This season marks Whitelines' 20th winter documenting the UK snowboard scene, and as we set out to cover the latest edition of the British Championships in Laax, we thought it would be fun to look back at a few highlights.
Over the coming week – between reports on the latest kids tearing up the pipe and park – we'll delve into the archive to bring you some choice videos, interview a few of the legends and even solve a decade-long faecal mystery. What's more, we'll reveal which UK riders have been voted the best of all time.
The last time we asked this question was in 2007 - when the mighty Danny Wheeler took the top spot - but so much has happened since then that we felt it was high time for another go-round.
"We posed the question to over 100 stalwarts of the British snowboarding world"
So, where do you start? How does one compare the amatuer trailblazers of the early days, the part-time hellmen that followed, and the world-beating uber-pros of today? It's all subjective, obviously, but if any criteria could determine the best then we figure it'd be something along the lines of these key points:
- Technical ability (What tricks/lines they can do. Or used to do...)
- The Haakonsen Faktor (How far was this person ahead of their time/peers? E.g. Having a 900 in your bag of tricks back in ‘96 is more impressive than doing the same trick today)
- Career Longevity (Giggsy-esque or flash-in-the-pan?)
- Media profile (Have they gained tons of coverage and inspired other riders, or flown under the radar?)
We posed the question to over 100 stalwarts of the British snowboarding world; from modern-day contest killers to retired pioneers, as well as long-serving photographers, filmers and team managers. In their droves they told us who made the cut, and why. Some kept it brief and to the point, while others wrote Ulysses-esque opuses about their choices' contribution to UK shredding.
Without further ado, here's #20 to #16. Check back tomorrow for more!
#20 - Lesley McKenna
Lesley will always be remembered as the first British snowboarder to attend a Winter Olympics – she rode the halfpipe at Salt Lake City in 2002, as well as Turin in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010. However, her contribution goes far beyond the five rings.
In an era when UK snowboarders had very little support – and women even less so – she made it happen for herself, working summer jobs and sleeping on floors across Europe in order to enter World Cup events (at which she occasionally topped the podium).
Away from the contest circuit she brought female-only snowboard films to their highest level yet, co-directing Chunkyknit Films’ Dropstitch, Last Winter and Transfer with Josie Clyde.
Still based in Aviemore, she splits her time between guiding the next generation of British freestylers as part of the GB Park & Pipe coaching team, and raising her daughter Kora – whom we wouldn’t be surprised to see dropping into a halfpipe before long…
"Managed to qualify for three consecutive Olympic games with World Cup podiums along the way. That takes some doing!" - Dan Wakeham, former halfpipe Olympian
"The UK's first Olympian, and right behind the current crop" - Duncan Worrell, SCUK
#19 - Gary Greenshields
Gary is a lesson to any young rider in the merits of hard work. Though he wasn't bottle-fed on snow like your typical scandi (or even on dryslope à la Nicholls) this Scottish shop kid had a dream of riding for a living and clung to it doggedly. While still working at Boardwise, he got his first hook-up with Burton UK and was given a set of business cards by Stu Brass introducing him as "Gary Greenshields: Professional Snowboarder". He might've been too embarrassed to use them, but the fact is he was on his way.
Several winter seasons followed, where Greenshields honed his tricks and ditched the Scottish diet for a healthy lifestyle that mixed climbing and surfing in the off-season. The sacrifice all paid off with a career-defining part in the Lockdown movie Show Offs in which he moves seamlessly from park features to backcountry lines in Russia – with a memorable stop at the infamous Avoriaz Gap. Having made the step up to the Burton Euro team, 'Gadge' followed it up with another solid section (and more self deprecating humour) in Isenseven's Don't Panic.
A grafter like Greenshields was never going to lose focus when it came time to hang up the boots, and sure enough he was soon hired by Quiksilver to mentor their stellar team. These days, though, he can be found filming his own projects for Single Cask, a production company he established in 2016 with longtime partner in crime Mark Ruparelia. If you're in need of a hard-working videographer, just ask him for a card.
"When I first started out, I always looked at Gary and thought he was pushing UK riding to the edge" - Jason Rickwood, rider
"Filmed many memorable parts for UK movies, but was never shy of striking out of the small pond to rub shoulders on a Euro level" - Tom Copsey, Onboard Editor
#18 - Ben Kilner
For the career of high-flying pipe rider Ben Kilner, we have some unknown snowboarders ripping it up on Banchory Golf Course more than two decades ago to thank. So inspired was six-year-old Ben that he pestered his mum and dad for a lesson at Glenshee, and things progressed from there at the rate of a rocket.
In the years since, Kildog has done it all. He’s been a multiple British champion at both junior and senior levels, made it onto the podium of the World Cup circuit, and turned out for queen and country at two Olympic games.
All the while he remains one of the sport’s nicest folks, with an obvious love for snowboarding that runs far beyond his results in the stunt ditch. Just watch his cameos in the Lockdown films, or how much he still appreciates a foggy day at Glenshee.
These days Ben’s as committed and driven as ever, with a work ethic that’s almost as impressive as his lofty backside airs. To put it simply, Kildog kills it.
"Double Olympian, with some British titles too. Was doing huge backflips aged 13 at the Brits in Mayrhofen in 2002 so has longevity!" - Euan Southcott, rider/producer
"Massively underrated, incredibly talented rider and Olympian" - Tom Kingsnorth, Transform Gloves
#17 - Mark Kent
It was heart-warming when the polls came back and amongst all the Instagrammers and contest riders, the British scene still has room for Mark Kent.
The perpetual seasonaire, he’s never sought the limelight, instead choosing to do his own thing with a few friends in the Avoriaz backcountry for the best part of 20 years, but thanks to sneak appearances in some of the Lockdown Projects movies and Danny Wheeler’s Skyrocket, there’s a reverent appreciation for ‘Kenty.’
A well-deserved mention amongst some of the other British greats, we’ll bet in another 20 years he’ll still be sending it way away from the beaten path.
"Silent but deadly, no bullshit" - Chris Orchard, TSA
"The most underrated UK rider of all time. He's happy just chilling and making furniture, but can still turn up to a pipe and do the biggest alley-oop of the day" - Jono Wood, rider
#16 - Katie Ormerod
As is often the case, Bradford-based Katie Ormerod caught the snowboarding bug when an older member of the family got into it. In her case, it was cousin Jamie Nicholls, so finding inspiration to make the most out of Halifax dry slope came easily.
With a natural flair for flipping, at the age of just 15 she became only the fifth woman in history to stick a double backflip. Just over a year later, she’d raised the bar for riders everywhere by landing the first ever backside double cork 1080 by a female rider. The rest of the field still haven’t caught up with her.
This year Katie stormed the Pleasure Jam, and even bagged an invite to the X Games in Aspen. Despite being one of the youngest competitors – not to mention the first to drop – she kept a cool head and proved she belongs on snowboarding's biggest stages.
It’s still early days, too; expect her to soar up this list in the years to come.
"The world's first female double cork….Come on. I genuinely hope that I am commentating on a Team GB Gold in Peyongchang. It’s obviously in the blood" - Tim Warwood, rider/presenter
"Without question the best girl rider I've ever seen, and I don't doubt that she's destined to be officially recognised as the best in a few years time" - James Stentiford, rider/guide
Come back tomorrow when we'll reveal the next five riders to make the all-time list!