Blue skies, scorching sun and slushy conditions - it can only mean the British Snowboard Championships are back for another week of spring fun in the Swiss resort of Laax. The Giro Big Air event saw the cream of the country's riders launch themselves off a giant kicker for fame and glory and a guaranteed pull at the after party.
Last year's comp heralded the arrival of Westbeach team rider Billy Morgan, who pipped the UK's top contest kid Jamie Nicholls to the title with a perfectly stomped double cork (THE new trick of 2010). With Jamie taking a break from well-earned break from competition after entering back to back international events over the past few months, Billy was hot favourite to (if you'll pardon the pun) do the double.
What we soon discovered, though, is that there is a new wave of freestyle riders knocking on the door. As well as established names like GB Olympian Ben Kilner, Seb Kern, Angus Leith and Andy Nudds, various graduates of the indoor scene made it through to the mens final - special mention here goes to 16-year-old Jordy Gee and recent Whitelines 'Contender' Sam Turnbull, who were both chucking doubles. With Angus (fresh back from a season riding the perfect kickers of Breckenridge) stomping front 10 tail grabs, and Nuddsy nailing switch back 9s, Billy definitely wasn't going to have an easy ride. Heck, in classic Brits style we even had a total unknown rocking up and making a name for himself with a TRIPLE backflip attempt that was sooo close to being landed - step forward Jason Molyneux.
Not for nothing, though, is Billy Morgan being talked about as one of the most exciting talents the UK has produced. He has an incredible aerial awareness gained doing gymnastics, matched with good style and a healthy dose of the 'nutter' factor, and sure enough his textbook backside 1080 double cork, followed by a frontside 1080, were enough to see him home. Chris Kightley bagged second with a switch back 9 and a 10 of his own, while Sam Turnbull rounded out the podium.
It was at the British Champs in 1999 that Jenny Jones first exploded onto the scene with a backflip in the Big Air, and this year's women's event saw another newcomer, India Stephenson, announce her arrival. India has been training at a specialist snowboard school in Vermont, and her smooth backside 360 tailgrabs over the biggest of the two kickers landed her in first place above last year's winner Katie Blundell.
Now that some of our biggest riders are forgoing the Brits to focus on international comps, it's tempting to think that the Champs are losing their edge (as well as Jamie Nicholls, both Jenny Jones and Aimee Fuller were missing on the women's side). This year's Big Air has proved, though, that the competition continues to unearth fresh talent and provide both the platform and the incentive for our local riders to step up to the next level. Who'd have thought just a couple of years ago, when the likes of David Benedek and Shaun White were pioneering double corks, that we'd see at least three British guys - one of them not even old enough to drive - busting them out for shits and gigs?!
Giro Big Air Results
1. Billy Morgan
2. Chris Keightley
3. Sam Turnbull
1. India Stephenson
2. Katie Blundell
3. Becky Menday