According to Robert Burns, any opportunity “to see oursels as ithers see us” is worth taking. In the case of snowboarding, however, that’s usually quite depressing; the average mainstream attention on our sport ranges from the Daily Mail’s woeful efforts to the BBC’s confusion over the word “huck”.
There is hope, though: Forged In Steel, a forthcoming documentary about the UK’s own Jamie Nicholls, may actually have a decent shot at walking the line between straight-up rider docs such as Jake Blauvelt’s Naturally, and more accessible fare that can grab the attention of the uninitiated. Ahead of its Sky Sports debut this evening, we sat down with a mug of Yorkshire tea and gave it a watch.
Understandably, Forged In Steel lays Jamie’s relatively humble dryslope origins on thick. It’s the film’s USP, of course, and a terrific way to start things off. Press clippings from Jamie’s younger days are cut with footage from David Benedek’s In Short, as well as some recent bangers that mark an all-time high point for dryslope riding. The action then moves to a hugely ambitious project at the Hemel Snow Centre, involving a line that snakes in and out of the building. We’d heard good things about the setup, but still weren’t prepared for just how well it all worked out. It’s a genuinely unique bit of snowboard footage that, combined with the Halifax clips, should leave international viewers in no doubt of Jamie’s dedication – and that of UK snowboarding as a whole.
On the real stuff, we see Jamie tear a Cairngorm kicker a new one – his switch backside 180 ranking among the nicest kicker tricks we’ve seen all year – followed by a montage of his globetrotting career so far. Conspicuous by its absence is any footage of his Sochi exploits, with rights issues no doubt denying the film the bold-as-brass cab 1440 that cemented Jamie as the UK’s top freestyle rider. Finally, he ventures to Austria to get out of his comfort zone on a split boarding mission; we’ve heard the trip wasn’t always plain sailing, but under the tutelage of Thomas ‘Beckna’ Eberharter, he bags some quality shots that suggest he could be on to good things in the deeper stuff soon.
Thankfully, the whole thing isn’t taken too seriously. Yes, there’s the odd super-slo-mo shot of a pensive-looking Jamie walking on a Yorkshire hillside, but you also get some insight into what TSA’s Jeremy Sladen, with tongue firmly in cheek, calls his “flawed genius” – including more than one downfall brought about by the use of skinny jeans.
So those of us who have followed Jamie’s career for longer than the Russian five-ring circus can get a laugh out of it. But what about newcomers? We reckon that Jamie’s story – bolstered by contributions from Sladen, Wayne Taylor, Ian Ashmore and Bert Conneely – is certainly interesting enough to warrant a project like Forged In Steel. And no-one could fail to be impressed by the riding, which is truly mind-blowing a times. The soundtrack and ‘making of’ shots can occasionally make it feel a bit like a Blue Peter vignette, but overall the team has catered to both the niche and mass audiences about as well as you could hope for. Half an hour well spent.
WHITELINES RATING: 7/10
Jamie Nicholls – Forged in Steel will be shown tonight on Sky Sports 3 at 7pm, and on Sky Sports 4 at 8.30pm. Pick up the next issue of Whitelines for some exclusive photos, and a behind-the-scenes look.