Ten years ago if you had a cab 9 in your bag of tricks then you were fl at out ‘The Shit’. But unfortunately the average size of a kicker back in ‘96 was a lot smaller than it is today, so while people like Jason Murphy, Kevin Jones, Peter Line and Stefan Gimpl paved the way and made the 9 a reality, they struggled to make it look good with so little time in the air. For that reason none of them are going to feature in the top three of this debate. Another fact that’s worth noting is that all those guys learnt their 9’s off their toes. It wasn’t until the late 90’s that frontside rotations started being initiated off the heels, which made a huge difference to how frontside spins looked in the air.
Enter the likes of David Benedek, Fredi Kalbermatten and Romain De Marchi. All have banked sections that feature three of the four 9’s, and to any of these guys, knocking out a ‘cab’ 9 (a term coined by vert skater Steve Caballero, who invented fakie ollie rotations) is a cake walk. This means the big debate over this trick comes down to style preference. Do you want the master of the 9 to throw it off an inch perfect, step-down powder kicker with a perfectly styled grab that’s held until he pretty much lands on his fingers? Step forward Fredi Kalbermatten. Or do you want the De Marchi interpretation, where he’s doing close to 60 mph on the way out of a backside 5 down an Alaskan face, clinging on as he launches over what he modestly refers to as a “step-up" but almost everyone else readily accepts is a couloir?
For the money, we’ve got to pick Romain for his sheer balls - and although he is renowned primarily for his stuntman style approach to big jumps he has always been able to back it up with technical prowess. Combine this with a history of racing road bikes and you have the kind of legs that are going to stomp everything in sight.
Take a good look at the scale of this nine: for a start it’s shot from a helicopter to get perspective. The one thing you can’t see in the shots though, is the speed at which he’s travelling. Everything is happening so quickly that when Romain starts to lose his edge in the compression of the kicker he barely has time to regain enough control to pop into the rotation. Yet what looks like a filthy and sketchy run-in and takeoff suddenly becomes that trademark ‘De Marchi’solid box style in the air. His head tilts into the spin and his trailing arm hangs out of the back of the rotation like a flyboy’s scarf. The first 540 looks effortless, and like lots of Romain’s big spins, as he approaches the 720 you can see the body start to open up. At this point you’re waiting for him to touch down for a cab 7. But no, instead Romain has done all the hard work on take-off, and by whipping out the first part of the rotation he affords himself the luxury of time at the end (well, that and the fact he’s overshot the landing by miles). So on the first watch not only do you get to see a 9 instead of the expected 7, but you see him drift through the last 180 into a car crash of a landing that only those wrought iron road racers legs are able to suck up - crowning Romain the king of the 900.
Of course in the same breath a lot of people would choose Fredi K for the pure elegance of his 9’s. All you need to do is ask yourself, are you a minimalist who likes everything in its right place? Or do you go for a bit of flare and character.
CAB 900 ROMAIN DI MARCHI - POP 2004