The Best British Snowboarders Of All Time: #4 – #2

We’re at the business end now; here we salute three of UK snowboarding’s heaviest hitters…


#4 – Danny Wheeler

Potrait: Natalie Mayer

When we last polled the industry back in 2007, statuesque Yorkshireman Danny Wheeler topped out the list. An epoch has passed since then, in snowboarding terms at least, yet he’s only slipped a few places – which, given that he’s barely been anywhere near a snowboard in the last few years, is some indication of his lasting influence.

Danny blazed the trail for British riders to compete on the European stage. While his continental contemporaries laughed at the fact that he didn’t learn on real snow (Rossendale dry slope was where he cut his teeth), he worked hard and got results that proved the rosbifs were here to stay. His efforts didn’t go unnoticed, and as well as the podiums he secured a pro model snowboard and jacket.

Even as he tore up continental contests, Danny found the time to get it done in the backcountry. Photo: Phil Tifo

In 2006 he took the dedication and drive that had defined his contest riding, and poured it into Skyrocket – a passion project that he directed, edited and starred in, bring relatively unsung heroes like Mark Kent, Nelson Pratt and Simon Brass along for the ride.

He did all this while battling undiagnosed OCD, not to mention being considerably taller than your average pro. A giant of British snowboarding, in every sense.

“Instrumental in raising the profile of British snowboarding, with a career spanning more than 20 years” – Scott McMorris, rider

“A finely tuned freestyle machine who spearheaded two or three generations of British freestylers. An immaculately-curated repertoire of big tricks saw him take on all comers on even the biggest boosters” – Ed Leigh, rider/presenter

“The original British pro” – Dan Wakeham, former halfpipe Olympian

#3 – Billy Morgan

Portrait: Red Bull

It’s easy to define Billy Morgan by how many times he can go upside down, but it’s harder to lay out what exactly his achievements have done for British snowboarding. Having him at the forefront of freestyle for over five years has afforded Hamish McKnight and the rest of the GB team opportunities to showcase UK riders at an elite level.

Triple dippin’ in Breckenridge. Photo: Ed Blomfield

But if you asked Billy himself about the above, he’d probably just shrug it off and ask where tonight’s party is, because under the contest bibs and polished kicker tricks is a guy who simply aims to have as much fun as possible, all the time. Whether that’s hustling at then bar, backflipping down Morzine’s high street or going upside down on his snowboard, it’s all in pursuit of his own happiness rather than critical acclaim, which is probably why it was he – not Kadono, Parrot or Kleveland – that ‘wanged out’ that first, internet-breaking quad cork.

The craziest thing of all is how he managed to rack up all his achievements with seemingly so much in his path: starting on dryslope in Southampton, a bum knee and international contest organisers that still won’t catch him a break. In spite of this however, he’s still here at number three, and we can’t wait to see where he goes next.

“That quad cork made the snowboarding world sit up and go ‘fuck me, he’s from ENGLAND?” – Chris Moran, former Whitelines Editor

“Billy was the first person to do two trick that no one else has ever done on his snowboard. Just think about that. – who else has done that? Plus he continues to maintain a spot in the top 20 big air riders in the world” – Henry Jackson, rider/MC

“If only more people realised how much this ‘gymnast’ embodies the spirit of snowboarding” – Ed Blomfield, Whitelines

#2 – Jamie Nicholls

Portrait: Ed Blomfield

It’s amazing to think that Jamie Nicholls is still only 22 years old. It feels like he’s been dominating the UK scene forever, and in truth he’s already been in the spotlight for over a decade.

The backstory of this precocious grom-turned-world-class-talent is the stuff of legend. Raised just down the road from Halifax dryslope, Jamie sessioned its plastic kicker every night after school. Under the watchful gaze of local legend Wayne Taylor – the Mr Miyagi to Jamie’s Daniel-san – he was soon being talked of in hushed tones as the future of British snowboarding. “Watching him ride,” Brits organiser Spencer Claridge said at the time, “he makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.”

Portrait: Christian Brecheis

By the time he was fourteen Jamie had featured in the David Benedek film In Short, with reports emerging that audiences at screenings as far away as Japan were blown away by this tiny English kid pulling 9s on a weird carpeted hillside. From that moment on, Jamie has in some way belonged to all of us: he the ‘chosen one’ – destined to be the ambassador for UK snowboarding – and us the proud parents.

It’s a burden he’s shouldered as casually as he throws down rail tricks. Potential is one thing, reaching it is another, but Nicholls is now firmly established in the big leagues – winning the prestigious Tokyo Rail Days, making the final of the Olympic slopestyle in Sochi and just this month topping the podium at the Snow Jam World Cup.

Jamie, you made it to #2 on the list – hats off to you. Photo: Cyril Mueller

While these days he flits from continent to continent, Jamie’s incredible board control still owes much to the countless hours spent lapping Halifax and the indoor slope at Castleford, which cemented the fundamentals of kicker and rail riding. Even his eye for a creative line (Jamie is the king of top-to-bottoms) must have its roots in finding new ways to ride the limited Snowflex back home. All that makes him seem somehow more authentically British – not to mention his simple northern outlook on life that verges on the Karl Pilkington!

A child of the internet generation, lately Jamie has been masterminding viral vids (see Hemel Runs 1 & 2) and generally upping his social media output to keep up with his prolific peers in Scandiland and the States.

He might be playing the pro snowboarder game, but like everything else he does, the style is quintessentially made in Yorkshire.

“Jamie is really excellent at a lot of different areas of snowboarding, and that’s not easy to do these days!” – Gary Greenshields, rider

I have never seen anyone with such board control and enthusiasm. He’ll ride a tiny back garden rail or a stadium kicker, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s snowboarding” – Chris Chatt, rider

“He can do everything and with a lot of style, and over the past tewn years or so he’s the one that’s pushed UK riding the most” – Andy Nudds, rider

Just one more to go… Check back tomorrow to see who topped the poll!


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