"The 40-plus division reads like an early-'90s contest list," Todd Richards quipped at the morning registration. Scanning down the sheet some notable names did jump out—Chris Roach, Mike Ranquet, Kris Jamieson, Scott Downey, and Tom Burt. Conceived by legendary surfer, Gerry Lopez, five years ago as a celebration of "freestyle snowboard snow-surfing," the Big Wave Challenge at Mt. Bachelor, Oregon brings ’em out, and not just the OGs.
The men's division was packed with Bend locals and pros like Danny Davis (fresh off Peace Park), Alex Yoder, Bryan Fox (missed his run), Curtis Ciszek, Blake Paul, Austin Smith, Leanne Pelosi, and Desiree Melancon. Up-and-comers like Gus and Max Warbington and Lyon Farrell got in the mix, riding alongside industry vets Andrew Marriner, Rob Campbell, Colleen Quigley, Jeff Keenan, Hunter Waldron, and Maxx Von Marbod. Taro Tamai's Gentemstick crew made the trip from Japan and surf-shaper Chris Christenson jetted up from Encinitas. On a tower overlooking the course, Scotty Conerly and Krush Kulesza manned the mics and entertained the crowd. With over 190 riders in attendance, it was, in short, a snapshot of the Northwest snowboard community and those who gravitate to it.
Carved out under the guidance of James Jackson at a new location in a gulley off the Sunrise cat track get-back, the course was all about flow, with each feature named for famous surf spots: Pipeline, J-Bay, Uluwatu, Rocky Point Lefts, Rocky Point Rights, and Sunset Beach.
Lines were limited to the riders' imaginations with plenty of room for interpreting the terrain. Taro, for example, took his time on the bowled quarterpipe near the top, drawing way out on his bottom turns and punching vertically back up to the lip, slashing as much as he could. Danny, on the other hand, kept his speed off the step-down and hugged the QP wall, pumping down the line. All of which Gerry liked to see. "Surfing, like snowboarding, is a freestyle art form, an expression of your creative and athletic skills as expressed across the canvas of a liquid or frozen wave," he said.
Although creativity was king, it was a judged event, set up with two judging stations—one for the upper section and the other for the lower. Scores, like a surf contest, were out of 10. Rankings went like this, according to Mervin's Pete Saari, one of the guest judges: "It was surf event so definitely carving and flowing mattered. You had to have speed, power, flow—if you made it look more snowboardy you had to get your grabs and throw some carves in; if you just kept it surfy you were going to do solid. Some people put down everything where there were snowboard airs mixed with power and carves."
Then he added, "It feels weird to judge people all day long, because you learn not to judge people." True, mixed messages are troubling.
Healing vibes go out to Hayato "Bubbles" Maruyama who broke his tibia on the step-down and Barrett Cummins who suffered an unknown pelvis injury after falling off the bottom hip. Extra healing energy to legendary park builder Pat Malendoski as he continues treatment for a brain tumor. You can help support Pat here: gofundme.com/patmalendoski
Here's who won at the 2015 Gerry Lopez Big Wave Challenge.
1. Forrest Devore
2. Tucker Andrews
3. Jonathan Sisco
1. Ashley Thorton
2. Desiree Melancon
3. Barrett Cummins
1. Todd Richards
2. Chris Roach
3. Gordon Boehm
Keiki's [Under 16]
2. Alder Butsch
3. Elijah Pyle
1. Kody Kerbox
2. Kohl Christenson
3. Joe Curren