Words Tristan, Photos Ed
The Giro Big Air comp went off with a serious bang yesterday, raising the bar for British freestyle to levels that would have been unimaginable a year ago. Billy Morgan claimed the title with a massive backside double cork 10. But he was by no means the only one double flipping in the ridiculously close-fought comp. Both Jamie Nicholls and Scott Penman, who won the silver and bronze medals, threw down insane inverted tricks. In the women’s final Katie Blundell got first ahead of Sophie Addison and Rebecca Cullum.
Given how the day started it was pretty impressive that the riders were pushing it so hard at all – high winds and an overcast sky had threatened to make the day a write off. On top of that, slushy snow conditions from days of bright sunshine meant that the run-in to the kicker was soft and a bit treacherous.
Many of the girls struggled to get the speed they needed to hit the biggest of the three kickers. On top of this, the soft snow on the landing meant that those who did clear the flat often battled to stick their tricks cleanly. Not that any of that stopped them from going for it. Laura Berry, who’s recently recovered from a spate of nasty injuries, was hurling herself into some big old back 3s with serious style – although unfortunately her failure to land one cleanly meant she didn’t qualify through to the finals. Aimee Fuller, who’s been killing it on the TTR World Tour this season (she’s currently in 14th!), showed the skills that make her a serious contender on the international stage with a smooth clean 360 off the biggest kicker, and a super-stylee laid-out backflip. But despite qualifying in first place, Aimee couldn’t hold on to either of her attempts at the backie in the final, leaving the way open for Katie Blundell to claim the win with a clean straight air.
Unfortunately the conditions hadn’t improved at all by the time the men started dropping in. Thankfully, the shaping crew did an excellent job of keeping the transition rideable, and with Stu Brass liberally spraying blue paint on the run-in, lip and landing of the jump, the riders had something they could work with.
And my God did they work with it! The standard was set right from the off with Matt Mcwhirter just missing out on stomping a sweet front 9 on his first hit! Others were quick to follow his lead, with Andy Nudds and also going for a front 9 and Sam Turnbull stomping the shit out of his back 9.
Sam Cullum staked his claim to a place in the final with a nice front 7 nose grab, and Scott Penman, egged on by commentator James Thorne, threw down an effortless-looking double frontflip, much to the delight of the gathered crowd. Having gone for a safe front 5 on his first hit, Billy Morgan went huge on his second, stomping a massive double backflip and booking his place in the final.
As always with the Brits, the comp had drawn shredders of all ages from across the snowboarding spectrum. And unlike the snowboardcross, where riders were racing in age groups, everyone competed together. Masters like James ‘Honeymonster’ Phillips, who won the Big Air back in 1998, were throwing down alongside the likes of young Danny McCormick. This created an awesome atmosphere, with everyone pushing each other to go bigger and better.
With such a progressive mood about, it was no surprise that the level of riding was upped once again for the finals. Nelson Pratt stuck a stylee front 9 early on, which won him the gold medal in the masters’ category. Andy Nudds used his two runs to show off his huge steezy front 10s off the toes, but unfortunately failed to stick either of them. Nate Kern was also going massive, trying to stick the 1260 that had won him this comp in previous years. But it was Billy Morgan who really set the bar. As anyone who’s watched our jib vid entry for this year will know, this dude is an incredible rider, who makes going inverted look as easy as walking to the shops.
Without bothering to stick a safety trick first, he dropped straight in and cranked out an enormous backside 10 double cork, going properly inverted and landing super-cleanly – much to the delight of his Westbeach team-mates standing on the knuckle. Jamie Nicholls, who dropped in last, stepped up to Billy’s challenge, throwing down his own version of the trick. But even the British wunderkind couldn’t knock Mr Morgan off that top spot. Knowing he pretty much had the comp in the bag, Billy finished off with a huge laid-out backflip. Scott Penman brought his double frontflip out of the bag again to claim the bronze.
With the cold wind still blowing strongly, most people decided to head for the shelter of the Crap Bar at the bottom of the hill. Seb Kern, who had been riding in the comp earlier, mixed a pretty sweet drum n’ bass set while spectators and pros alike threw their own backflips, double frontflips and double corks into the Cushe-sponsored airbag – though admittedly most of them had considerably less style than what we’d seen earlier.
If you’d have told me last year that the Brits big air would be won with a double-cork, I’d never have believed you. But once again the Giro Big Air comp provided a showcase of the best that British riding has to offer, and managed to be super-progressive and competitive, while keeping it’s open, friendly atmosphere.
Keep an eye out for further updates from the halfpipe and slopestyle comps coming later this week.