In the last issue a short and scathing piece described a ridiculous event-The Red Bull Big Air Challenge-held in London during the summer. This gave a pretty negative picture of snowboarding in the United Kingdom, and several of the enthusiastic riders who make up UK’s small scene were bummed.
“It’s not like that at all,” they said. “Talk to Brad Steward, he knows.”
So we did.
Steward visits the UK six or seven times a year-probably more than any other major player in the U.S. snowboard industry. This gives him the chance to get away from sales presentations and hang with the best of the British riders. “Actually, the spirit you find in the UK scene is one of the best you’ll find anywhere,” he says.
“True there are the stage-managed events like the Red Bull Challenge-but these have nothing to do with snowboarding anyway. And given the small marketing budgets the real industry has, then maybe an entertainment event-even if it does suck-will reach out to a kid in the crowd and get them snowboarding. London’s huge media and fashion industries mean the links between the real snowboarding industry and entertainment are also there.
“Salomon London has staff links to Sony records that put our boards into some really cool videos. Britain’s media might be exploiting snowboarding, but it’s also in a position to get people stoked.
“Meanwhile, the actual snowboard scene is still about the riding, the snowboard community, and about going to the pub with friends,” continues Steward. “It reminds me a lot of the early days in the United States and the way I wish it was more like now. They haven’t forgotten that snowboarding is about having fun.
“I recently went to a competition held at a dry slope in Scotland. I wasn’t expecting much because when you fall hard on dry slope you really get hurt and the jump was pretty crummy. But after an hour I was blown away by the enthusiasm-these guys were really going for it. After another hour, I put on my board and was on the slope myself. Within another hour, the entire thing had turned into a giant party. And that pretty much sums up the scene in the UK.”