Devun Walsh, The Resistance 2001
The switch backside 180 is a strange trick. For some reason this method of spinning has always lagged behind frontside, backside and cab spins in popularity - probably because it’s so hard. It wasn’t until Jussi Oksanen, the ambi-stanced Finnish king of spin, took huge switch backsides into the backcountry that progressive snowboarding really got behind it - with names like David Benedek and, more recently, Nicolas Müller making big sw/bs spins common kicker fodder. But while the 7’s and 9’s get all the publicity, the switch back one has remained for the most part at the shy and retiring end of the trick spectrum.
This is why, if you look back through the years for the masters of the switch backside one, you have to look at some of the more leftfield experimental riders. Nate Cole, a legendary figure from the mid 90’s, specialised in tight lines and spinning big cliffs and was instrumental in bringing switch backside 180’s to powder riding (he has a cracking example in TB4). A year later and Johan Olofsson banked one of snowboarding’s legendary sections in the follow up TB5 – opening one of his Alaskan lines with a switch back one off a windlip. Then there’s Peter Line, the self styled freak/geek of snowboarding who loved the switch backside 180 so much you can find one in almost every one of his sections, which span more than ten winters.
But the master of switch backside 180’s is none of these. He is a Canadian who was built to snowboard, five foot six inches of pure power with a style resembling a cannon ball barging its way through deep powder. Devun Walsh. Walsh first arrived on the international snowboard radar in the Shortys movie of the same name, and while the terrain and camera work in that film were pretty standard, Devun’s riding was progressive already, demonstrating a penchant for big, clean and slow spins into pristine powder landings. Two years later, his section in Mack Dawg’s Simple Pleasures (1997) thrust him into the limelight with the opening section. The fact that it only has two 720’s and a handful of 540’s tells you that Devun’s knack for handling low rotations on huge kickers is where he’s at.
Simple Pleasures was followed by a stand out section in Decade and a career defining turn in Technical Difficulties that hailed him as one of the world’s best. Devun had successfully established himself as the king of backcountry freestyle, with huge frontside 3’s, backside 180’s and, most prominently, some leviathon switch backside 1’s. This last trick, teamed with his low centre of gravity and penchant for grab-free, floating airs, became his trade mark.
Then came The Resistance. This was the first official Forum team video, and there was pressure on everyone to deliver ground breaking sections. Due to a season-ending knee injury, Devun was forced to film his part with only 6 days on the hill. The result is mind blowing, and contains two of the best switch back 1’s on film. The first is shot from a distance with a windlip at the head of a steep chute acting as the take off. Coming in at a decent speed Devun drops his shoulder and drifts into a regular Indy, giving it a handful of wang until he touches down between the rocks and throws up a rooster tail as he exits the chute. It’s pretty much perfect, but topped by a second effort just a few seconds later, which you can see on this page….
This time the cameraman has picked a great angle: filmed from the take off of a cliff drop, you get to see the subtle initiation of the spin and then the classic Walsh stance of arms and legs softly locked in position – unflapping - as he floats the forty odd feet to the landing below. He has a ridiculous ability to slow and even stall spins without panicking or making them look ugly. It’s a solid drop into fresh powder (aren’t they all in a Devun Walsh section?) yet he fuses the rotation with the landing perfectly, riding out in the distance to the strains of Spooks on the soundtrack. Magic.