Ryan Stassel US OPEN slopestyle qualifying.
Here is Alaskan Ryan Stassel doing his qualifying runs at the US OPEN slopestyle. Ryan is killing it and hopefully he caries this qualifying run onto big things. The US OPEN has been a springboard to the careers of many snowboarders including myself. Lets all root him on even if he is wearing snow pants from 1989.
Throwback Thursday: Who’s Craig Kelly?
This week’s photo was taken at Alpenglow during the winter of 1991. This jump would form as you headed down the cornice line, from the top of the T-bar, in the flat area just before the top of chair 1.
The reason I like this photo so much is because its about heroes. Not the tv show and not the sandwich. I’m talking about the kind that seem to be non existent today. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. Do kids have heroes in snowboarding today? I’m sure they do to some extent but it seams that with the endless barrage of exposure that the attention span of the average fan is fried by the time they hit their third year of riding. Another facet of the current media state is that if a rider that is killing it gets hurt then he or she is basically tossed aside, in the minds of the kids, because there will be 497 other riders dropping web edits the next month. There is no build up or anticipation in waiting for the big movie part to drop because we will see another tomorrow. Its a tough world to be a pro in now. I guess its all relative but tough none the less.
There were magazines (you know, the thing that you look at on your iPad and flip the pages by swiping your finger) which we would study as though we were taking a med school entrance exam based on them. I would often read a Transworld snowboard magazine cover to cover in one sitting and then deal with the remorse over my actions, knowing that I would have to wait 30 long days to get anymore shots of Jeff Brushie poking out a trick in the half pipe.
And there were a handful of movies that came out each season. Basically the Mack Dawg and Standard films movies along with a few others; few enough that between friends someone would have every movie.
This meant there were a small number of sick riders and the majority of the media attention was focused on them. These were our heroes. They were worshiped, rightfully so, not for slaying beasts or rescuing damsels from the clutches of evil but rather for delivering a fatal blow to the styleless. We worshiped them for their perfection of the turn, the direction they tweaked, or whether their arm was on the inside or outside of their back knee when they did a frontside grab.
The sport was new enough that every nuance was studied and followed by attempted emulation. I wanted to push my mutes out like Jamie Lynn, before that I wanted to arch my back like Damion Sanders, and I wanted to look as “skatey” as Noah Salasnek and Chris Roach. In my early years there was no bigger hero than Craig Kelly. For those of you that dont know him, well theres not much I can do for you, but let me try to help you understand. Craig was kinda like the Terje Haakonson of the early days of snowboarding. Dont know who Terje is? Hmmm, well you really might be doomed. Let me try to help you understand. Terje was kinda like my generation’s Shaun White.
I can hear the grumbling now. The OG’s and purists will say that comparing Craig to Terje is one thing but its blasphemy to compare either of them to Shaun White. Hold your horses and let me straighten this mess out. You see I’m trying to explain a generational snowboard icon to the present day masses (by masses i mean the 12 people that read this blog). Shaun is the best half pipe rider there is. He has been among the best slopestyle riders as well. Just because some kid with 4 tall T’s on things (thinks) that Shaun doesnt have style doesnt mean its true. Maybe they are just mad because Shaun goes higher in the pipe than most of the rails are long that the gangsta shreds front board all day long. But style arguement aside, Shaun is the biggest name in our sport at the moment (even if it really should be Travis Rice). Before Shaun there was Terje. He dominated the pipe for years, had amazing style, was also accused of being robotic at times, and was the super star of my time. Before that was Craig. There was no “before Craig”, and again I know i might catch some guff for that comment but really with all respect due to the talent of the other riders of the time, nobody was as powerful yet flowed like water. Nobody had dominated contests the way he did. Nobody took the sport from flailing hucking spins to the smooth stylish beauty of a master executing his craft the way Craig did. He wasn’t the only one to ride like that but he was the first to excel at it all. He was the first star of snowboarding. Arguably Shaun Palmer was the first rock star of snowboarding but Im going to go ahead and give the crown to Craig.
Now hopefully you unknowing punks will be intrigued enough to find some old footage of Craig Kelly (Board with the world http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8IbUBtIEGE ) and try to see through the lack of corks to recognize the finesse he brought to the sport.
The point of all this is that the picture above is one I love dearly because I feel like I came close to looking like my hero in it. Just like a little kid wants to drive the lane like Kobe, I wanted to do a method like Craig Kelly. Well for one moment in time the make a wish foundation helped me out and this picture captured it. Thanks to Craig and all the other snowboarders that have and still do inspire me and influence the style of the sport.
Magazine Mondays: Brady Farr!
This week Brady Farr is featured with a beautiful cover shot on the 2005 photo annual for ONBOARD Magazine. Brady has been ripping for so many years and he’s riding as strong as ever now. Alaska had a tight scene in the Boarderline years so everyone knew everyone. It was easy to see when someone was coming up and starting to make a name for themselves. Just as soon as Brady laid the groundwork to becoming one of AK’s hot up and coming rippers he quickly moved to Colorado. At that point I would only really see him at our summer shred camps up at Alyeska. Normally people say “Out of sight, out of mind” but Brady made sure that was never the case. Every summer he would blow everyone away with his leaps and bounds of progression. Brady is back living in AK full time and still pushing his riding with all the hunger of an up and comer trying to make a name for himself.
Here’s what Brady had to say about the shot:
“Austin Gibney and I headed to Reno to meet up with Gary Milton. This was the fall of 04, the following season after filming for nice Gordon. There was no snow in town so we took Austin’s truck up to rosé mountain and loaded it with as much snow as we could fit. Gary was friends with Ryan Hugh’s so he met us at the rail around 10pm. It took me about 3 hours to get the trick, the lights kept shorting out not to mention a lack of snow. We all ate toco bell at 2 or 3 in the morning to celebrate the night.”
Sounds like they ended that night with a blowout in more ways than one. Thanks Brady.
Throwback Thursday: What ever it takes.
This photo was taken some time during my senior year, 1993. The spot is a crosswalk bridge, near Gruening Jr. High. There are rails on both sides of the bridge and they wrap around the walkway from the bridge to the street level.
I didn’t pick this shot because it was particularly rad. I picked the photo because it symbolizes how much snowboarding and getting better as a snowboarder means to me and has always meant to me. It is also a great example of how constant work will lead to nothing less than leaps and bounds in ability.
At the very beginning of my senior year I was just starting to show some promise as a rider. Boarderline had put me on the team and I was rising through the local ranks (probably because of all the time on the trampoline, haha). In late October, just after my first day riding at Hatcher’s Pass, I bent down at my locker and when i stood up my knee tore. It was a freak occurrence but it happened none the less. Within a few days I was under the knife and carrying around a little less cartilage. It turned out that my knee cap had slid over and sliced the cartilage (meniscus). The surgery was minor and consisted of simply shaving off the slice and other loose cartilage inside the knee.
I was pretty scared by it all but having grown up in the era of Rock movies, I knew the power of a good comeback story. I might have even heard “Eye of the Tiger” playing as i went to physical therapy. The point is that I was determined to keep moving forward and improving.
So as the winter went on, the only logical way to improve is to never stop riding. My crew, Abe and Khris Bombeck, would ride anything and anytime we could. We rode alpenglow on the weekends and the Thursdays and Fridays we could find a ride but that wasn’t going to be nearly enough. That’s when we started combing the area for rails and began hitting the Gruening overpass.
The Gruening overpass held everything we could want. It held straight rails, curved rails, log formations, steep wooden rails, and even a couple jumps were made there. We would pull each other to everything. Sometimes there would only be two of us so we would prop up the full size vhs camera on a wooden post then run back and slingshot the other guy onto a rail. It was our “rail garden.” We learned a lot about riding rails there and we learned a lot more about how much the fire burned inside us to snowboard. Those days weren’t about sports drink contracts or x-games, they were about learning and progression. They were also about wearing as much of your skate clothes as possible when you snowboard. Haha.
For the vintage fans out there I’m riding a Morrow Spoon 160 ( yeah that was the shorter of the two models at the time), Plan B jeans, SMP flannel, and some Save-on gloves that look like they were made for Shaq.
Magazine Mondays: OH SHIT!!!!
This photo was taken by Ryan Hughes (now the Snowboarder Magazine photo editor) and appeared in my interview in Heckler Magazine, 2003. The rail is in Portola California. I did the rail for the JB Deuce (Boarderline) movie “Steezin for No Reason”.
Now I’ve given more than blood, sweat, and tears in my pursuit of snowboarding. I’ve also given a crap. I’ve given a crap three time to be exact and I’m not talking about caring about three different areas of the sport. I’m saying that I’ve crapped my pants three times during my 23 years of snowboarding. I would say, all things considered, that’s not a bad average.
The other two times were both during boarder-cross events. The first time was in Maine at the CBS “Masters of the Board” event where the riders competed in boarder-cross, slope style, and half pipe all in the same day. During practice I overshot a jump and landed way out in the flats. The force was more than my weak colon could handle.
The second time was during an MTV winter event at Snow Summit. Boarder-cross and slope style events took place back to back on the same day. Again during practice I watched some riders and thought I had the speed mapped out. I was wrong. I overshot a steep volcano like jump and dropped about 15 feet to complete flat ice and wrecked myself. Rectum? Damn near Killed ’em. The details can be left for another time but I did well at the event. But really, who gives a crap?
This all leads us to the fecal hat-trick, the triple crown of crap that was completed in the picture above. I’m shaking my head as I type this; what a proud moment in life. Haha. Anyway, we drove about an hour or so to get to the rail and took another hour to set up the ramp and shovel snow into the landing and take off. At the time I had a signature model helmet with Pro-Tec and wanted to get a photo for them so I decided to do the warm up shots with the helmet on. Little did I know that my head wasn’t where I needed protection. “Depends” who you ask I guess.
I dropped in, planning a 50-50 (riding the board down the rail just like it is in the picture for those that might now know). I ollied up and slipped out right as my board touched the rail. I stayed in the air until my stomach hung itself over the flat section of the rail like a towel over the clothes line. Basically i flew down 14 stairs to my stomach. Now if you have any doubt about what happened then I have an easy exercise that can demonstrate things very clearly. Take a full tube of toothpaste and remove the cap. Now grab it by the bottom end, opposite of the cap. Raise the tube over your head, grit your teeth and tense your shoulder muscles to make sure you get the maximum amount of energy built up. Now turn that potential energy into kinetic energy as you slam the tube, with all your might, onto the edge of the sink. Thats about what happened to me.
With all the dignity available in the moment I told everyone, “hold on and I’ll be back.” To be honest, I was more concerned about internal injuries than a cheap pair of Gap boxers. I walked over into the bushes, took my underwear off, cleaned up with some slushy snow, put myself back together and got back to hitting the rail. After all, Im not going to drive that far and go through all that effort just to let some little turd ruin my day. I ended up getting the shot for the magazine and video part so I considered it a win. In my eyes it was just one of the many small tolls we pay to pursue our dreams and push ourselves. Yes it’s embarrassing and humbling but I’m not ashamed of it. Snowboarding is something that I would die for. It truly means that much to me and I am pretty sure that each of you has something in your lives that you love that much. I walked away to snowboard another day so now it’s just another funny story.
Until next time my friends, go get some turns.
This week’s Throwback Thursday is from the fall of 1991. This is a trampoline contest. Back then it was all the rage to duct tape your edges up and hop around on the trampoline. When a bag of tricks was composed more of grabs than corks and flips (corks hadn’t even been invented yet) the trampoline helped develop some serious game. As you can see from the photo, it didnt do much for developing the wardrobe.
All the snowboarders from Eagle River would gather at someone’s house each day after school and the tramp sesh would be on. Due to the fact that people dont really jump on trampolines with their snowboards much may lead you to think in a different direction when I say “tramp sesh.” Fear not, we weren’t on the football team so it was just practice for snowboarding. I also had my own trampoline and was on it all the time, mostly because Craig Kelly once said in a video that it helped with your balance and improved your snowboarding. Who was I to argue with the living legend?
As the fall grew colder and Boarderline announced the contest , we all got excited. It was the time when the air grows crisp and termination dust starts appearing on the mountain tops. Kids would start buying and watching the few videos that came out each season and talking about what tricks they would throw down as soon as the mountains opened. The trampoline contest was the time when all the shred clans from every area came together and felt the hype of the upcoming season. Talk of who would do well in the contests that year, who had or would get on the Boarderline team, and who was going to throw down filled the air like the flakes of a dumping snowstorm.
The day of the contest I can remember that Jay Liska and Jimmy Halopoff were judges. I also remember that when the trampoline dust settled I ended up in second place. I believe first place went to Jake Liska. Naturally I was convinced that a conspiracy on the scale of the JFK second shooter had occurred for those results to have been posted. I tried my best to pick up my dignity and my new Kombi gloves ( which were awesome because they had Kevlar on the fingers in case I needed to stop any further bullets coming from the grassy knoll) and headed back to Eagle River in time for my shift at Pizza Hut. Oh the glamorous days. Haha.
Oh and one last thing. I want you to notice that the Boarderline sign had Bart Simpson on it.
Here’s a quick edit that Alaskan Mason Hulen sent to me showing himself and some other AK kids shredding Northstar. It appears that these rider’s stances have developed debilitating cases of anorexia and bulimia. Their stances make Kate Moss look like a contestant on “The Biggest Loser.” Whether you like your stances like your women or not the one thing you cant deny is that these guys have skills. They have the Northstar rails on lock. Check out the video. Its tight.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/59463917″>Northstar 2/6/13</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user1488644″>Cory Anderson</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Magazine Mondays: Jerry Smyth
Magazine Mondays will be a new post every Monday featuring a picture of an Alaskan skater or snowboarder that has been published in print form. This means a real life, hold in your hands, tear it off and put it on a wall picture. There will also be a story or any interesting details about the circumstances of the picture as told by the rider. The idea is to show what Alaskans can and have accomplished in their struggles to live their dreams. I hope it also serves as a little inspiration to all the other kids that are trying to get sponsored, make it in the game, or just have something to show the girls so they can hook up.
This feature starts off with a bang. The first Magazine Monday is Jerry Smyth’s cover shot. “Lobster” is one of the funnest people I’ve ever skated with. He’s got a ton of energy, amazing skills, and a huge heart. Enjoy.
Photo by Tony Vitelo
Jerry Smyth: “This was shot by Tony Vitelo, Fausto Vitello’s son who owned thrasher at the time. He had not shot a cover up until then. Jake Phelps didn’t want to use it because I was some un heard of dude. Tony didn’t care and got it ran. Right place, right time, right person…rather be lucky then good any day.”
Hot Laps with Roger Post
This is a video I made for Heckler.com when I was working for them and living in Tahoe (Make sure and check them out cause their site is tight and they have the finger on the pulse of Tahoe). The video is from Boreal last spring. It features Alaskan Roger Post, music by the Alaskan band “Lavoy”, and myself. All of it was shot on a ContourHD cam on my goggles and a GoPro mounted to the nose of my snowboard.
So over the last week I’ve been snowboarding a ton. There was a USASA slopestyle event, a little bit of pow, and even military mondays at Alyeska. It’s been fun riding and some not so fun riding. one thing that has become crystal clear is that Alyeska is a tough mountain when its not soft. More on that later.
Lets talk about throwback thursdays. This is the day that everyone posts photos of riding, clothes, boards, etc that are from their individual “good ole days”. The older the person is the more likely that the pictures are going to be interesting or extremely kooky. My pics tend to fall into the latter category. So for this thursday lets throw a couple up and discuss. This thursday’s shots will be from the Hilltop half pipe during the winter of 1990/91. I had been riding for about a year and just starting to compete. The pictures in the orange Patagonia jacket are from a practice session the day before a contest and the shirtless shot is, well, just being 15 and stoked i guess. At that time the routine consisted of watching Fall Line Film’s “Snowboarders in Exile” every day then going out and trying to tweak like Damian Sanders or Steve Graham. It was also a time of trying to figure out personal style while thinking I had my personal style completely locked down and dialed in. To me, I couldn’t have looked cooler than rocking a Spuds Mckenzie corduroy had with OR mitts. Looking back, I would have to say that I might taken another look at my kit and reevaluated it. But if you continue to follow this blog then my throwback thursdays will definitely show you that its been a long road of interesting style choices for me. Haha.
Another point that I find interesting is that right now I would kill to have this half pipe in Alaska. It was about 5 feet tall on a good day and usually icy as can be. But you know what? At least we had a pipe. I’m not sure what has happened to Alaska but it can be heart breaking to see how little effort is put in to the scene up here. We have three ski areas that used to all put in at least a showing of effort to fight for the snowboard demographic when it was minuscule. That leads me to believe it really wasn’t a fight for dollars or market share, it was simply an effort to innovate and provide a fun mountain to be on. I understand bottom line affects every business but I also know that being a slave to numbers, unwilling to acknowledge the subtext of the market, can be the death of a business. Right now Alaska seems to be going through a phase where one area is only open two days a week and has decided that playing it as safe as possible is the route to go. Another area is making efforts to have a park but seems to be having equipment issues. And the largest area, with the greatest amount of resources, has only put up a baby park and a baby pipe as of today. What’s going on around here? How did we have more interest in building jumps, pipes, boarder crosses, race courses, etc 15 years ago than we have now?
This subject deserves a lot more discussion and right now I have to get ready to head to Hilltop. So for now I’ll leave it alone but later tonight I’ll try to really lay some of my thoughts down. Until then I hope you like the old school pics and enjoy some of this pow thats falling.