Snowboarders aren't poets - so why do they try to be?

Nicolas-Muller-William Shakespeare
See the likeness? No, us neither.

The shred-flick season is about to get into full swing now. A few online video parts have been released already and the first episodes of web series are already here, there and everywhere. It’s all mouth-watering stuff, and it reminds us, winter is coming.

The continued movement towards online content has meant that we’ve already had more glimpses than ever before. We’ve seen trailers, the tour trailers, the making of trailers, and we’ve even got to hear the sounds of the making of trailers .

Soon enough, the kingpins of the snowboard filming world will be showing their hands. But although all of this is exciting, I have one niggling concern about what’s in store for us this year. The cheesy voiceovers.

Since Travis Rice and Curt Morgan made That’s It That’s All – which took the documentary format and supersized it – “poetic” voiceovers have become increasingly popular. And while That’s It, That’s All is responsible for many good things (not least bringing backcountry riding to a wider audience than ever before) this is one consequence I’m not a fan of.

It’s not to say I don’t like the documentary format. I mean David Benedek did it rather well (to say the least) in 91 Words for Snow and the In Short. And more recently, riders like Torstein Horgmo have got it right. His one-man movie/45-minute self-deprecating pisstake session Horgasm was genuinely hilarious and a refreshing alternative to the trick/cut/trick/cut/trick/cut/introduce new rider/trick/cut/trick/cut formula.

But when movies like that feature voiceovers, they got them right. I mean Benedek’s movie was kind-of a first and the narration wasn’t cheesy, or at least wasn’t dripping in gorgonzola. It didn’t shove the pseudo-philosophical ramblings down your throat or bang on about the soul of snowboarding too much, and more to the point, it actually told you something interesting.

David-Bendek-voiceovers
David Benedek did voiceovers rather well.

Cos that’s the problem with things like TITA’s follow-up film, The Art of Flight. The voiceovers just didn’t add anything. Take Nicolas Müller’s for example. I’ve heard him chat about all sorts of interesting stuff. His voice is like a cosmic smoothie made of equal parts ninja, Jedi and Swiss chocolate.

Normally, I could listen to him talking snowboarding ‘til the proverbial cows return to their habitual abode. But even he had started to grate a bit by the time you’d sat through the whole of The Art of Flight. I mean when he finished his breathless voiceover interview by concluding that “[snowboarding] feels like flying”, I couldn’t help thinking I’d probably find more insightful words in One Direction’s forthcoming film…

 I have one niggling concern about what’s in store for us from this year’s shred flicks. The cheesy voiceovers.

And the Art of Flight makers are not the only guilty party (‘cos I can’t imagine it was Nicolas who was pushing for that sentence to be included can you? It’s got to be the director). I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard directors including voiceovers from riders talking about how much they love snowboarding.

And it always seems faintly ridiculous. We (the viewers) already know that snowboarding is an outrageously fun ‘sport’ (the inverted commas because this is often debated in this sort of “shred poetry”), and getting to do it professionally must be amazing. You get to hang out with friends, in phenomenal scenery, you get to travel, you get to ride and you get paid for it.

However you put it, however much you talk about “being at one with nature” that’s pretty much what it boils down to. But we don’t need riders to explain that everyone enjoys activities with friends.

Or that choosing your own line down a mountain is more creative than plugging numbers into a spreadsheet. It’s blindingly obvious. I mean, you’d have to be nine tenths of sandwich not to enjoy snowboarding for a living right?

Nicolas_muller
Do you really need a half-baked voiceover to add “poetry” or “depth” to riding like this? Nicolas Muller shot by Jeff Curtes

Now this must seem like one hell of a rant but the thing is, I do actually genuinely like some voiceovers. Just not the ephemeral, meaningless ones. I’d prefer to know about other aspects of a pro’s life.

Like I don’t know, their daily routine, their business dealings, what their favourite type of riding day is, new tricks they’re trying, new zones they’ve discovered. That sort of thing. Because I’m pretty sure (unless they are in fact nine-tenths of a sandwich) the reason they love snowboarding will be exactly the same reason I love it, and I don’t need them to tell me that.

So with the big releases still to come out, this is something of a plea to directors. Spare us the William Shred’speare, spare us the existentialist waffle. If we wanted that, we’d be watching Sartre, not snowboarding.

Instead, give us some interesting insights, something we won’t have heard before. Or failing that, a killer soundtrack and some damn fine action. Otherwise I can feel a sneaky mute press and my own shred playlist going on every time I watch a film.

Cos let’s face it, if you need a red-eyed John Jackson to tell you snowboarding is fun, you’ve obviously never tried it yourself.

What do you think of voiceovers? Can you think of any particularly bad (or good) examples? Please share them with us in the comments below.

  1. Oskar Matvere

    Voiceovers have been cheesy since the beginning of times, even if they’re insightful, they belong in an interview, not a snowboard movie. If you can’t fill up an hour worth of bangers, just make a 30-minute movie and waste less of our time please :D

  2. Richard

    Some of its a bit cringey, but I think one aim of art of flight was to show snowboarding to a wider audience, not just snowboarders, so I don’t think it was all preaching to the converted.

  3. Jamie Neale

    Vo’s do make shred vids a better watch but bad voice overs generally happen when there’s a lack of a real story to be told. I’d say it’s down to the film makers to decide not the riders. Their snowboarders not actors.

  4. Alex J. Napier Holland

    How about.. There are snowboard movies with voiceovers and an epic tone. I love these. But there are also fun, goofy movies. We live in a free-market; there is plenty of room for all.

  5. Clovis

    Spot on! Awesome article! But don’t worry.. just watch ‘WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN’(https://vimeo.com/32562556) all the way to the end.. it’s proper cheesyness killer :D

  6. Dave

    Nicolas Mueller can say what he wants bro

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