How The Double Cork Changed Slopestyle And What The Future Holds
Words: Gerhard Gross
For years slopestyle was in a relatively flat state. Sure, there were rodeos, backflips, and occasional frontflips, but for the most part runs were dominated by a series of leveled-off spins. It was a kick to tune in to X Games, Dew Tour, Vans Triple Crown, and Burton US Open, but to see the true progression of riding, you had to turn to video parts. Then the double cork was injected into runs in 2008 and the script literally flipped. Since then, the idea of sending it twice-around-upside-down has spread to riders around the world, going from standout trick to the standard in just three years. The result is lines that are mind-boggling to behold. To understand how the seed for the current level was planted though, you have to go back to ground zero, the point of inception. It all started with a miscalculation.
One Giant Misstep For Snowboarder-Kind
In 2001 JP Walker was trying to learn a frontside cork 900 when he accidentally over-rotated, flipping twice. Although he didn't land, he started to imagine how he could make adjustments so he could stomp it. Says JP, "I didn't have anyone else to watch or any photos to look at, so I just brewed it over in my head for a couple of years."
Two years later he was filming for Shakedown; he had broken his jaw at the start of the season and winter was almost over. After thinking about it for so long and wanting to finish his part strong, it seemed like the perfect time to try to dump a cork over twice. He ended up landing it in four tries. JP recalls, "Everyone was tripping: 'What are you going to call it? Call it a JP flip or a Walker roll.' I was like, 'Naw, I'm not going to do that.' That would be harsh, you know? It's just one cork, plus an additional cork on the end--a double cork." Updated: Although other notable riders such as Jim Rippey, Ben Hinkley, and Mike Michalchuk, to name a few, did their variations of double flips before this, JP’s was the first to be truly corked. And so the term “double cork” was coined.
The progression doesn’t stop here though. Head to the next page and flip into the present day.
But the new trick didn't take off right away. It was difficult for other riders to wrap their heads around how to approach it. Part of the problem was that JP's way was similar to a double underflip. Plus he came around to 900. The next season, 2004, the only one to be seen was Travis Rice's frontside 1080 double cork on Pyramid Gap in Absinthe's Pop and in his TransWorld interview that year--a completely different version than JP's. It was followed a year later by the first on a park jump by David Benedek in 91 Words For Snow. Says David, "[JP's] was clearly the first legit double cork, but it didn't catch on with me because it didn't look like something you could repeat every time. Then I saw Travis' double cork and it made so much sense that a 1080 would put you back on your feet. So Travis' became the template for all the others."
Soon after, Travis and David were feeling confident enough to try their double corks in a competition setting--the true test of having a trick dialed. The venue they chose was the December 2006 Nokia Air & Style in Munich, Germany. The stadium was packed with thousands of screaming fans. One hundred and fifty thousand euros in total prize money was on the line. No pressure.
That evening in the qualifying rounds, Travis stomped a frontside 1080 double cork and David took it one step farther, landing a frontside 1260 double cork. In the finals, David fell on a repeat 1260 attempt, finishing fourth, and Travis won the event with a double backflip backside 180. But it was the double cork that truly stole the show.
So we’ve reach constant corkage. But you know there’s more. The next page dives deep. So put on the snorkel and head on down.
Half a world away, 14-year-old Seb Toutant was watching from Quebec, Canada, soaking in all the action. What he saw marinated in his mind for the next year until one day he was practicing backside 1080s at his home resort of Val Saint-Côme. As he spun, he kept coming out of the trick with a weird cork at the end. Says Seb, "I thought, 'Dude, maybe if I take off with more cork, I can bring it into a double cork.' I knew David did a front 10 double and Travis did a backside double rodeo, so I figured it was possible. I didn't go riding to do a double that day, it just worked out."
It took another full season before he was ready to try his new trick in competition. In April of 2008, he dropped it at the Empire Shakedown (a big air to rail setup now called the Ride Shakedown) in Mont Saint-Sauveur, Quebec, for the win.
With competition double corks now done in both directions, slopestyle was ripe for an explosion in progression. The hardest work had been done: proving the tricks were possible and consistently doable. But it had yet to reach the tipping point. The final push, according to European contest killers Seppe Smits and Gjermund Braaten, came in two strokes, first with Travis Rice's backside 1080 double corks in That's It, That's All in the fall of 2008, and with Seb's at the Burton New Zealand Open slopestyle in 2009--the same event where double corks became the standard for winning halfpipe runs. Says Seppe, "From that point on, everyone was starting to try backside double corks 10s. It was a really big step in the evolution. And going to 1260 was kind of quick for most people."
Doing the trick still wouldn't guarantee a win, but it was clear that if you wanted to podium in the future, you'd have to add one to your bag pretty quick.
Other ABDs (Already Been Dones) That Set The Bar
Double backside rodeo-Eric Willett, 2009 Burton New Zealand Open Slopestyle
Frontside 1080 double cork-Halldor Helgason, 2009 Breckenridge Dew Tour Slopestyle
Frontside 1080 double cork to double backside rodeo-Eric Willett, 2010 Burn River Jump Slopesyle, Livigno, Italy
Cab 1260 double cork-Seb Toutant, 2010 Billabong Ante Up, Whistler, BC, Canada
Backside 1260 double cork-Mark McMorris, 2010 Billabong Ante Up, Whistler, BC, Canada
Cab 1440 double cork-Sage Kotsenburg, 2011 Billabong Air & Style, Innsbruck, Austria
Cab 1260 double cork to frontside 1080 double cork to backside 1080 double cork-Seb Toutant, X Games 15 Aspen, Colorado
So double corks work, but why? Gerhard breaks it down in the next page…
These Corks Were Made For Stomping: Why Doubles Work
Throwing down a double cork takes some serious air-awareness, tech skills, and commitment. Because of that, landing one in competition is usually rewarded with high scores, but that's not the only reason the trick works well in a slopestyle setting. Doubles tend to be something you stomp the piss out of. Bud Keene, the US Snowboarding national freestyle development coach and Shaun White's Olympic coach, explains, "When it comes around, a double matches the transition of the landing far better than flat spins ever did. When you take off a big jump and start to spin flat, generally you match the horizon with your board. When you come down on a landing that's 35 degrees steep, you're landing on your tail, nose, heels, or toes. Doubles match landings very well. Riders go into that third plane, so it's no trouble to slap tranny flat base and ride away. There's not 1,000 degrees of rotation to stop on a dime so there's a lot less reverting. They've made it a much more technical sport and it's much more fun to watch."
Style, Rails, And Better Courses: What's Next?
The story of slopestyle progression doesn't end with the double cork, but the current level is close to a plateau as far as jumping goes. The NBD (never been done) list is getting short: four back-to-back double corks in one run and a 1440 double cork in a line are still left to claim. After Torstein Horgmo landed the first triple flip in competition at the X Games 15 Big Air last January and Mark McMorris, Pat Burgener, and Seb Toots all debuted their backside triple corks (switch for Pat), it seems like the trick is ready to be that new new. But doing it in a slopestyle run might not happen so soon. Mark McMorris, one of the obvious picks to land a triple in competition, says, "I don't think they are possible on any of the jumps at [slopestyle] contests right now. Maybe X Games, but I don't think we'll see a lot of them next year. At least I hope not, because they're kind of dangerous."
Thankfully, slopestyle isn't defined by corks alone. Mark, Seb, Gjermund, Torstein, and Seppe feel that progression will continue less in the form of totally new tricks and more with a focus on style and changing up grabs. Mark says, "Right now you see a lot of mutes and Indys. I think we'll see a lot of nose and tail to throw some diversity into the tricks."
Torstein Horgmo agrees, adding, "The technicality of tricks might stagnate for a little while. I don't know where it will go in terms of putting another flip or spin on, but I'd like to see different variations and more style. Doing a trick your own way and not the way your friends do it is a part of progression, too."
Jibs are another area ready to be revisited. With the hype over what happens in the air, they've nearly become a token obstacle, often set only at the top of the course, something that riders hit on their way to the section where the winners are decided--the jumps. Seb, Gjermund, Mark, and Torstein think that riders have been holding back on the jib sections and this is where we'll start to see new or at least more technical tricks.
That leaves the courses with a need to evolve. Riders have pushed creativity to the limit given what they have to work with and are ready for new and more challenging setups. Says Torstein, "I like to ride creative features where I'm not stuck doing something that everyone else is doing, and they're stuck too because that's how the feature is. Putting kickers on the sides of jibs--that alone opens up so many more tricks. As far as airtime, there are so many different styles of jumps that aren't always used. Plus they can still build jumps that are way bigger, but way safer."
Is the double cork going to be the key to Olympic glory? Find out on the next page!
The Big O Factor
Riders have always been the driving force behind progression, but this past September a new factor entered the mix: Olympic slopestyle. There's no denying the Olympics were a motivator for upping the level of halfpipe riding in 2010, but whether it will have the same effect on slopestyle remains to be seen. Much of the standard of riding at Sochi in 2014 will be dependant on the quality of the course and making sure the best riders aren't excluded because of red tape surrounding contest schedules and qualification processes. But Bud Keene is confident the Olympics will take it up another notch. Bud says, "Money has always been on the line [in contests], now there's a medal. The exposure is huge. The more people watching, the more that's at stake. At that top level, it will get tight and more people will be pushing it. 2014--we'll see triples."
Beyond that? Everyone we spoke with is confident the quad cork is coming at some point. If it's physically possible to do a trick, rest assured someone will eventually step up and try it. After all, Ulrik Badertscher already put down a backside 1620, heinous as it may have been. New tricks are an inseparable part of snowboarding. They will be followed by tweaks to style and consistency and will eventually turn up in contests. As Mark McMorris says, "Everyone thinks the sport will stop at some point. But the jumps will keep getting bigger and safer, progression will never stop."
Double Corks "Suck"
Haters have been calling out progression since the first 360 went down. Fortunately, talk is cheap. As Bud Keene, who rode for Sims and Burton in the mid-'80s points out, "When I retired as pro in '89 people were doing 540s and that was about it. When guys started doing 720s people were like, 'Oh my god, snowboarding's going to hell. What a bunch of ballerinas.' Then when people went to nine it was, 'Oh my god, circus performers. Snowboarding's going to hell.' I've seen it every step of the way. Now the double comes along and people are talking shit about it, usually people who can't do them. As long as it's done with style, smoothness, and grabbing your board, it's all good."