After a long and nasty flight on Screaming Baby airlines, Foster and I hit the ground, still reeling from the slugfest at the Nippon Open. We?d made it back, only a little worse for the wear.

Over the dateline, yesterday was Sunday in Japan, and finally after days of shit conditions, the sun broke through. The pipe was looking good but took a beating fast, in the warm weather.

To start things off, the ladies took the riding to a much more dynamic level during their jam than they?d been able to all week. There were dollar signs in there eyes, and fire in their final runs. Third place went to a girl named Manuela Pesko though, her riding was forgettable and seemed nervy. There were many other girls who earned the podium spot. Oh well. Second went to Natasza Zurek, also looking a tad on the meek side, compared to her normal steez. And first went to Nicola Thost, who linked together some solid runs and definitely kept all her ammo above the lip.

There was some other action, however. Stine Brun-Kjeldaas was killing it (as they say), and demonstrating that old Norwegian power. And hot on the tail of all the female competitors was another Norwegian, Kjersti Oestgaard Buass. This little powerhouse will have all the other Burton girls on the run before long. She had easily the dopest runs of the jam, but over-amped a few times and fell. When she puts it together, though, look out. Prediction for the U.S Open?Buass, podium. She?s got the illest frontside five, and some serious boost. Cecile Alzina was also charging, going overhead.

When the dudes finally took to the pipe, it looked like they really just wanted to get it over with. Three or four days of qualifying in the rain had put the zap to ?em. But still, they ripped. The official tally goes, Simmen first, Hoffman second and Franck third. Hoffman doesn?t even go upside down, but somehow edged out Daniel for the number two spot. Daniel was riding really strong after his dizzying slam at the Olympics. He seemed unfazed by getting the shaft?sevens, nines, and amplitude for real must be satisfaction enough.

Gian Simmen rode squarely and powerfully throughout, to wind up on top. As the jam went on, he semed to gain energy and height with each successive run. Vincenz Lueps is insane, he might be taller than Abe Teter, and goes just as big?rad. Keir Dillon, Rio Tahara, and Magnus Sterner was also looking good, but had their share of troubles in the quickly-deteriorating pipe.

After much autograph signing, picture-posing and cheering, checks were distributed and the riders hit the road. This ninth annual Nippon Open was great spectator event, and an all-around good time. Next stop Stratton Mountain resort, and the U.S. Open. Smell ya there.

Results Nippon Open

Women pipe
1. Nicola Thost
2.Natasza Zurek
3.Manuela Pesko
4.Kelly Clark
5.Kjersti Oestgaard-Buass
6.Stine Brun-Kjeldaas
7.Fabienne Reuteler
8.Anne Molin-Kongsgaard
9.Doriane Vidal
10.Cecile Alzina

Men pipe
1. Gian Simmen
2. Xaver Hoffman
3. Daniel Franck
4. Therry Brunner
5. Vincenz Lueps
6. Marcel Hitz
7. Keir Dillon
8. Magnus Sterner
9. Hajime Ishibashi
10. Rio Tahara