This event is a seamless combination of it all. Bubble's Bowl and Banks creates a uniquely interpretable landscape where every snow slider can feel welcome to find and live their own reality.