Words: Tristan, Photos: Ed, Videos: Craig
If you were anywhere in or around South London at any stage this weekend, you'd have been hard-pushed not to realise there was something big going on. Something seriously big. In fact, it was possibly the biggest snowboard event ever seen on UK soil - the third edition of the Relentless Freeze Festival. As well as attracting some of the biggest names in snowboarding, the event also boasted one of the biggest crowds ever and a musical line-up that was off the chain. In fact, there was so much going on so much of the time that it was hard to keep tabs on everything. But here are some of the best shots and a few of the obvious highlights.
The crowds filing into the arena on the Friday afternoon were treated to a pretty damn special contest in the Whitelines Battle of Britain. The tricks being thrown down on the monstrous kicker showed once again that UK riding has stepped up seriously in the past year. Unfortunately relatively high winds and a slightly slow run-in meant that the likes of Billy Morgan and Jamie Nicholls kept their doubles under lock and key, but all sorts of steezy stuff got whipped out of the cupboard instead - Dom Harington's 7 was even enough to land him a photo in The Times the following day!
Unfortunately, it wasn't quite enough to get him into the final of the knockout format comp. Instead, the four who ascended the 32-metre high kicker to drop in for the final were Andy Nudds, Billy Morgan, Jamie Nicholls and Scott Penman.
It quickly became obvious that with the double-corks not really working too well, the result would be decided by a battle of the double flips . Scott whipped out the double front that won him third in last year's Brits big air, but was beaten by Billy, whose double back was bigger and stomped clean as you like, leaving Jamie to take third.
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The evening's entertainment was almost as good as the afternoon's, with Jaguar Skills whipping out his usual insane mixes, The Nextmen cranking out classic mash-ups (like their version of Rusko's Jahova overlaid with the Police's Roxanne - don't ask me how it works but it does), and Roni Size playing a set that had Junglists old and new school pogo-ing well into the night.
Saturday dawned bright and - thankfully - not quite as breezy as the previous day. That, along with a nice bit of extra snow added to the kicker, meant the riders were free to throw down pretty much whatever they liked, and with a bigger crowd to entertain, the really pulled it out of the bag. Those who were queuing outside as the festival gates opened at 12 would have got in early enough to see Jamie Nicholls qualify through his heat in third place with a back 10 double cork that was as clean as they come. Unfortunately, the three other finalists from the previous day couldn't compete in the main competition because they didn't have FIS contest licenses - an administrative fuck-up on FIS' part that not only robbed three riders of the chance to prove themselves, but also meant the crowd had only one Brit to cheer on. Thankfully, Jamie didn't disappoint, moving smoothly through the semis and into the 12 man final.
And that's where the fun really began. With the sun going down fast and the beers faster, the buzzing crowd were treated to pretty much the greatest display of snowboarding ever seen on these shores. The absence of I-Pod and Torstein (both of whom pulled out in the last couple of weeks) was barely even felt, as young gunners like Norway's Gjermund Braaten, Switzerland's Gian-Luca Cavigelli and Stale Sandbech, also Norwegian, pulled all sorts of wizardry out of the bag.
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Back 10 double corks were pretty much par for the course. Even Seppe Smits' backside 12 - which he stomped the shit out of - wasn't enough for him to hold the lead for long. A special mention must also go to Seb Toots, who very, very nearly landed his double backside rodeo 10 attempts. As he hucked blind, spinnng backside and backwards off the kicker, he got pretty much the biggest cheers from the crowd.
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That is until Jamie dropped in. With Tim Warwood and Christian Stevenson hyping up the crowd to the next level, Jamie was cheered every time his face came on the big screens. Thankfully, the boy done us proud, landing a back 10 double in the first round and a front seven on his final run to secure himself a seventh place finish. In the end, despite all the stupidly young talent on display, it was experience that won out. Like last year's winner Stefan Gimpl, Slovenia's Marco Grilc (27) was one of the oldest riders in the field. He landed both a backside double and a switch backside double 10, taking him just ahead of Stale and Seppe Smits.
Another well deserved win for Grilo was rounded out into an amazing evening with the second annual Whitelines 'Lunge-Off' contest, which saw all-comers challenged to stretch their legs and sprain their groins in a bid for glory. Performances from the likes of Bedouin Soundclash and Mark Ronson, whose Halloween-costumed band had the crowd chanting their lyrics back at them like so many rave-crazy zombies, finished the night in style. Sunday, although mostly dominated by skiing, saw an interesting new comp in the form of a team event - with Europe's finest pitted against the rest of the world. I'll be honest though, I can't tell you a whole lot more than that because by Sunday morning my head was pounding harder than Roni Size's bass-bins and my stomach was doing crazier flips than Seb Toots himself.
Once again, the organisers and sponsors did an incredible job of transforming the scruffy, post-apocalytic wasteland around the power-station into a damn sick festival site, and making the whole thing run slickly. And once again this South London carpark proved that it's got what it takes to rival the likes of Innsbruck's Bergasil as a venue for a snowboard comp. Here's to next year's event being bigger and better than ever!
RESULTS FROM FINAL
1 GRILC Marko (SLO)
2 SANDBECH Staale (NOR)
3 SMITS Seppe (BEL)
4 GRIMSRUD Per Iver (NOR)
5 KORPI Janne (FIN)
6 MACHO Michael (AUT)
7 NICHOLLS Jamie (GBR)
8 BRAATEN Gjermund (NOR)
9 DE LE RUE Victor (FRA)
10 SCHATTSCHNEIDER Clemens (AUT)
11 CAVIGELLI GianLuca (SUI)
12 TOUTANT Sebastien (CAN)