PHOTOS: Chris Wellhausen
Riders have arrived from all parts of the globe once again for this year's Oakley Shaun White Air & Style in Beijing, China. This event kicks off the season's contest circuit in an arena slopestyle fashion featuring a scaffolding jump and man made snow. Several of the competitors have not had many days of riding or at least riding features that allow them to throw down the heavy tricks that were happening at practice today. "Riders have to be able to turn it on and this select crew of riders definitely has that ability," says Chas Guldemond who is attending Air & Style in Beijing for his first time.
Before practice a press conference was held in the Birdnest Olympic Arena. On the panel of representation was Andrew Hourmont who is the Founder and Head of Air & Style, Pat Mcllvain who is Oakley's VP Global Marketing, Shaun White, last years Oakley Shaun White Air and Style winner Ulrik Badertscher, and President of TTR Reto Lamm.
Shortly after the start of the conference the riders placed from last years results pulled out names to find out who they'd be bracketed with in the first round. Peetu Piiroinen came to the draw first and pulled the wildcard, meaning he would be automatically advanced to the second round because one of the 24 riders was not able to make it.Some of the pairings were Stale Sandbech and Pat Burgener, Sage Kotsenburg and Chas Guldemond, and Mark McMorris and Mathias Weissenbacher. Once all the riders names were set on the board, they suited up, and made their way to the jump. The set up this year is in great condition after a little adjustment to the lip to allow for more pop. That's an important aspect that the judges will be looking for, as well as length, amplitude, arc, trick difficulty, duration of grab, and most important style. This year the judges are Dani "Kiwi" Meier, Ingemar Backman, Devun Walsh, and Thierry Monay. These guys have the best seat in the house, and will be able to evaluate the heated battled that's about to go down on Saturday evening. You can guarantee the level of snowboarding's progression is going to be pushed.This year the crowd numbers are expected to be near 20,000. There will definitely be some excitement in the air. Be sure to come back Saturday for results and a full photo gallery showcasing the highlights of the action and celebration of the podium.