Cover image photos: Shaun White & Ayumu Hirano by Gabe L'Heureux, Chloe Kim & Red Gerard by Peter Cirilli, Ed Leigh by Ed Blomfield
In a year when we may see Donald "my penis is bigger than yours" Trump become the most powerful man in the world; the implosion of the European Union under the weight of mass migration, economic incompetence and the "straight banana" scandal; all of Persia's historical monuments destroyed by IS only to be replaced with 5-a-side football pitches and Nike finally re-issuing the Air Jordan V in the original black colourway - I think the most significant and tectonic plate-shifting event of 2016 will turn out to be the Burton US Open.
Here's why, in some sort of order:
1. Only British People Are Capable of Commentating on Snowboarding
Between Monsieur Poudreuse's alter-ego Ed Leigh, Tim "Chip hat wearing seagull dodger" Warwood and the BMW mini-driving Aramis-esque moustachioed Henry Jackson, the flat vowels of the Brits are taking over the internet-streaming airwaves of snowboarding.
Considering that for the best part of 20 years we have had little more than bits of old car-footwell mats laid on the side of a slag heap to snowboard on, it is simply amazing that we have managed to become so dominant in the world of talking about snowboarding and watching other people do it who are better than us... (err... hold on)
If it wasn't for the X-Games having a total blind spot to anyone who isn't American and wants to join the US Navy, only Jack Mitrani, who looks like he is constantly thinking about how he could get his hands into Silje Norendal's pants whenever he is interviewing anyone, can stem the tide.
Before you know it, even Tom Monterroso will have to start impersonating Austin Powers and drinking Earl Grey tea out of fine bone China to have any chance of getting a gig.
2. The Greatest Sporting Fail/Sacrifice of All Time in the Universe Ever - Shaun White the Messiah
Shaun White made the most powerful and inclusive statement possible by falling twice on his first rail in the US Open Slopestyle. Kooks, middle aged men and ginger people everywhere (those three subsets of humanity are not mutually exclusive, I know) will benefit from his unparalleled altruism and Jesus-like sacrifice. By eating shit, twice, within 20 yards of the start gate, in front of a hundred million people on the internet he made it acceptable to be a total dicknose in the park.
"This act of unparalleled sacrifice finally proves that he is in fact a deity."
This is probably a bigger deal for humanity than Bill Gates giving billions of pounds to wipe out Malaria, North Korea opening up a chain of McDonalds or Jamie Oliver getting a hair-weave. What a hero... he has died on the cross of the flat bar, so we can all be saved next time we catch an edge on a box and fall on top of the 4 year old kid doing a tail press in front of us. This act of unparalleled sacrifice finally proves that he is in fact a deity. He was of course then resurrected somewhere about 25 feet above the coping of a super-pipe, with lots of people staring up at his balls in his tight pants and saying "oooh" from below.
Dont call it a comeback
Posted by Olav on Friday, 4 March 2016
Still wont call it a comeback
Posted by Olav on Friday, 4 March 2016
3. Speaking of Which - Young People...
Having not dangled my testicles in front of my VHS player whilst it was pumping out the soundtracks to old TB movies - and thus taught my sperm to snowboard 20 years ago, I have no chance of fathering any children who will go onto become competitive shredders.
For a whole generation of us, starting snowboarding at the age of 16 was considered pretty young. Shaun Palmer was a mini-shred freak, but most of our heroes were at least able to drive a car and buy fags.
Now, in the form of bendy rubber-boy Redmond Gerard, miniature person Judd "7 stone in a wet t-shirt and I laugh at the laws of physics" Henkes, and the collectable figurine that is Chloe Kim, we have kids who are throwing down the heaviest tricks possible on a snowboard at the age of 15 or less. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?
There is no other sport in the world - go on, think of one, I bet you can't, not even gymnastics - where 15 year olds can be genuinely competitive on a world stage, let alone dominate a sport.
Yuki Kadono, who isn't even allowed to take a sip of Kirin beer yet, and phones his Mummy every night to say thank you for his packed lunch, already has a protege. Who, by the way, can throw down 1440s and has probably never kissed a girl with tongues.
What next? I don't know... the world has gone mad... soon cats and dogs will be living together and cheese and pickle sandwiches will be outlawed.
4. Creative Courses
I am going to write a very nicely worded thank-you letter on headed notepaper, to Jake the Carpenter and his lovely wife, for getting creative with the set-up in Vail. You have made the internet better, fixed snowboarding, and enabled me to delay my hernia operation by at least 3 years.
Whilst the tide was already turning - and even courses created by someone with a 16-bit programmable computer in South Korea, where they don't even have snow and still think it's dorky to snowboard in dungarees (like....duh!) have snuggled into bed with the shaved bits of the tranny revolution - the Original and Best (TM) Snowboard Contest (TM) in the World Ever (TM) gave birth to a beautiful PeacePark / PyeongChang love child that not only let the jocks flex their muscles, but also gave those with a more creative eye the chance to afterbang.
"You have made the internet better, fixed snowboarding, and enabled me to delay my hernia operation by at least 3 years."
It is thus with humongous relish that I look forward to the next few years of watching slopestyle comps, but more importantly riding the terrain parks of the western world, as shapers (inspired, by their streaming live feeds) realise that riding transitions and cool little lumps and bumps is WAY more fun than hitting 80ft booters.
I do however think it will make the judges' job a total nightmare - a crippler with a nose grab off a tranny is undboubtedly more stylish than a common-or-garden backside 7 off a straight kicker - but does it merit a bigger score, is it more difficult? Only time will tell, and those guys sitting inside the judging booth will almost certainly get a shitload of 140 character grief over the next couple of years as they work it out.
5. Sponsored by Dubai
So, this - above all else is the most seminal moment of 2016. A snowboarder being sponsored by Dubai.
Yes, that's right. The oil-drenched, gold-tapped cesspit of consumerism where the only way to define yourself is through your wealth, where the suppleness of the leather on your handbag is more important than your child's emotional wellbeing and where people who stick plastic things into their body in the vain hope that it will make them more attractive to people with rat poison injected into their forehead go to fuck each other on sunbeds, where you get your hands chopped off if you disagree with the government and where if you are a woman it is really just better if you stay inside... yes, this place. This place is sponsoring snowboarders.
"When I saw Niklas Mattsson with the Dubai logo on his helmet, I literally spat out my tea and dropped my clotted cream scone onto the floor."
It was bad enough that those oh-so-core skateboarders sold out in We Are Blood, when in return for the chance of nose-blunting some marble ledges they unwittingly endorsed one of the most grotesquely capitalist places on the planet. But when I saw Niklas Mattsson with the Dubai logo on his helmet, I literally spat out my tea and dropped my clotted cream scone onto the floor.
Shaun White (AKA Aslan the lion) was sponsored by Target (who sell a wide variety of homewares and reasonably priced clothing) and thus got endless shit from snowboarding's thugged out twitter feed. But Matsson just took selling out to the next level. Mate - what are you doing? Have a word with yourself. What next? Will we see guys rocking President Assad decals on their boards?
Anyway... as I say, in 50 years' time, when the whole world has gone to shit in a sandwich box and we look back at 2016 from from the windows of our atomic-bomb shelters whilst eating rehydrated packets of pork scratchings, we will remember it thus. British people, talking about little rubber people sponsored by oil barons, hitting trannies, and the lord Jesus White sacrificing himself so we can all be saved.