It’s a Wednesday night and the bouncer outside Cargo in Shoreditch is rooting through my camera bag. We’ve just seen a group of suited and booted business men on a street art tour of East London so it’s not like we’re in a trouble area, and if I was trying to smuggle drugs in I probably would’ve done it more subtly than with a 30 litre backpack. I think it’s because I’ve also brought my snowboard boots with me. “Yeah man why you bring your boots out with you?" “Because we’re going snowboarding tomorrow…"
This is on the way in to see the premiere of Nitro’s new movie - The Bad Seeds before joining an assortment of their pros at a few of the UK’s snowdomes – an experience I’m told will be a first for Dominik Wagner, Benny Urban, Brandon Hobush and their team manager cum rider Knut Eliassen. Finally bustled in to the venue just in time for the proceedings, I’m there just in time to see them all take to the stage to introduce the movie, joined by recent team signing Dom Harington (welcomed with “he’s not in the film but he was in the Olympics so.. kind of a big deal") and seven year old Mia Brookes, promptly booted out before the credits roll by the same bouncer as before.
Dominik and Brandon were eventually thrown out of the venue last night for refusing to put their shirts back on, claiming they were 'just having too much fun’.
As the lights go down we hear Knut explain ‘We didn’t do the best tricks, because we can’t, but this’ll make you wanna go snowboarding like nothing else!’ Prophetic, but more on the movie later.
Cut to the next day. I rejoin the crew in a field somewhere near Tottenham where the campervan they’ll be staying in for the duration is parked. Those that are awake are in a bad way – Dominik and Brandon were eventually thrown out of the venue last night for refusing to put their shirts back on because they ‘were just having too much fun,’ explains the latter. We make the short trip up to Hemel where we meet Max Presky, designated filmer for the trip. After a quick coffee break, suddenly the hangovers are shaken off and we’re kitted up and ready to go – a transformation I find hard to believe will last given my past experiences with professional snowboarders.
The Snow Centre has put on a private park for us so we’re only joined by a few kids skiving off school, as well as the now-local Jamie Nicholls. The session is on as soon as we hit the cold of the fridge, the guys whooping and hollering up and down the lift whilst we struggle to get our cameras firing. I see immediately why Mia was drafted into this bunch as she’s already lapping, throwing Booby Trap gang signs from the button and chasing her mentor John Weatherley down the slope. The guys are impressed.
Whilst the snow takes a little getting used to, the rails are no problem for the guys and three hours later they’ve drained every last drop from the set up. Without stopping. It’s hard work for me and the filmer - there’s no pausing for the cameras as these guys seem to just be here to ride and enjoy, so the best we can hope for is to be at the right feature at the right time. Not that there’s any intent this way from them; this lot just seem to operate on a whole other plane of energy.
Like four Smaugs they’ve filled their entire camper van with junk food, lining their beds and sprawling over it as we travel.
A case in point is when we exit the dome: no sooner are boots and socks peeled off then Benny is already hassling the management for when we can go skate. Luckily XC skatepark is just around the corner so some more of this unstoppable power can be burned off. By the time I’ve finally defogged my still dome-chilled lenses and grabbed a shot it’s up and off again to Milton Keynes, which for some reason they are very excited about. I’ve never met anyone amped to go to Milton Keynes before…
On the way I discover a clue as to where all this energy is coming from. Like four Smaugs they’ve filled their entire camper van with junk food, lining their beds and sprawling over it as we travel.
All except Dominik, who’s picking at some packaged fruit. “Don’t mind him," cuts in Knut, “he may look like a model but he’s OK really." Banter takes the place of sliding sideways en route, gems like, “would you rather be a chick getting banged forever, or a guy that never has sex?" and “Next year we’re gonna push the limits: quads!" making up most of the conversation. Brandon’s Salt Lake City accent seems to have bred with the others’ German/Scandi flavours and produced a weird bastard cadence that permeates the van almost as much as the inevitable smell. Before I’m infected too we arrive in MK - I know because everything falls off the table as Knut proclaims “Roundabouts are like, the best thing… except when you’re in an RV."
After a quick stop where we grab a bite to eat and help Mia persuade her parents to skip another day of school and continue with the tour (by this point she’s infatuated with the Nitro guys and is set to be devastated when it’s all over) it’s back into the cold for the evening’s demo. Joining them are recent Grindhouse heroes Sparrow Knox and Ollie Dutton, as well as more young talent courtesy of Jake Binnee and Will Gilmore. All impress the visitors but between hot lap after hot lap there’s barely time for them to take in what’s around them – it’s clear their bottomless energy is coming from their pure love of snowboarding, there’s no other way they could have ridden and skated for almost nine hours with barely a pause.
The riding was simple yet spectacular, the message clear: why complicate things when you could be having fun?
After a three-method-salute from Benny, Dominik and Knut whilst Brandon chases them with a followcam it’s time for me for me to catch the last train home, thoroughly exhausted from the day. Somehow they’re still at it, and it suggests there’s unlikely to ever be an object immovable enough to halt this unstoppable force. In the ‘comfort’ of a London Midland carriage I can pause and take stock on the day, think back to the film last night… Yes! The film. The Bad Seeds was the whole point of this tour after all.
In the past Nitro films had always passed in the peripheral – soundtracked by metal and filled out with riders that never registered on the UK radar, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was blown away. Honest snowboarding always wins when it comes to the screen - David Benedeck with Robot Food knew that back in the day - and Nitro took a leaf out of that book when it came to this. The riding was simple yet spectacular, the message clear: why complicate things when you could be having fun? It’s a montage of methods, backflips and huge airs, all accompanied by a great soundtrack as well as healthy doses of humour. And not the same old, bravado-infused ‘look how cool we are’ humour we’re tired of seeing in shred flicks. Watching this felt like being on holiday with your mates; cheering the successes but hailing the fuck-ups even more.
As we left the venue we had all agreed that the movie seemed to capture what the riders would have been doing anyway, even if there were no cameras on them: the eternal goal of snowboarding filmmakers. Having spent a day with these guys I can attest to that - well done Nitro.
You can watch The Bad Seeds in full below: