Interview – Billy Morgan talks about the triple rodeo

Photo: Ben Kilner

It’s been a week since this video of Billy Morgan landing snowboarding’s first triple rodeo appeared on Youtube. In that time the new trick has gone viral, exploding onto snowboarding websites across the world and even Yahoo news. As I type this, the number of hits for Billy Morgan’s original video stands at 367,946. Any progression these days has to be seriously technical (see Shaun White’s double McTwist in Vancouver) and predictably this latest ‘world first’ has attracted some hater comments amongst the overwhelming praise. But no one can deny that a British snowboarder has made the world sit up and take notice (even if it did, bizarrely, take the American mag sites several days to put a token post together).

Billy flew back into the UK yesterday to spend Christmas with his family, so we took the opportunity to chat to him about his new found fame and get the full story behind that triple rodeo.

How long had you been thinking about the triple?
I’d thought about it briefly in my head a while before, but then I think about a lot of tricks. It was only really that day. Ben [Kilner] was like, “I bet you can do a triple” so I thought about it some more and said to Hamish [McKnight, GB Team coach] “Is this realistic?” and he said, “Yeah, just go for it. It’s not one of the tricks you can huck and see what happens though, you have to intend to land it first try. So do it.” And then… I kinda went and did it. [laughs]

So Hamish has been helping you progress? What does he bring to the mix?
He just gives me a more structured approach. Like, when I’m on the hill I have a plan now for what I’m gonna do throughout the day. Rather than just rocking up and riding, you treat it more like a competition. You should be doing your good runs by the time you’ve done a few warm-ups. It’s better. I used to build up to doing my doubles at the end of the day, now I try to get them down as early as possible. If you get the progression in early like that then you move onto other things sooner.

Did you know it was a world first at the time?
Sort of. Ben and I thought someone might have done one into powder, but then when we looked online we couldn’t find it. Just skiers. It was only after all the websites started claiming it that I was like, “Wow. Am I really the first one to do it?”

So have you named it now?
Yeah kinda. I thought I’d call it a Konichiwa – the Japanese for ‘hello’. Just ‘cos we were saying ‘konichiwa’ to each other all week.

The amazing thing for me is this wasn’t on a special private jump in the spring; it was a rock hard December park with loads of people!
Yeah it was pretty solid. That landing was in the shade all day as well. But it was a nice jump and I’d been riding it for three days.

Was it whippy?
No it was a lovely jump, it was perfect.

It looks like you had the double rodeos fully dialled first?
Yeah, I’d been doing them all day. I landed the first one and then did about six or seven more and stomped them all.

Do you think of you had a bigger jump you could get your triples looking as slow and smooth as those doubles?
Yeah potentially – the more airtime the better – but you’d need a BIG jump for that, like a third more airtime, and this one was quite a big kicker already. It’s hard for me to sit here and imagine now, cos it’s a lot of spinning around… Like, I don’t really realize how I got it right – I just kinda threw it and then… you can see I pop out at the end and slow myself down… I can’t explain or think about doing that, I kinda just did it. I guess it’s the same as when I do triple heelsides on a trampoline.

Have you done another one since?

Are you worried about doing another?
Nah. Not really. They’re relatively easy compared to what I thought it’d be like.

Were you shitting it?
Yeah, I was papping it. I was all shaky.

Can you even remember the two approach jumps? Somone on YouTube was saying, “He can do a triple rodeo but he can’t do a straight air without flapping.” I figured you probably don’t even remember them!
Yeah, I was approaching the scariest jump of my life, I wasn’t really concentrating on the first two jumps to be fair.

Ben did a good job on the filming eh?
Yeah man. He was like, “Dude, I got it. I’m pretty sure I got it.” I didn’t really think about it before – I probably should have asked some other people to shoot it ‘cos there were lots of filmers about. I just assumed he’d get it, which is a bit silly ‘cos half the follow cam shots you go out of frame or something happens so the footage is ruined. But it was perfect.

How’s it feel to be a viral star?
It was pretty weird in America. I was in McDonalds and some guy was like “Ah yo! Are you Billy Morgan? The guy that did the triple?” And there were dudes giving me props in the lift. I didn’t expect that. They had some time for me over there which was cool.

What do your parents think of it?
My dad’s well stoked. He says I can have a Christmas present this year. [laughs] But my mum was a bit like, “Oh my god is that what you’re doing?”

Did you see it made Yahoo news?
Yeah how funny was that? [adopts American accent]“Billy Morgan, speeding down a mountain!”

You’d just signed for Quiksilver and Ride, right? They must be stoked!
Yeah, they’ve got their money’s worth already! [laughs] I spoke to Stenti [Quiksilver team manager] this morning, he loves it. I wish I’d put their logos on it to be fair though!

Have you seen any of the internet hate? What do you think of that?
It’s annoying but you’re gonna get it aren’t you? That’s what everyone’s said to me. I wondered if I should say something back to the worst comments but people have just done it for me. There was one guy on YouTube who said something pretty harsh, and I looked at his profile and he’s got videos of himself playing Call of Duty.

Aimee Fuller got some shit for shouting at the end too eh? In the second angle.
Yeah that’s well harsh. What – your mates can’t be stoked for you? I think it makes the video, Aimee going wild at the end. It’s well funny! And Cheryl Maas in the landing as well!

Yeah I was gonna ask – did you see Cheryl? Was that why you did the little speed check? It looks scary.
I had to go round her a little bit yeah. It wasn’t that scary though. She was more than enough down the landing. I had a second or two to ride out. If she’s have been on the downslope it would’ve been gnarly.

She looked pretty hurt?
Yeah, she was fine that night but she was in pain there.

Is it easier to do a double/triple rodeo than a double/triple cork?
I assume so. I haven’t actually done a triple cork but I’d like to get the opportunity to give them a go. I think you really do need a good jump to do triple corks, whereas you can control the pop a lot more with a rodeo. You can pop more flat based, whereas with a cork you’re definitely taking off a certain edge.

Some people have called it a triple barrel roll 180. What do you think of the barrel roll/rodeo debate?
When you go into a double, the barrel roll is more pronounced and the 180 becomes a smaller percentage of the overall spin. And by the time you’re doing a triple, it’s inevitable you’re gonna be doing three barrel rolls and a 180; that’s basically what a triple rodeo is. I think what people want you to do is a third of the 180 in each rotation, so you land and you don’t have to put the late 180 on the end. But that’s impossible – you can’t expect people to do that.

Well, people are hard to please Billy!
[laughs] Yeah, I’m sorry – I’ll go out and change my triple cos you don’t like the look of it.

To be honest they probably can’t do one themselves…
No, but they can do a 360 sniper shot on Call of Duty. [Laughs]

What’s next then? Some big air comps? Slopestyle?
Yeah I’m gong to the O’Neill Evolution in January. Hopefully I’ll be able to bust it out there.

Will you throw it down in the quali’s or keep it for the final? Is there a risk people will say “one trick wonder” if you don’t keep your powder dry?
People might be like, “one trick wonder” but in competition if you do your best trick all the way through then so be it; all the more practice for the final. That said, I’ve got backside double cork 12’s so I’ll probably throw that in the mix.

What do you think you’ve gotta work on to be up their with the big guns?
I need some frontside and switch back shit, some doubles. I’m nowhere near it.

How about on rails for slopestyle?
My stock rail bag isn’t so bad. In slopestyle it’s more big 270 on, 270 offs than some frontside one to tap-the-shit-out-the-rail to swivel thing. Consistency on rails is nowhere near the level consistency on kickers is at. It’s that much harder. So if you tech up your rail run and fall or come off early then it’s not worth it. It’s more about getting something solid and stock.

Who are you looking up to on the contest front?
All the big name riders, there’s not one in particular. Seb Toots, Gjermund Braaten, Ulrik Badertscher with his triple heelside 12 – that was dope. Radness has always inspired me, whoever does it.

Are you thinking about the Sochi Olympics in 2014?
It seems a bit crazy to think that far ahead but yeah. The thing is just to train and compete as much as I can and see what comes of it.

There must be a bit of a buzz in the UK team at the mo?
Yeah, I mean it’s quite hopeful with me, Jamie [Nicholls], Jenny [Jones] and Aimee [Fuller] if we’re gonna do slopestyle. And Katie Omerod! You wait until she’s older – she’s gonna destroy female snowboarding. I have mad props for that girl. She’s doing double heelsides into the foam pit perfectly.

Got any other new tricks in your head?
Cab triple underflip. I’d like to learn that. I think Torstein’s already done one? Maybe a cheeky quad [laughs]. I reckon if you gave me a massive jump I would do a quad! It might not be a good idea though, cos you’d get the guys saying “Ah it’s fuckin’ rodeo kid.”

Meh. I’d still like to see it. So what you doing for Christmas?
Eating. [laughs] I haven’t had a Christmas at home in four years so my mum’s stoked. My dad’s here, and my brother’s just got here – I don’t’ see him much cos he’s in the navy. It should be a good one.

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