Words & photos: Sam
We were frickin' stoked when an email dropped into our inbox from Head Snowboards' UK freestyle manager Dan Wakeham inviting us to Alex Tank's Head Jib Factory out in Germany. We'd watched videos of previous editions of the event and been blown away by the creativity of the setups (dreamed up by Alex himself no less) and the super laid back spring-shred vibes.
Oberjoch, the region where Alex grew up and home of the Head Jib Factory, is a sleepy German town with a handful of lifts, a couple of hotels, a bunch of residential homes and not a whole lot else. It's the perfect spot to hold Alex's event: no overzealous spectators, no crowds to deal with and no hassle from, well...anyone really.
Instead, just a handful of media and the 20 or so invited riders - most of which Alex would call good friends - were invited to a slushy lower slope leading back into town. The lifts were already all closed for summer and the setup had to be hiked old-school style. It was knackering in the sunshine but it actually added to the atmosphere.
There were three British riders representing. Andy Nudds and Will Smith had both been singled out by Alex Tank at our Whitelines November Knockout Rail Jam back in November with a wildcard invite up for grabs for the winner. But rather uncharacteristically for a German, Tank couldn't decide between the two and it all boiled down to the flip of a coin. Smith lost out but was invited along to ride anyway - he just wouldn't be riding in any of the 'competitions'. 14 year old Becky Menday, who rides for Head, was the only girl at the Jib Factory. At first, she was understandably apprehensive riding in the company of such European jib royalty but killed it once her board was on her feet.
Don't be fooled by the use of the word 'competitions' in our last paragraph - the Jib Factory is about as far as you can get from your traditional snowboard contest. The only formal contests were a Game of OUT, a highest ollie competition and awards for best trick and best rider overall, with the riders voting on those between themselves. Laid back is the perfect adjective for it all.
Rather than continue to ramble on, and seeing as most of the riding happened in distinct sessions, here's a feature-by-feature report:
Right from the word go, riders were drawn to the stairset feature like The Only Way is Essex stars are to the fake tan section in Boots. For these riders - some of Europe's best jibbers, there's something comforting about hitting a standard down bar and it was a safe feature (by their standards) for some warm up laps. Two round rails either side of 30-odd wooden stairs with sizeable gaps onto 'em. Rather intimidatingly, you couldn't actually see the the rails until just before you took off... But that certainly didn't stop the likes of Benny Urban, Dominik Wagner and Toni Kerkela from stomping everything from noseslides to hardway backside 270s on.
Toni Kerkela was hyperextending one footers over the whole thing by the end of the first day while Kas Lemmens put down what ultimately earned him the best trick award - a hardway backside 270-on brought back to fakie. Ridiculously tech.
Nuddsy, Smith and Becky all gave the rails a good seeing to as well with Nuddsy poking out his bluntslides, Will gapping right to the bottom of the rail and Becky locking into her noseblunts.
THE KINKY PYRAMID RAIL
The kink rail feature was one intimidating beast to be tamed. Standing over head height with a dangerous looking kink right at its apex, it definitely took a while for riders to hit the thing. But once a session got going on the tricks were flowing like dribble from a watermelon guzzling toddler...
Finnish rail destroyer Toni Kerkela was one of the first to gap all the way over the down part of the rail and was poking out stylish roast beef grabs and backside 360 seatbelt airs. Eirik Nesse hand-dragged the top while the ever zany Dani Rajcsanyi (you may remember seeing his meat and two veg here) was going for backside 270s to fakie.
We were rather excited to see this feature get a good seeing to and once again it took a while for someone to man up and take that first hit. The two school-style lockers were a good few metres apart, allowing riders ample time to spin and switch up between the two.
Will Smith got stuck in with the Euros on the feature and was stomping back board to 5-0's and boardslides through the two lockers.
After taking a serious bashing, the bottom locker needed to be hammered back into shape by who we presume was one of the guys doing maintenance on Oberjoch's lifts. Either that, or he was just Alex Tank's blacksmith buddy, wielding a hammer far too small for his frame...
THE GRANITE LEDGE
The granite-topped down ledge returned for this year's Jib Factory and was a straightforward feature for riders to get tech on. On the first day an epic game of OUT (like a game of SKATE but with only three letters) went down on the ledge, with pairs of riders setting tricks for opposing teams to match. If opponents bailed they'd get a letter.
Nuddsy was paired with Toni Kerkela and thanks to tricks like his switch front blunt 450 off, the pair made it to the semi finals where they were eventually knocked out by eventual winners, Kas Lemmens and Eirik Nesse.
Over the course of the game, which stretched over both days, there were some bonkers tricks stomped including hardway backside 270s on, 360s off, cab 360s on, nollies over the front of the rail to nosepress and pretty much every trick you can think of in between. As far as we can remember though, Nuddsy's switch front blunt 450 was the only 450 we saw and one of the most tech tricks put down on the feature. Result!
THE ROUND FAT PIPE
Probably the easiest feature to hit in the setup was this big round pipe thingy. Like with all the other features, once a few riders started to lap it, others soon turned up to join in and early on the sunny second day a whole bunch of riders, including young Becky Menday, were lapping it.
Highlights on the feature include Eirik Nesse's massive wallys to taps over the rail and Benny Urban's wally backside 270 which he tried relentlessly for almost an hour before stomping it. The guy is clearly a perfectionist.
Nuddsy was doing the tweakiest back blunt 270s while Will Smith was getting tech with cab 270s on and back tail pretzels. Becky Menday was more than holding her own as well with her signature noseblunts and even a frontside 270 on which she was stoked on.
The feature with potentially the most 'wow' factor was the rad container setup, which consisted of a shipment container and a sizeable gap to a rail below.
Will Smith was the first of the Brits to hit it, going nosegrab and stalefish to backside boardslide.
Right before we had to leave to catch our flight home on day two, Nuddsy got a few hits in and stomped this sick nosegrab to backboard.
And that pretty much wraps up our feature by feature report! There were a couple of other things to hit, namely this wallride with two rails on either side and although they saw some action, they never got properly sessioned:
There was also a closeout rail wrapped around a tree, which again didn't see that much action - the riders were just spoiled for choice!
Lookout for video highlights from the event and check out our full photo gallery here.