The Battle in Falun, Sweden pits country against country-shred or be shredded!
By Dave Schiff
“I grew up riding in Falun when there was barely anyone snowboarding here. It started off as a small group of friends riding together. Later on I began traveling for snowboarding. By the time I came back, I was over competing-there were the Olympics and other contests, and I was like, “No, I don’t want to do that anymore.” Events weren’t pushing riders enough, so I wanted to build something for the standards riders have today-the way they ride in the backcountry and features that you can only find on mountains. I wanted to make things with bigger transitions, which are actually safer-and not only bigger, but more creative. That was the start of The Battle.
“We got input from riders and shaped the event around what we wanted to see. Teams from eleven different nations were here competing against each other this season, and they were all psyched. It’s about riding together and having fun. Not a single person that is putting this on is making any money. The shapers do it for free to see a good show and to push the limits.
“Snowboarding is still a young sport-I’m only a second-generation rider-but it’s developing so fast right now. If we don’t take it into our own hands, we might lose what is so special to us. People are going to watch things like the FIS Big Jump on TV and think that’s what snowboarding is. The Battle lets us show a huge audience of spectators that this is how we ride, and it spreads the word of coming together through snowboarding. If we can do this with the media and do it our way, we can show people what the spirit of snowboarding is.”-The Battle Founder Jacob Soderquist
I awoke at seven in the morning on a Boeing 747 jet to see the sun rising and the earth covered with a light dusting of snow. I had been aboard the plane for about twelve hours now and was anxious to arrive at my destination, Stockholm International Airport. From the seat behind me, I heard a man speaking to the person a row over about it being very uncommon at this time of the year to see so much snow. As I adjusted my position to prevent my ass from going numb, the man directed his attention toward me. “Excuse me, sir,” he said. “Would you like to help me finish this bottle?”
I looked back to see the man holding a flagon of Johnny Walker Black Label, out of which only about a quarter was missing. I politely explained that I had to catch a train to Falun, and that I had never been to Sweden, so getting drunk at seven in the morning seemed like a bad idea. “You’re a good man, sir. I can tell you’re a good man. We will drink, and I’ll get you on your train.” He then handed the bottle to me with a shot glass. I looked at the copy of Rolling Stone in my lap that I’d bought earlier at the Newark airport. It was the cover commemorating Dr. Hunter S. Thompson-it’d almost been a month since he shot himself dead, so I said to myself, “F-k it, I’m on assignment, and I’m drinking this one for the Doc.” As Johan Weiss, the man from the plane, loaded me-the lost, drunken American-on the train headed for Falun, I thought to myself that this would never have happened in the States.
Upon my arrival at the station in Falun, I was on my own, drunk and in a foreign land. I asked a couple of people how to get to The Battle, the one person who understood and wasn’t completely freaked out by a leather-clad American reeking of whiskey said, “Lugnet.” Then he grabbed his daughter by the hand and whisked her off. I hailed a taxi and told him to bring me to this Lugnet, and on the way I struck up a brief conversation with him (taxi drivers aren’t afraid of drunken, leather-jacket-wearing Americans-they’ve seen it all). He explained to me that “Lugnet” translates to “calm,” like a calm before the storm.
He dropped me off in a parking lot where a huge screen read “The Battle.” I wandered around for a bit looking for the place I was supposed to bee staying. Instead, what I found was the actual snowboard park. I’ve seen pictures of it before in this very magazine, but to be there in person was awe-inspiring. This park-which you can’t even call a park-was enormous. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life; there were so many unique options for riders to choose from. I knew right then and there that this was going to be one of those rare experiences you get the opportunity to witness only once or twice in a lifetime-then I realized I was losing my buzz and crashing from the sleepless plane ride.
All the riders and media assholes like myself were put up in a place called the Delasallen, an old army barracks where Swedish citizens did their mandatory military service. The rooms looked like something out of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest-a mental ward, complete with wire cots and group showers. Everyone was staying there, eating there, and seeing each other naked in the shower. Once you’ve seen someone naked, they’re pretty much your brother or cousin. It really instilled a sense of brethren-ship between everyone. In fact, that’s what’s different about The Battle-the camaraderie is astonishing. I checked into my room compliments of Rip Curl (thanks, Zimmi) and cashed out for the night. I knew that over the next couple of days I was going to behold something really unique and amazing. Rather than trying to explain the action blow by blow, I think I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me this time.
Interesting Battle Facts
* The Battle started in Falun in 1996 and has been there every season except for last, when it was held in Riksgr nsen.
* Volvo headquarters resides in Sweden, and you don’t have to be a licensed driver to rip a two-wheel-drive wagon around on a frozen lake at the main testing facility-just ask Freddie Austbà®.
* Falun was one of the biggest producers of copper-that’s why the town’s houses are red.
* A beer costs ten U.S. dollars in Sweden, but you can gamble in the bars there, so it pays off eventually.
* Kiwi rider Quinten Robins was afflicted with measles but still killed it all week.
* Travis Williams destroys hips.
* Not all the girls in Sweden have blond hair and nice figures-some dye their hair brown.
Markku Koski (team captain)
Marius Otterstad (team captain)
Steve Gruber (team captain)
Thomas “Beckna” Eberharter
Jonas Emery (team captain)
Nicolas Droz (team captain)
Anthony “Tonton” Holland
Quentin Robins (team captain)
Takato Taniguchi (team captain)
Hampus Mosesson (team captain)
Alex Schmalz (team captain)
Micka à¢l Fournier (Austria)
Tapio Kuusakoski (Finland)
Peter Strà®m (Sweden)
Silas Stannard (U.S.A.)
The final showdown was between Sweden and Finland. Ingemar Backman and Patrick “Patte” Karlsson chose the individual titles for the day.
The Ripper (best rider): Hampus Mosesson (Sweden). Hampus also won The Battle’s Ticket To Ride for the Arctic Challenge.
Line Executor (best line down the whole arena): Thorsten Horgmo (Norway)
Sniper (best trick): Quentin Robbins (New Zealand) with a backside 900.
Space Traveler (highest air): Takato Taniguchi (Japan)
Smooth Operator (best style): Hampus Mosesson (Sweden)
Jib Commander (best jibber): Nicolas Droz (France)
Rubber Man (best tweak): Takato Taniguchi (Japan) on a backside air.
Battle Winner: Team Finland