The end of October means two things: the chance to plant a fake axe through your head, and the chance to watch some world class snowboarding in London. Possibly both. Yes, the Relentless Freeze Festival returned once again over Halloween, drawing winter sports fans and music lovers alike to its familiar haunt on the south bank of the Thames like zombies to the Winchester Arms. Somehow, Battersea Power Station’s post apocalyptic silhouette is the perfect setting for this weird mash-up of fancy dress, shredding and gurning.
Having presumably sold their soul to the devil, the organizers were once again blessed with dry and even sunny conditions for most of the weekend, with the Whitelines Battle of Britain contest kicking things off on Friday afternoon. Fourteen of the UK’s finest freestylers took to the 32-metre kicker and did the country proud with a solid display of technical riding. Previous years have seen the odd grumble from the competitors about the state of the jump this early in the event, but any concerns had clearly been addressed for 2011 as 500 tonnes of real snow were groomed to perfection by SNO!zone’s Damian Doyle and his shaping crew.
Having won this contest last year (not to mention dominating at the British Champs in 2010 and 2011) it was Billy Morgan who once again came out on top with a textbook backside 1080 double cork, setting it down on the steep and rutted landing like he was on rails. Dom Harington, whose years of experience on the international competition circuit suppressed any hint of nerves, stomped his way into second place, while the podium was rounded out by the impressive youngster Lewis Courtier-Jones with a clean 720 that cemented his status as one of the UK’s brightest hopes. Special mention should also go to fourth-placed Cody Heirons, another teenager showing great composure and style on the biggest stage of his career so far.
Friday night gave way to a now familiar mix of burger/burrito/noodle munching, copious beer swilling and aimless wandering around the various bars and retail stands, prior to the music getting properly going. There’s no two ways about it: Freeze attracts a strange crowd – seasonaires meeting up with old friends back in Blighty, families on a day out, random purveyors of grown-up romper suits and Fern Cotton wannabees rocking the posh welly Glasto look. All find themselves in search of a good time in this most unlikely of settings: an industrial wasteland on the forgotten fringes of the capital.
Weirdly though, it works, and before long we were all raving our asses off to the retro dance strains of Groove Armada on the main stage. As the set reached its climax, one dude lit a full-on red flare of the kind usually found on the terraces of the San Siro, briefly illuminating the heads of the crowd in a hellish glow before a steward hastily removed the offending item like Adam West disposing of a cartoon bomb in the original Batman movie. Classic Halloween entertainment.
The most exciting thing to happen on Saturday was the discovery of the Jamie Oliver food stall. Everyone’s favourite thick-tongued chef was doing a fine line in gourmet beef sandwiches and homemade curries (well, not him personally – he had an army of minions to do the legwork while he presumably trousered the profits. Standard). The second most exciting thing was the finals of the FIS World Cup Big Air, in which our very own Ben Kilner and Jamie Nicholls joined some of the planet’s elite riders for a floodlit snowboarding showdown. Don’t ask us to name all the tricks – there was a LOT of spinning going on – but when the dust settled it was Finland’s Janne Korpi who won out over Belgium’s Seppe Smits (hands down the baddest kicker rider ever to come out of the European flatlands). Both British riders made it through to the final ten (no mean feat given the standard of the field) where they revved up a record crowd of over 17,000 into a frenzy. In the end, Nicholls only narrowly missed out on the podium with a monster double cork.
And with that it was back beneath the canvas with the rest of the Laaaandon massive to enjoy the various music acts, including the awesomely-named ‘Does It Offend You Yeah?’ and headliners The Streets, whose bromantic ballad Dry Your Eyes Mate predictably got the drunken blokes singing along with their fingers in the air (“I fucking love you man"). As the lights went up and several thousand feet trampled over plastic beer bottles for the exits, would they be coming back to sample the delights of Battersea any time soon? God no. It’s a shithole. But would they all be marching back like the un-dead next Halloween? HELL yes!
RELENTLESS FREEZE RESULTS
FIS Snowboard World Cup
1. Janne Korpi (FIN)
2. Seppe Smits (BEL)
3. Joris Ouwerkerk (NED)
4. Jamie Nicholls (UK)
5. Staale Sandbech (NOR)
12. Ben Kilner (UK)
31. Sam Turnbull (UK)
Whitelines Battle of Britain
1. Billy Morgan
2. Dom Harington
3. Lewis Courtier-Jones