Channel 4, 1993
Snowboarding lands a regular broadcast on British terrestrial television.
To understand just how UK television came to have a primetime, weekly one hour show about snowboarding during the early to mid 1990s, it’s worth going back and remembering how different things were at that time. Back then the ski industry was, to put it kindly, in a bit of a state. Although innovative US film-makers like Greg Stump were documenting the colourful, cutting edge Lake Tahoe ski scene as spearheaded by Glen Plake and Scott Schmidt, on the whole things in the ski industry were staid and had been that way for decades. In this country, skiing was still the preserve of parallel turning toffs and ‘Brits on the Piste’, as an infamous 80s TV documentary had it. In short, it was in need of a shake up.
So you can imagine the impact a brash newcomer like snowboarding had on the status quo. A couple of years before, the Daily Mail Ski Magazine really had run a headline saying ‘Ban This Killer Craze’. Here was a sport that was treated with absolute disdain and suspicion by the guardians of the winter sports industry, that took its cues from skating and surfing and involved funny new clothes and a strange new language - instantly making skiing look like the grey tedium fest it was back then. Little wonder that the mainstream media sat up and took notice right from the start.
In 1993, a production company called Grand Slam Sports was commissioned by Channel 4 to make a pilot about this exciting new ‘yoof’ sport - and amazingly, they didn’t make a complete pig’s ear of it. Much of this was down to the involvement of Phil ‘Brother Phil’ Young as presenter and sidekick to the main main Normski. These days Phil is one of the hidden hands that run the UK freesports industry, but back then he was, as he is the first to admit, a bit of a dosser. His involvement in the show was down to a mixture of pure serendipity and the front for which Phil is famed.
“I was running Storm magazine at the time, and I went in to see the Board Stupid guys and see if we could get the magazine on there some how. Then they gave me a call and asked me to do some commentary and a couple of interviews with Martin Draytin, Jonny Barr and Stenti. And I thought, ‘Well, yeah alright.’ I bought my first snowboard off Drayton and knew Stenti and Jonny. Then they called me and asked me to go to Switzerland with them. And I ended up being co presenter with Normski, and doing the whole thing. I remember thinking, ‘What, so I have to go to exotic, glamourous places and talk to people I know? Yeah I’ll have a go.’"
It was the beginning of four frankly surreal years in which Board Stupid - a mixture of live bands and some incredibly core snowboard content - ran for an hour each Sunday morning on Channel 4. Think of it as a precursor to T4 as the ultimate Sunday am hangover TV. As Phil now says, “the glory years were really seasons two and three. We had a chalet in the Alps, invited bands out and travelled the world meeting our heroes. I really do look back on it as the most exciting time of my life. At the time I just fell into it, and had no desire to do TV or whatever. I was just taking pics and writing about snowboarding and skateboarding on the side, and then suddenly I was in the middle of this whole thing. I met so many people, and it really directed my life from that moment on".
A quick list of those exploits helps to understand why Phil still feels a little like the kid who found the golden ticket. His personal highlights include heliboarding in BC with Craig Kelly, being arrested in Poland with Goldie, hitting up a full pipe with Terje and “..smoking the strongest hydroponic weed ever in AK with some of the local gnarlers. But music was a really important part of it. We shipped out the Prodigy, Mica Paris, Beth Orton, Attica Blues, Roni Size, Finlay Quaye and Edwyn Collins to stay at the chalet. There were some classic moments."
And for a generation of UK snowboarders, whether pros on the show or people like me, avidly tuning in each week, it was a hugely influential programme. At the height of its popularity, Board Stupid brought in 2 million viewers each week. Think about it - 2 million people watching a show about snowboarding. Phil is still rightly proud of its legacy.
“At the time there was nothing else like it on TV. Yes, it was a bit ham and cheese but at its heart it said a lot of the right things about snowboarding. We didn’t try and overglamorise it. To this day I still get the Brother Phil thing as well, and people saying to me ‘Thanks a lot for getting me into snowboarding’. I think it had a massive impact on a certain generation and I’m really proud of that to this day."
We found a random clip from Board Stupid’s summer special on YouTube. Click here to watch it.