boarding in Alaska

Throwback Thursday: Who’s Craig Kelly?

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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.

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