Nelson-Pratt-Portrait
Portrait by Natalie Mayer

It feels surreal to be writing this, but Nelson Pratt – one of the most talented and popular snowboarders in the UK – has died.

I first met “Nelly” in Tignes, during the winter of 1997/98. He and I had both just left school and were embarking on our first season in the Alps, working for Crystal Holidays. While I was scrubbing toilets in a chalet, Nelson and his new best pal Marcus Chapman were mastering the art of dish pigging in the bowels of the Curling Hotel. Until that December, Nelson had only enjoyed about eight weeks on snow, but he was already pretty handy on a skateboard and took to snowboarding like the proverbial duck. He had a relaxed style and managed to make any trick look simple. Although he returned home and enrolled at uni the following year, the call of the mountains proved too strong and he rejoined our gang in Tignes early in the 1998/99 season, where we enjoyed one of the most epic powder winters on record.

For a long time, he was that seasonaire mate you always thought deserved to be sponsored but who had somehow failed to be spotted. The truth is he was just too shy and polite a chap to go hassling for free kit, and he was always really in it for the love. Soon enough, however, word got out of his ability, and Nelson became one of the most respected riders in the UK scene, enjoying a long partnership with K2 snowboards.

Beyond the riding, Nelson was quite simply one of the nicest guys I have ever met in my life. People always say things like that after a death of course, but in Nelly’s case I honestly don’t know anyone that didn’t love him to bits. How could you not? He was friendly, funny, loyal and above all humble. While he now rode with the elite, he never forgot his original seasonaire buddies; there just was not an arrogant bone in his body. Years later, when I got this job at Whitelines, I was lucky enough to hook up with Nelson on magazine trips to Kashmir, Mt Baker and Canada, and he remained as smiley and positive as ever.

Nelson’s grounded perspective perhaps came from his upbringing on an arable farm in Hampshire. He hated technology (famously rocking a trusty brick of a mobile phone) and seemed profoundly connected to nature. Indeed he was only truly at home outdoors, where he could spend his immense physical energy digging jumps or helping his family with the harvest. Nelson was a man with giant strength, a giant appetite and a giant heart. A true gentleman.

Recently, Nelson had been passing on his knowledge to other riders through his work with the Army and the British Snowboard Team. His technical ability and natural charm made him the ideal coach. He will be sorely missed by everyone he touched in the snowboard community, but most of all by his family back in Hampshire. Our thoughts go out to them at this tragic time.

- Ed Blomfield, Editor

You can read our interview with Nelson from Issue 84 here.

  1. Nelson's Grandmother
  2. Pete Catchpole

    Very sad, had the pleasure of riding with, RIP dude

  3. Nick Wood

    RIP Nelly, I also met Nelson for the first time in Tignes 97/98 season, we were staying with Tim Clarke and Aaron Dalton and used to have a ton a fun with Nelson in the park and out of the park, he was a great character and was always a pleasure to be around. A real gentleman. My heart goes out to the family and friends. You will be truly missed Nelly.

  4. ben richards

    not just a great snowboarder but an excellent cricketer

  5. jack reeves

    Really nice obit ed. RIP Nelly. What a loss :( Sad times

  6. Admin@PAPYRUS

    Wonderful tribute to a lovely man.

    If you or anyone you know is feeling the same as Nelson did, please contact our helpline HOPELineUK on 0800 068 41 41.

    This is not an opportunist message, please, we exist to help young people like Nelson who sadly can see no other way out of their difficulties. We are here for anyone, a young person who is feeling suicidal or anyone who may know someone or is concerned about a young person they know. Please ring.

    1. Nelson's Grandmother

      Really Papyrus, you shouldn’t believe what you read in the papers. Why not wait until the inquest is over, then you will know what really happened.
      All those that knew Nelson know that he wasn’t the type of man who takes his own life.
      Thank you Ed for a lovely obit, and thank you to all posters for your lovely comments.

  7. Cassie

    Words cant some up what a loss this is. Nelson was an intelligent, wonderful man and will be cherished forever.

  8. Cassie

    I was lucky enough to meet Nelson on New Years eve 2012 and he cooked a fantastic meal for me. We shared the same taste in books, George Orwell being a favourite. He also loved dark chocolate and green tea. He was a unique and positive person and will be greatly missed. My thoughts go out to his family.

  9. Alastair Edmonds

    Northaw, 1992, break-time on the road to the tennis courts by the beehive.

    None of us had ever seen anything like it. Pretty much in total awe, I asked if you would teach me how to board. You said you would if I lay on the floor for you to pop over. Not a tricky one.

    I got one of my friends to lie down next to me and told you we wouldn’t tell anyone if we took an axle to the face.

    A little crowd gathered and before long, there were 4 of us on the tarmac – all in our boiler suits – all thrilled to be part of your show.

    Mr. Hill came out, saw what was happening and told us to stop. Not popular. By this time most of the school were there and everyone begged him to allow you to try 5. This was before health & safety superseded a spirit of adventure, I told Mr. Hill that I’d go on the end and, thankfully, he relented.

    You cleared me by a yard & landed clean. Remembering it now like it was yesterday.
    Like everything you did you made it look so effortless and very, very cool.

    And it seems this is how the world of pro snowboarders remembers you too. As an outrageous natural talent and as a gentleman. A class act.

    As fate would have it, Northaw is sadly closing down and a few of us made the pilgrimage back on Saturday. I lay down on the exact same spot. My thoughts are with you, with Chris and with your Mum & Dad. You will be sorely missed. Rest in peace x

    1. Emma

      Beautifully written

  10. Mark M

    I went to school with Nelson, who was 2 yrs older than me. He was always one of those guys who would talk to you, even though I was younger, and gave encouragement and props when we were skating.
    We looked up to him. A great skater, a great person and he was a true gent.

    You will be missed. RIP

  11. Jessica Carnall

    My brother and I spent time with him 10 years ago in Tignes. I’d not seen him since, but he’s the only person I still talk about. The hush that would decend upon the board park when you saw his red sweatshirt enter, you knew something special was about to happen. RIP Nelson.

  12. Rob

    I had the pleasure of meeting Nelson on a few fleeting occasions through the years. He was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. Such a tragedy to have lost not just a great talent, but a genuinely lovely guy.

  13. Seb DIAZ

    Really sorry to hear about this. I Spend a lot of time with Nelly and friends back in the days in the 97/98 and 98/99 seasons in Tignes. So many good memories. Such a nice guy. Always smiling and happy to be there, snowboarding or partying. RIP my friend.

  14. Bruno Rivoire

    Really sad.
    Such a talented snowboarder and a great man !
    Support to family and friends.

  15. DT Combined Services

    He was simply a true gentleman and a scholar of all things snowboarding. He was a great coach, wanting people to be the best they could be but without losing the love of riding. A great man and smooth snowboarder. I’ll miss him, as will all involved in military snowboarding. God speed.

  16. David Dunlop

    Well said Ed. Humble/funny/approachable dude. Still got a shot of him hitting those tits in Gulmarg!

  17. Den and Bex Ledger (Army Snowboarding)

    We had the supreme pleasure of working with Nelly over the last few years; he was one of the nicest and most genuine blokes we have met. We are devastated by his passing. He will be missed by all. RIP Nelly

  18. Stephane Manenti

    I haven’t seen Nelson since I left Tignes, about 8 years ago, but I sure only have great memories of him, whether it is for riding or for partying.
    Rest in peace Nelson, we’re all going to miss you.

  19. Holly Burt

    Perfect Ed, well said.

  20. tim

    Nicely written Ed. Well played Nelbo. You were mega! Rest in Peace big man!

  21. Methodman854

    The legend immortalised…

    http://vimeo.com/22574898

  22. Methodman854

    Nelly, we’ll all feel your loss, but hope to celebrate your life everytime we take to the white stuff. RIP mate.

  23. Alexa Hohenberg

    Mate, you’ll be missed by everyone. Gentleman, awesome rider, legend. RIP buddy..

  24. Alexa

    Beautifully written Ed, thank you. The World has lost such a gentle soul, a true gentleman.

  25. Andy moore

    Nelly worked for me developing the Army team for about 7 years. He also worked with many many others soldiers over those years to make Army snowboarding very successful. He became part of our organisation in a way only Nelly could have. He was a very special man. I am completely gutted and I know I speak for everyone involved in Army snowboarding when I say thank you Nelly and RIP.

  26. Si Manvell (Royal Air Force)

    You got him spot on – a true gent and he’ll be missed greatly by all of the British Armed Forces snowboarders who met him. RIP Nelson

  27. jonny

    I met Nelson briefly years ago while I was doing seasons and was struck not only by his talent, but how nice a guy he was. Testament to his character, 10 years later, most of the faces and names have faded, but I still remember him. Safe Journey Nelson.

  28. Lucy Miller

    Sad news, I definitely remember the collapsed lung (I was his physio in Tignes) he thought it was just a sore back. Luckily I didn’t have to deal with the other rail injury!

  29. Matthew Barr

    That’s really nicely put Ed.

  30. Martin Smith

    Great words Ed, Nelly was a top guy! Although I’d not seen him for a good few years since the old Snowboard UK tests in Tignes he was always friendly and would always push me to ride bigger and better despite my advancing years ;) RIP dude! http://vimeo.com/22574898

  31. Tom Kingsnorth

    Good words Ed.
    You’ll be missed NP. RIP

  32. Pat JC Meurier

    Nicely written Ed, thank you very much.

  33. Gilly

    thanks Ed, this was lovely and really sums up how so many people feel about him.

  34. ash

    Perfect obituary Ed. Fantatstic guy.

X

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