Words & Photos: Tom Kingsnorth
The Suzuki Nine Knights was once a strictly ski-only event, but for the second year snowboarders have joined the squad of participants. Nine Knights is a yearly, week long event which consists of private photo shoots, climaxing with a contest showdown on the final day. The event was held in a new location this year in the picturesque town of Watles in south Tyrol and upon leaving the first rickety chairlift, the mammoth hip feature with multiple take offs is impossible to miss.
As the name suggests nine riders, or knights, were invited to take part. Although Darcy Sharpe was invited, he was unable to attend, which left Seppe Smits, Sebbe de Buck, Simon Gruber, Peetu Piiroinen, Ipod, Christian “Hitsch” Haller, Werni Stock, and legendary Heikki Sorsa in attendance.
On the first day Werni Stock outshone the others by pointing his board through the entire run-in to go bigger than anyone else and most likely bigger than anyone else had previously gone until that point. Bad weather settled in pretty much for the remainder of the week and it all looked like that perhaps the beautifully constructed set up might have become lost in the dense fog but luckily the clouds lifted for Friday and Saturday's main show down.
Within minutes of Saturday's session, it was apparent that the riders were hungry for the highest air and also best trick. With a height monitor system in place, the riders attempted to set the official world height record from a hip and there were no shortage of riders up for the challenge.
The battle of the highest air had two record setting contenders from the start, Werni Stock and Christian "Hitsch" Haller. Both were going flat out towards the hip, and seeing the speed and height that achieved was both mesmerizing and terrifying. Werni lost several lives as he took off at a funny angle and landed from 30 feet in the air straight to the deck. Luckily he rode away relatively unscathed but decided to call time on his day of riding. Hitsch progressively went bigger and bigger until he set the new height of an astronomical 37 feet. Afterwards Hitsch told us that the secret to his success is a good structure in his base and to have no fear to point it straight. Also, the amount you pump during the transition is key.
Aside from the highest airs, riders were also throwing down hammers. Whilst methods were the main dish of the day, we saw Simon Gruber throw down seamless back 7 melons, Peetu Piiroinen's massive back 3, Sebbe de Buck with his death defying double back flips and Seppe Smits with his big and technical switch methods. Thus switch method stoked out both the crowd and judges and he was rewarded with best trick.
The judging was on point and after a long day for the riders they revealed that Sebbe de Buck was ruler of the week, Simon Gruber in second and Peetu Piiroinen with the bronze.
To the moon! Check out Christian Haller's absolutely insane air on the Suzuki Nine Knights Perfect Hip in Watles, South Tyrol, Italy – reaching 11.3 meters above the coping, he has established a NEW WORLD RECORD!
Posted by Nine Knights on Sunday, April 3, 2016
1st – Sebbe De Buck (BEL): double backflip, frontside 360 indy
2nd – Simon Gruber (ITA): backside 720 melon, backside air
3rd – Peetu Piiroinen (FIN): backside 360 nose, indy
4th – Seppe Smits (BEL): switch backside air, frontside 540 nose
5th – Werni Stock (AUT): backside 360 indy