Last month we ran a shot of Mads Jonsson in the gallery. Whether you saw that issue or not, there’s going to be no getting away from his exploits this season. A similar photo is already gracing the cover of the 07 Burton catalogue, while the story of the massive hip and Mads’ attempt to reach orbit will be documented in their new team movie, For Right or Wrong.
It seems an apt title for the film. As impressive as the images are, fellow pros are torn on whether this kind of feat is healthy for the sport. Last year, when Mads cleared the world’s biggest table top in Norway (150ft) during filming for Paradox, it failed to capture the enthusiasm of riders like David Benedek. “To me that’s just stupid," he said. “The bigger the distance, the faster you have to go – so the airtime doesn’t really increase with the size of the jump. It only becomes more dangerous and consequential, which hinders riders from pushing the technical envelope. I guarantee I could show you a steep 15ft jump which has as much airtime as Mads’ 150ft air." The fact that Mads only managed one successful jump on that particular kicker before injuring himself seems to back up Benedek’s claim. Johan Oloffson, interviewed for this month’s Roots feature, thinks pros these days are being used by their sponsors. “They try to make young riders who haven’t formed their own opinions do crazy jumps. ’Hey that guy did that jump - let`s mark it down in the black book!’... the spirit of snowboarding has been lost somewhere."
This seems a little harsh on Mads. After all, he’s been around long enough to know his own mind – and isn’t it ultimately the job of a snowboard pro to do crazy shit? Johan himself took his life into his hands every day when he rode big powder faces like Oden’s Ladder (a line film maker Mike Hatchett claims he “wanted nothing to do with" it was so dangerous). Some people might argue it was stupid and irresponsible to let Johan loose on Alaska in the first place, when he was just 19 years old. No one looks back and regrets that decision though – least of all Johan. David Benedek too, is always looking to push the limits of what’s possible on a snowboard, the difference being his ability to think outside the box. Next month we’re giving away his latest movie, The Gap Session, and once again the man has smartly bridged the gap between technical progression and fun.
Whatever the thinking behind this hip jump (and I’m told Mads was just looking to push himself, rather break some record) the pictures certainly make an impression - and in this respect the project was a massive success. As Chris Moran’s ‘How to Go Pro’ article explains, professional snowboarding is not rocket science: riders are paid to gain coverage for their brand, end of. Sparking controversy then is no bad thing – just ask Romain de Marchi or Shaun Palmer.
Debate within the industry is all well and good, but where does a photo like this leave the rest of us? I mean, who in their right mind would want to become a pro these days if that’s the kind of shizzle they’re expected to pull? For the majority of riders, it’s so far removed from our own experience of snowboarding that it’s almost a different sport - like motorcross; and far from aspiring to ride like Mads, all us normal folk can do is stand and gawp like spectators at a stunt show. Still, we might feel distant from such heady heights, but complaining about it seems pointless. Progression is the name of the game. We try to improve our own riding every year, and we expect the pros to do the same. Whether you’re Mads or a ‘one week a year’ rider, all of us are driven by that same desire to learn, and the same simple love of sliding down a mountain. In that sense maybe we’re not so different after all? The only thing really separating guys like us from the pros is talent… and massive, massive balls.
Madds gives us all altitude sickness