Words Tristan, Photos Ed
The Sno!Zone British Halfpipe Championships went off today, with the great and the good of the UK scene hitting the U-ditch in search of fame and glory. Jamie Nicholls, who is not normally known as a pipe rider, proved that he can beat the best in any situation by winning the contest, closely followed by Dom Harrington and Sam Cullum.
Although the absence of a certain Mr Kilner through injury was obviously felt, the comp was still pretty impressive. Despite the fact that the conditions were not exactly ideal, with rubbish visibility and a slightly slushy pipe, the competition attracted a lot of entrants, with the old-guard of the British scene being particularly well represented.
Stu Brass, organiser of the event and a former pro himself, joined in, throwing down a sweet and steezy run. His appearance also gave commentator James Thorne the chance to get in some pant-wettingly funny gags that had Stu himself laughing so hard he almost stacked it! Nelson Pratt, who spends a fair bit of time coaching yongsters these days, also got involved, whipping out a super-relaxed backside rodeo 7 at the end of every run.
At the other end of the age range, some of the youngsters were proving that the UK is a hotbed of future pipe talent. Little Katie Omerod was riding well, putting in back-to-back threes near the top of the coping - "She's amazing, she's like a little Chuck Buddy" was Thorne's comment as she qualified through to the final.
On the blokes side Lewis Courtier-Jones who (incredibly, given the way he rides) still counts as a kid, was throwing down hammers. He was getting a good through or four feet out of the coping with his technical runs.
In the women's comp, the qualification runs had made it obvious that the title was Kate Foster's to lose - the British Halfpipe Team member was going bigger and getting techier than anyone else. But after she fell on her first run, suddenly the outcome didn't seem so certain. Stef Nurding, who has had a pretty sick season, was looking threatening, as was snowboardcross silver medallist Ivy Taylor. In the end though, Kate held onto her second run, leaving Stef to win silver and Ivy to take the Bronze.
With Ben Kilner out of the running, many people were expecting the men's title to come down to a contest between established pipe experts Dan Wakeham and Dom Harrington. Both of them were going bigger than anyone else in the qualis, but the others were never going to let them have an easy time of it. Sam Cullum was putting down a really technical run, including a sick chicken wing McTwist and a nice crippler. Angus Leith was also killing it, and Jimbo Foster was boosting huge frontside airs on his first hit.
Dan came out of the start gate guns blazing, throwing down the kind of run that took him to the Olympics in 2006. But unfortunately the curse of the Brits struck - incredibly Dan has never won this competition - and he failed to land either of his runs. The door was open for Dom to clear up, and he dropped in with what looked like a winning run, going big and including a back 9 halfway down.
However, Jamie Nicholls, who had been riding solidly all afternoon, had the final say and threw down a super-clean run featuring a back nine of his own - amazingly, he'd only really perfected the move earlier that day! Despite the fact that Dom had one bigger, a hand drag on the nine meant that the judges gave Jamie the win. While some people felt the choice was controversial, it would be hard to argue that Jamie's clean and stylish-as-hell run deserved anything other than the highest acclaim. Dom took a well-earned second place, while Sam Cullum's sweet tricks got him third.
So another pretty sick comp all round! Well done the Brits.