Left Behind – David Benedek’s Gap Session

By Brad Steward

“I have the feeling pros don’t ever get that time-out to just ride and progress. Snowboarding is at such a ridiculously high level that even when you’re filming for a video part you can’t just try crazy shit all the time, because you need to make sure to land tricks and get shots. And in contests, people obviously have to show what they already know in order to succeed.
So, in general, pro snowboarding seems to be more in a state of delivering as opposed to experimenting. I wanted ten guys that are capable of pushing the envelope to simply spend time at a perfect setup and try stuff they’ve always wanted to try.”-David Benedek

She is beautiful, the Lolla Rosa.
My eyes chase her curves, dipping and bending between light and dark until dissolving into a ruffled and elegantly variegated skirt. Her celestial lines and sun-reddened skin, they each flash beckoningly toward me. I love how she tastes … And then it hits me: Travis Parker is not left-handed.
A mute disc of cucumber stares blankly up at me, the two of us locked in silent confusion. I scoot past Travis and immediately leave the salad bar-wedging the half-built architecture of my salad in between the bowls of Radicchio and red-green Lolla Rosa lettuce. Travis pulls the tongs off the Lolla Rosa bowl (still left-handed) and moves toward the oily, mono-flavored dressing. He never sees me rush to the window.
Snow is falling outside, as I stand looking out the window. I’m sure of it-Travis is not left-handed. Through the glass, I see his board stacked in the rack by the street: Regular foot … precisely 180 degrees counter to his normal goofy stance. That’s not right, either. Turning from the window, looking back into the cafà‡, I spot David Benedek and Christoph Weber. It’s their event-should I tell them what I’ve discovered? Travis has suddenly gone left-handed, regular-footed? What if it’s happened to all of them? I’m still right-handed.
David said this would be different than any other snowboard event, but the invite didn’t mention this.
There are several other riders evenly distributed throughout the small end of the German cafà‡-a buffet of carefully selected, sliced, and exotically arranged Euro and American pros. Travis Rice, Nicolas Mueller, Freddy Kalbermatten, Marko Grilc, Mathieu Crepel, Christophe Schmidt, Markus Keller, and Viktor Teymurov are all here for the Gap Jump. None look up from their plates. Eventually I wander over between David, Christoph, and Travis, eavesdropping on their conversation long enough to do some pseudo-interviewing. I nibble on their dialog-sticking my recorder into their stream of discussion like I dipped for the last pickle with the salad-bar tongs.

David Benedek: “I really wanted to create a time-out from the regular snowboarding season and dedicate a week to simply pushing the technical envelope-invite a few riders, build a perfect setup, and see what everyone comes up with within a week.”

Travis Parker: “I’ve been reading about brains, like what percentage of brain power you use, and you know, no one uses enough! Just by doing things differently-doing things with your left hand instead of your right-you bring other parts of your brain alive. Makes you smarter-your mind progresses and grows differently. I’ve switched my stance around to regular. I’ve been doing everything left-handed for the last few weeks. I feel amazing.”

Christoph Weber: “For me, it’s a lot about the building part, too. I am really into finding out which constructions and transitions work best for certain jumps. I think after this week we’ll be a lot closer to knowing what the ultimate jump will have to look like.”

Marko Grilc: “It’s really cool how this session went off. Yesterday everyone was just feeling the kicker, and then suddenly one guy goes off and everyone starts feeling the session-steps it up. I did my first frontside ten of the season here, so I feel good.”
More Grilc: “Everyone did something sick. David, Travis Rice, and Matthieu look so solid on this jump.”

Travis Parker: “These guys seem invincible”-referring to other riders at the table.

Mathieu Crepel: “I think yesterday was the perfect day. You go fast and high. I tried a double cork for the first time. On this kicker, you can try everything. You go big, high and fast-but land soft.”

Unrelated to the event, a serious Crepel said to Vianney Tisseau: ” I would never drive a Twingo.”

All the previous comments, with the exception of the Twingo reference, seem less random when framed with the awareness of this event, which I know I’ve never clearly laid out. Let me try now: David Benedek and Christoph Weber invited ten friends and fellow pros to build a massive jump in Garmisch, Germany. They built it on one of those jumps that the guys in tights fly like squirrels through the sky on skis that are long and wide. They built it on a jump where the Olympics were held in 1936.

After five days of pro-only riding and jump building, the jump site was open to public viewing. Spectators and sponsors arrived, but the judges were asked to stay home. On the final Saturday of riding, the pros alone voted for the Best Rider Of The Week and Best Trick Of The Day.
French rider Mathieu Crepel took the Best Rider award, somewhere between a slew of backside 1080s and switch backside 1080s he sealed it. This kid’s ability to avoid buckle on the knuckle is amazing. Travis Rice caused total chaos inside the Deutscher Bundesverband Der Akademischen Sprachtherapeuten (German Association Of Academic Speech-Language Therapists) when he proved to the locals that the verbal expression “holy shit!” is a phonetically acceptable substitute for the adverb “very big.” He was fully prepped for the Best Trick podium with a double backflip, late backside 180 … but, hold please. Did Benedek just step up to the table with a frontside double cork 1260? Has anyone ever seen or done that? No. Did he stomp it? Yes. Rice out. Benedek in. The German language saved.
Christophe Schmidt won a prize for the longest airtime, clearing the hip with a total of 3.10 seconds in the air!
In the end, that’s really all this event was about-hitting a huge-ass jump with all the speed (60 mph) and spirit you can. Try something new. Ride your board from a different place, go to the other side of the mind and see what tricks live there.
And for me, it’s the first story I’ve ever written entirely with my left hand.