Johnny O’Connor Announced As Winner of 2014 Hot Dawgz & Hand Rails
Video by: Danny Kern. Words by: Keenan Cawley. Photos: Ben Birk
Big Bear Lakes, California: an unassuming countrified nook tucked in the underskirt of the San Bernardinos. A homey getaway from the swarming ruckus of the Southern Californian hullabaloo. A sip of Mother Nature – the oasis in the desert.
Also the breeding ground for a certain caliber of snowboarding, synonymous with the terms “legend,” “OG,” and “timeless.”
This weekend marks Bear Mountain‘s 11th annual Hot Dawgz and Hand Rails – the premier, preseason snowboarding event which has, in the past, elevated relatively unknown riders (including Keegan Valaika, Zak Hale, Ryan Paul, and Tommy Gesme) to the limelight.
Although this year’s podium held some more familiar names, this will still stand as a breakthrough for those folks.
Possibly the toughest decision of the event regarded the Best Trick. Zach Rawles‘ beaut of a backside 180 on, switch backside 360 off of the downbar settled the dispute silently.
On the women’s front, it was Mariah Dugan that stood out. Gapping to lip on the flat-down was a highlight of her riding, though it was her overall pace and prowess that put $1,000 in her pocket.
Luke Haddock hustled for the entirety of the session, aiming for idyllic execution. It was Luke’s clean full cabs onto the downbar that landed him in third place.
Second place appropriately fell upon none other than the Russian Bradshaw, Denis “Bonus” Leontyev. When asked how he enjoyed the set-up he responded “было больно.” His resounding consistency, regardless of the feature at hand, was what paid off for him.
However, it would take more than technical precision and unmitigated riding to walk with the $10,000. Not today – no – that would not suffice. Today was a day for style.
Johnny O’Connor handled both zones in traditional fashion – the true snowboarder’s snowboarder – and was handsomely rewarded for his work, taking the top spot. Where others found difficulty making use of the course, Johnny floated through seamlessly. Most notably were his perfect 90 degree boardslides on the awning feature, that of which no one else was able to avoid zeaching.
Despite whatever sort of difficulty some experienced with the setup, it was all enjoyable. Nearly every rider in attendance was vocal in their excitement over the set up. This year’s course offered, in short, more options than last year’s one-hit-wonder format. In less-than-short, a bundle of unique features interspersed with simple down rails as well as heavy closeouts and architectural features provided every type of rider an appropriate avenue. What this sensible approach produced was crowd pleasing to say the least: Oliver Dixon’s loose, switch one-footed lipslide, Magoon’s groundbreaking shivers, Riley Nickerson’s heavy switch backlips, Craig Cameron’s wildcard, raw lines, and Erik Leon’s ineffable captivation of his home turf were all prime examples of why this course was perfect. While Park Manager, Clayton Shoemaker, was proud of his craft, he is already looking forward to 2015’s event. “Next year will be even better.” Simple enough.
See you all at Big Bear next year.