Teams: Airwalk, Allian, Atlantis, Atomic, Burton, Capita, Duotone, Elan, Gnu, Illuminati, Joyride, K2, Lib Tech, M3, Morrow, Never Summer, Nidecker, Option, Ride, Rossignol, Salomon, Santa Cruz, Sims, Supernatural, Type A, Vîlkl, and World Industries.
I hated team sports as a youth. I was the uncoordinated fat kid who always ran the slowest laps and couldn’t memorize a play to save my life. That’s part of the reason I quit playing football my freshman year and started snowboarding-you were your own coach and critic, and the only person you could let down was yourself. (I also didn’t like getting my bell rung by kids twice my size.) It’s hard to believe that thirteen years later I’m writing about a snowboarding event based on the notion of one snowboard team pitted in an athletic competition against another.
I didn’t know what to expect from the 2001 Team Challenge, held March 6-8 at Snow Summit-would there be referees blowing whistles if someone had wack style, or would scantily clad girls with large bosoms jump up and down every time Todd Richards did a Wet Cat? Well, instead of being a quitter like usual, I hopped a plane to lovely Orange County, California in hopes of getting some footage for Mack Dawg Productions. After renting a car, wheezing and swerving my way though the smog and the traffic of San Bernardino County, I’d made it to Big Bear.
There were over twenty snowboard companies involved with this event, so it’s no surprise that there was a load of talent upon the slopes of Snow Summit. Most of the jock snowboarders stayed at home for this event because there was no prize money. The reward for riding well was the approval of your peers, a slew of media capturing your every move, and a chance to win a plaque symbolizing the fact that you were the shred.
Chris Gunnarson and crew had built a good course including rails, hips, and tabletops. Nothing was overly big, so people weren’t getting too broken off, although a few kids did get beat-downs. Even with crappy weather, my hopes were high ’cause Matt Hammer had learned the trick of the year-backside 450 lipslide-the day before I got there, landing them almost every try. So no worries, when the weather clears my boy Hammer’ll hammer the trick out and that alone will be worth the trip.
For the most part, it seemed like the teams were as good as the amount of money their sponsors blew on them. It didn’t matter how ‘core a company was, if it didn’t have cash money, it didn’t have solid riders. Perhaps this is why a lot of the ski-owned snowboard companies did so well in this competition. The only real letdown was the absence of Team Forum-those guys must’ve penciled in the event and later pulled the plug when they realized it would be unfair to everyone else if they showed up.
On the first day, it was snowing and cold and there were unconfirmed threats that the contest may be canceled. Most people still went riding, so I had to deal with a fogged-up lens and frozen hands as I burned roll after roll of film trying to capture Hammer’s trick. We should have given up after several failed attempts, but we were both hell-bent on getting it.
That night, Gunny set up a pipe jam that lasted well past dark, thanks to a generator he’d scrounged up, some studio lights, and a good stereo system. This let all the photo nerds experiment with their pricey flashes and gave the riders a chance to attempt landing their tricks while being blinded by camera strobes and spotlights. Daniel Franck and Danny Kass weren’t having any problems dealing with the media frenzy and threw down the usual-basically anything they wanted. After the session, I ran into Josh Dirksen and Jess Gibson (formerly of Standard Films) who had a couple of the new Burton snowskates. I tripped out as Dirksen launched benihanas over a 25-foot tabletop. Josh made it look so easy that I grabbed a skate, ran up the hill, dropped in, and got beat.
The contest was supposed to go dowwn the next day, but unfortunately, another cloudy day in “sunny” So Cal delayed it. Rumors of the weather improving that night proved true, though, and by the time the final day came around it was clear and warm. I posted up next to the rail once again, even though Hammer was already over it. Eddie Wall landed a Cab 450, Chris Engelsmen gave the rail a good beat-down with his patented lipslide to switch backside lipslide or something like that, and Hammer pulled several backside 270 lipslides. Not to be one-upped, one of the park employees took off his uniform, weaseled into the mix, and did a backflip to boardslide.
Near the end of the day I filmed Todd Richards doing a couple of sick double lines-corked frontside five followed by a Cab nine. There was so much good riding going on that it would take me forever just to catalog every single thing that went down, so with that explanation I’m excusing myself of the task and leaving you with the results. As it turned out, the 2001 Team Challenge really had very little to do with my skewed perception of team sports, instead focused more on fun than actual competition. Next year I’m petitioning to rename it the Bro Challenge and have cheerleaders positioned at every jump.
Best Team: K2: Bobby Meeks, Travis Parker, Eddie Wall, Chris Engelsman, and Wille Yli-Luoma.Second: The now-defunct Morrow team: Todd Richards, Josh Dirksen, Erik Leines, Tyler LePore, and Billy Anderson.Third: The boy-band Supernatural: Jon Jackson, Jon Roth, Matt Hammer, and Matt LeBel.Best Crash: Jon Jackson-corked bs five to faceplant on the ice. Best Rail: Eddie Wall-Cab 450 lipslide.Best Style: Jason Brown-he had a large penis painted on his pants.Best Trick: Kyle Clancy-gigantic one-footers. Best Individual: Todd Richards-it must suck to be the best at everything.