“Someone’s gonna wang a quad one day; it’s gonna happen," Billy told us prophetically in an interview last year. He just didn’t think it would be him.
“I hope [I don’t]! It just seems ridiculous. When I used to do gymnastics it was up to doubles, so to go up to triples now in snowboarding is a step forward."
I raise my eyebrows – really? – and he laughs again.
“I don’t wanna do it! People keep asking me and I’m like, ‘er… no!"
Whatever the circumstances in Livigno yesterday, Billy knew that in throwing down the world’s first quad cork he was not only sticking his body on the line, he was also placing himself in the stocks.
Maybe his Team GB coach Hamish McKnight (a man with endless faith in Morgan’s ability) finally wore him down. Maybe his riding buddies egged him on. Or maybe he just got tired of waiting for someone else to step up to the plate. Whatever the circumstances in Livigno yesterday, Billy knew that in throwing down the world’s first quad cork he was not only sticking his body on the line, he was also placing himself in the stocks.
The first rotten tomato came within seconds.
“A fully tweaked method or a clean laid out backflip is much more appealing than this. I mean come on."
Next came a stinking chunk of cabbage.
“Snowboarding is about style not gymnastic" [sic]
Soon the various threads were awash with bile, the central theme of which was that Billy had single-handedly “killed snowboarding".
This is a sadly familiar experience for Billy – and one which goes some way to explaining his reluctance to be ‘that guy’ who chucked the first quad. After stomping a triple rodeo in 2011, he was subjected to a torrent of abuse that covered the full range from ‘it’s not really a triple rodeo’ (an argument that was finally shut down by Colorado legend Chad Otterstrom) to the sophisticated suggestion to ‘fuck off back to England’ (“these feps (fucken english punters) are such a bunch of faggots. hows the best fep wearing his best fep clown suit while fepping all over the mountain doin 3 flip 180s. please feps, nobody likes you, go back to your homeland and breed with your cousins.")
This seems to be down to a base human desire to ridicule pioneers and steer them back towards the herd (anyone else remember the vitriol directed at Ulrik Badertscher’s first ever 1620 some six years ago?)
With that in mind, it took mental strength as well as balls for Billy to drop into that kicker yesterday. In doing so, he essentially took one for the whole snowboarding team. Watch now as bigger names like Stale Sandbech, Torstein Horgmo and Mark McMorris jump aboard the quad bandwagon and – like the once hated triple – it becomes a familiar sight within elite snowboarding. Before long someone will stomp one cleanly into powder to end a movie part and the world will bow down using the universal brown nosing language of the emoji. **fist bump** **praying hands** **thumb and index finger ‘ok’ sign**
One thing’s for sure, those guys won’t get as much hate. Some of this seems to be down to a base human desire to ridicule pioneers and steer them back towards the herd (anyone else remember the vitriol directed at Ulrik Badertscher’s first ever 1620 some six years ago?). Unfortunately, I’ve also started to wonder if there’s something about Billy Morgan in particular that really gets under some people’s skin.
He’s not American.
He’s not been raised on snow. In fact – shock! – he used to do gymnastics.
He’s not produced any well-known movie parts.
He’s not got any lucrative sponsor deals beyond a (recent) Red Bull hook-up.
He’s not, in short, one of the cool kids.*
If any of the above is even close to true, then to quote a friend on Facebook: “snowboarding is far more shallow and image obsessed than it should be."
And there’s something else lingering in the angry air of the playground. Fear. Anyone who thought themselves pretty good at snowboarding just had to take a fresh reality check – and if you’re a pro? Well, your job just got harder.
Much of this discomfort is dressed up in observations about steezy backside 180s being cooler or comments like “I’d rather watch the Yawgoons".
Earth calling the internet: no one is saying that stuff like the Yawgoons isn’t cool, least of all Billy.
Earth calling the internet: no one is saying that stuff isn’t cool, least of all Billy.
We all love a classic trick or watching riders get super creative with meager resources, but snowboarding’s history has also been a tale of progression. Nowhere is this more true than in competition – and yes, for as long as we’ve stood sideways we’ve found ways to compete, from Jake Burton and Tom Sims dualling through slalom gates to games of In Your Face. For you and I, moving from threes to fives could be the challenge that one-ups our mates; for today’s elite slopestyle riders, adding another rotation to a triple cork is an equally valid way to raise the bar. Maybe it’s not your cup of tea, but Upping the Ante is as natural a part of snowboarding as the method.
“Sure, but it’s fucking ugly," I hear the haters cry. Granted, it’s not the slowest of rotations(!!) and there’s a hand down in the landing, but progression is rarely pretty. For proof, just take a look at this early cab 900 from our untouchable god Terje Haakonsen.
As for that hand down, look no further than this gold medal winning X Games triple from 2011.
No. The fact Billy had to open out at the end suggests there’s plenty of room for future versions to be smoother, slower and more stylish. It’ll just take someone with enough skill and massive nads to give it a few more goes, and right now the only candidate is… Billy.
So fair play to Mr Morgan, and congratulations for putting UK snowboarding on the map yet again. If he hasn’t already thought of a name for his new trick, here’s a suggestion: