Arthur Longo defying gravity at the Burton European Open 2015. Photo: Sam McMahon

If you’ve never dropped into the 22-foot-wall of an icy halfpipe, it’s easy to underestimate just what it would take to sail up to three times your own height above the coping. However you look at it, modern halfpipe riding is gnarly.

"That first hit says a lot about a rider's approach to pipe riding"

Even so, there are those who can live for pumping transition and launching over the heads of the crowd, and have it so dialled that they can bring bags of their own style to every run.

That first hit says a lot about a rider's approach to pipe riding. Some use the extra amplitude it offers to unleash their techiest tricks, whilst others tweak out a simple grab for maximum steeze points before getting into the spins further down.

Whichever they go for, watching a rider set out their stall with what is usually the highest air in their run is one of life’s pleasures. In no particular order, here's our top ten:


Shaun White - Backside Air, Burton US Open 2013

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It wasn't for nothing that Shaun White dominated halfpipe for the best part of a decade, occasionally going years without a defeat.

While he sometimes went to the frontside wall for his first hit - in the 2006 Olympics, for example - it was usually a nosebleed-inducing air on the backside wall that served as the harbinger of yet another victory.

Given how dialled he had it, it's tough to single out just one example, but we've gone with this one from the Burton US Open in 2013. It may lack the under-the-floodlights spectacle of some of his other runs, but the camera angle is perfect for appreciating just how massive he goes on that first hit.

Watching this makes us wish he'd put the guitar down and get back in the pipe.

Watch Shaun's full run here

Danny Kass - Air to fakie, Winter Olympics 2006

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Just as in 2002, Danny Kass had to settle for silver at the 2006 Olympics. Not that he was that bothered, though; he famously flummoxed the mainstream sporting press when he admitted to rooting for the Italian rider, as it would mean one hell of a party.

You don't see many riders go for the air to fakie on the first hit, but Danny had it dialled and ensured his run got off to a stylish start. He gets extra points for doing it on the frontside wall - which means flying through the air backwards- and for boning out the tailgrab at the apex.

An honorable mention goes to Torah Bright, who put down a good - if not quite as clean - version at X Games 2011.

See more from the Olympic halfpipe here

Torah Bright - McTwist, Dew Tour 2013

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Speaking of Torah, the Aussie pipe legend is the owner of an absolutely stonking McTwist. While Kelly Clark's reign of supremacy was mostly down to her technical ability and amplitude, Torah is miles ahead in the style stakes.

Nowhere does she demonstrate that better than with her McTwist, seen here at the top of the Dew Tour-winning run which counts among the best women's pipe routines ever seen.

Watch Torah's full run here

Kent Callister - Method, Burton US Open 2014

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Kent Callister was one of the best discoveries of the 2014 Olympics. After the world got a look at his method, this Aussie's days of flying under the radar were over.

The following month he was spotted again at the Burton US Open, where his beautiful tweaked first hit set the tone for a run that helped him crack the top five.

Watch Kent's full run here

Shaun White - Alley-oop rodeo, X Games 2009

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Yep, this guy again. The 13th Winter X Games were unlucky for anyone going up against Shaun White - he won gold in both slopestyle and halfpipe in 2009, just as he had in 2003 and 2006.

This floaty-as-hell rodeo kicked off the run that gave him victory in the pipe, the second in a run of six consecutive stunt ditch victories at X.

Like much of his career at that time, the win wasn't without controversy; many felt that Kevin Pearce's run should have taken the top spot instead.

Watch Shaun's full run here - as well as Kevin's - and decide for yourself.

Iouri Podlatchikov - Double McTwist 1260, TTR World Championships 2012

Iouri-Podlatchikov-ipod-double-mctwist-1260-wst-world-championships-2012-first-hit

Now best known as the reigning 'lympic champ, Iouri Podlatchikov had won plenty of gongs before Sochi. The FIS/WST competing tour situation may still be confusing, but the fact that iPod has won the World Championships of both should give you some idea of how good he is.

Here we see him pulling clear from the rest of the field at the WST's showcase event in Norway. He may have nicked the trick from Shaun, but arguably no-one does it better than iPod. If you like your first hits techy, this is as good as it gets.

Watch iPod's full run here

Antti Autti - Cab 1080 tailgrab, X Games 2005

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Not many folk had Finnish rider Antti Autti down for victory at X Games 2005, but he managed to get ahead of Andy Finch and Danny Kass by landing the first ever back-to-back 1080s in halfpipe competition.

Not only that, but he did it right out of the gate - his cab 1080 tailgrab may not have the style that some other first hits on this list have, but it's bloody impressive. That was as big as anyone was spinning in those days, and his landing needed to be good enough to set him up for a frontside 10 on the opposite wall. Nails.

Watch Antti's full run here

Chase Josey - Backside 720 transfer, Red Bull Double Pipe 2014

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An unconventional one, this; given the nature of the Double Pipe setup, the riders weren't dropping in from the top deck like they would at a regular event.

For Chase Josey, that meant an opportunity to fully embrace the nature of the comp. He promptly launched a sizeable back 7 into the pipe to begin the run that would eventually earn him 2nd place overall. It's among the best evidence we've seen for mixing up the halfpipe comp format.

Watch Chase's full run here

Taku Hiraoka - Frontside 540, X Games 2015

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A relative unknown when he won silver at Sochi, Taku Hiraoka was a top contender for X Games gold in 2015.

The diminutive Japanese rider had to settle for 2nd place again on this occasion, but his first hit - a mind-bogglingly massive front 5, stomped with almost superhuman precision - meant that someone would have to do something pretty special to beat him...

Watch Taku's full run here

Danny Davis - McTwist, X Games 2015

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The one to take down Taku was the Dude himself, Danny Davis. Successfully defending his X Games gold, he brought the style with his trademark switch method and perfect back-to-back 1080s. Before all that, though, he kicked things off with a tweaked-out McTwist fit for the gods.

Who says style in pipe riding is dead?

Watch Danny's full run here

Did we miss any? Tell us about your favourite first hits in the comments below.