A few thoughts rushed through my head as the knuckle of the jump disappeared beneath me...
“Wow isn't the blue sky pretty?" closely followed by “My feet shouldn't be in my range of vision should they?" and then “If I flapped my arms really hard could I turn this half backflip of death into something less lethal?"...
In fact all sorts of thoughts barged their way through my stream of conscious at that point - but none was more over powering than:
“I really wish I wasn't dressed in a dog suit - and by the way, fuck Chris Chatt!"
Now there were a number of events that led to me flying upside down in full ‘kiss your arse goodbye' position, dressed as a Dalmatian and wearing a hi-vis vest. So lets start at the beginning.
“I really wish I wasn't dressed in a dog suit - and by the way, fuck Chris Chatt!"
I was living at the infamous 'Hunger Pain Hotel' in Zillertal valley - which consisted of a minimum of 9 housemates and sometimes as many as 25; and as you can imagine, there were numerous occasions on which we felt it necessary to flex our substantial “party muscles". But amongst all the gatherings, pre-parties, BBQ’s and after parties there was one which stood out every year - the 'Umme-Dumme Ball'.
Held at the end of the germanic festival of Faschinhgs - which signifies the end of the fasting period - it was always an excuse to get loose; and inevitably every reprobate from the valley would end up at the party. But unlike most every-day soirees in the area, you HAD to wear a costume...
There was a strict no entrance policy for anyone who hadn't made an effort, and indeed free entry for anyone who went the extra mile. And so it was, that myself and Mark Ruparelia, armed with a comic 5 litres of booze, set out to the best party of the season. Mark dressed as super Mario, myself as a turbo sized Dalmatian.
Needless to say the night got pretty wild, there was revelry, fisticuffs and apparently some inter canine/ robot relations. However the morning after is where things took a turn for me.
We all woke up feeling slightly shady - but the sun was out and it seemed like a good idea to head up and shred away our hangovers.
Somewhere amongst the discussions of the day's plan, the idea to wear our costumes from the night before was thrown in the mix. What could be better? A hangover shred day en masse in our respective costumes! Who wouldn't want to see super Mario and a giant dog throwing front flips off knuckles?
“Suitably high blood alcohol level?"
“Shred companions dressed in accordance to the pre determined conditions?"
Who wouldn't want to see Super Mario and a giant dog throwing front flips off knuckles?
It seemed that once the idea to shred as a menagerie of different comic book characters had sunk in, my amigos decided that the impending hangover had overtaken their previous zest for hilarity - and not one of them had turned up to the park in costume! Wankers...
Still, I wasn't going to let that ruin my day. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the park was in that perfect not to slushy/not to icy condition - and surprisingly my board was feeling pretty damn good under my feet.
Initial forays into the trick bag yielded surprisingly good results. Tweaking and stomping relatively mellow tricks all over the medium line and pretty soon it was time to move over to the pro line and show them what this dog could do!
Now I’m sure a great many of you are familiar with the layout of the Vans Penken park pro line: three chunky kickers in a row yielding a huge amount of hits per day if you lap constantly. Big take-offs and maximum airtime.
But, while the shape of these kickers has remained relatively unchanged in the last 10 years, there used to be a few differences. On this particular season we had built two different take-offs on the middle jump, allowing a slightly less scary option to hitting the big bad boy. Thus opening up the pro line for slightly less experienced riders.
However there was one major draw back to this - it meant there were two specific drop in areas.
Now any experienced park rider/shaper will tell you this can cause problems. A kicker line is called a “line" for a reason - it keeps the flow through the park, and maximises both the use of the park and the rider's “air time". Some argue that they only want to practice on one hit but there's always the option of straight airing the others if that's the case.
Anyway I'm babbling.
Needless to say our set-up required the riders on the knuckle of the first jump to look very carefully to see if a rider was “in the line" as they should always have priority.
Enter one of british snowboardings greats - Chris Chatt.
Now those of you who know Chatt's mastery of the snowboard will be fully aware that there is no rail combo, no jib/bonk/plant/tap that this gentleman cannot perform with the greatest of ease - and as such his skills have landed him on many covers, poster and great video parts. There is no jib trick I can do as stylish as him and his board control is second to none... at least until you put a jump in front of him.
Chatt is the most useless snowboarder on jumps in the world - but not necessarily due to a lack of skill. I’ve seen super sick front 3 tails and back 5’s from him over small to medium jumps, however he decided after one particular season “bollocks to it, I don't even like jumping, I'm going to get a Radler" and with that he pretty much exited the aerial arena of snowboarding (except for the odd excellent method).
Like a fish out of water, Chris was floundering when it came to both the pro line and also observing the etiquettes of 'the drop in'.
The season of the dog suit however Mr Chatt was still grinding away at the kicker game. But like a fish out of water he was floundering when it came to both stepping up to the pro line and also observing the etiquettes of 'the drop in'.
Enter some idiot wearing a dog suit.
So here we have Mr Chatt, standing nervously on the knuckle of the first kicker, mentalling preparing himself for the drop in to the small take off of the second pro jump. He tightens his bindings, fixes the velcro of his gloves and with one deep breath rolls gently into the runway with all his kicker dreams racing through his head - and more crucially some Jettblack playing extra loud in his headphones.
The more astute amongst you may have noticed that I never said he looked up hill to see if anyone was riding the pro line, because if he had, he would have seen a giant dog sailing over the first kicker tweaking a method out and shouting at him to “GET OUT OF THE FUCKING WAY YOU DICK HEAD!"
In fact had he not had his music on so loud he would have heard this the whole way down the run in to the second jump and he may not have hit the kicker and ridden away with a smile...
Lets jump to the dogs-eye view.
The takeoffs on the second jump were setup with slightly angled take-offs so riders would be sent directly to the middle of the landing - and as such if riders hit both take offs at the same time they would collide.
As I tweaked out my K9 inspired method and saw Chatt roll into the kicker I still thought that if I shouted at him he would adhere to the rules of the park and get out my way. I still thought this as I continued to scream at him as he approached the take off. Now sensing a collision mid air I immediately had to ride, still full speed, round the side of the knuckle of the pro take off - at this point attempting to slow down by executing an aggressive heel edge side slip.
The landing drifted away in slow motion, and my thoughts turned to those of paralysis.
Unfortunately - my speed was actually sufficient enough for me to execute a perfect full-speed heel edge catch - sending me into a window-winding air of death off the slightly uphill knuckle. And here we are back where we started - in a perfect half backflip, with enough speed to clear an 18 meter table!
The landing drifted away in slow motion, and my thoughts turned to those of paralysis. I counted down the seconds to impact and started to wonder what the paramedics would think of me dressed in this bloody dog suit, until BANG!!!! I smashed down way, way past the landing on my neck and came slowly to a halt.
[related_articles]It took about a minute of tentatively wiggling every expenditure on my body to come, ever so gratefully to the realisation that inspite of everything I appeared to be completely fine!
In fact a rather tiresome crick in my neck had disappeared! Somehow against all odds I had survived.
As it turned out at this moment almost every single one of the Hunger Pain crew were on the chairlift over the park watching - and still to this day they cant decide which was was more bizarre: the fact that Chatt hit a jump or that he was closely followed by a half back flipping dog - hell-bent on self destruction!