The annual Board Test in Kaunertal - or as it was known for the first time this year, 'Spring Break' - is to many in the UK scene, one of the best weeks of the season. And for bloody good reason. The sun is (usually) shining, the beers are flowing, the snow is slushy, the park setup is banging and you're constantly surrounded by folk who are stoked on snowboarding.
You really couldn't ask for more, but if you did feel inclined to demand extras, a mellow rail jam with some of the UK's best jibbers might just be one of the things on that list. Luckily, we had all the Spring Breakers covered with the return of our infamous Whitelines Rail Jam last Sunday afternoon.
We'd hooked up with DC and Monster Energy to fill the prize pot to the brim with huge wads of cash, and once again Kaunertal pimped out the area with a hefty generator and loud-as-fook soundsystem. The sun was blaring and a swollen crowd quickly gathered at the bottom of the course - no doubt helped in part by the hotdogs being dished out to all by Monster Energy's Kaz.
Kaunertal's park crew (special thanks to Tim) had pulled together what was by far the biggest and best setup the event has ever seen: a monstrous 7m long stairset with a down bar on one side, a down flat down on the other and a flat rail at the top of the stairs creating a bunch of different transfer options. While it was always gonna be tough to better last year's epic jam, the sick setup, amazing atmosphere and a proper who's-who of UK rail riders rocking up to throw down all helped ensure that the ante was definitely upped.
The 45 minute open jam was open to all and after a couple of warm up laps on the down bar, riders quickly stepped things up a notch. A few riders hit the flat rail at the top of the stairset, landing in firecrackers on the stairs (and taking more than a few brutal looking slams in the process) and eventually, a few extra brave souls figured they could gap to the down section of the down-flat-down if they hiked up a little higher. Trick after trick was stomped on the kinky behemoth including 270s on, grabs to boardslides, frontboards through the kinks and everything in between. The riders were landing with so much speed that the judges table at the bottom was actually taken out at one point!
Rowan Biddescombe and Will Radula Scott were holding it down for the English contingent while Angus Leith and Emilia Vanni were doing a fine job of representing Scotland. Last year's finalists Lewis Sonvico, Carl Howden and Cody Hierons were also all looking formidable by the time the jam wrapped up.
Despite taking a horrific slam on the stairs which left her lying motionless in a crumpled heap with many fearing a concussion at best and broken bones at worst, Orla Doolin continued to ride for the rest of the competition. Put simply, the girl is an absolute boss!
After the success of our rail jam at this year's Brits (in which our young British team absolutely schooled a formidable band of Frenchies), it was a no-brainer to run with the team battle format again. Judges Henry Jackson, Sam Nelson and Neil Campbell had been briefed to cut the field down to the top 8 male riders and top 2 female riders, but since the the level of riding in the jam had been so high, they opted to include an extra two riders.
Andy Nudds and Ollie Dutton, who had both been riding at a stupidly high level for the whole of the open jam, were nominated as team captains and then had to pick their teams school playground style - y' know, with everyone stood in a puppy-dog-eyed line facing the captains. Ollie went with fellow Grindhouse ripper Will Smith; Sean Tumelty; a local dude called Pascal (who was killing it); Jonny Pickup and Rio Peterson while Nuddsy opted for Gaz Andrews, Sparrow Knox, Ross Needham, Orla Doolin and Angus Leith, who had to live with the shame of being picked last... But as MC Scott Penman rightfully pointed out: "you were probably all picked last at school seeing as you're snowboarders!"
Both teams were as solid as they come and we knew it was going to be a tightly fought battle.
Teams then took it in turns to drop in one by one, with captains deciding which rider to send into battle after watching the opposing team's trick. The judges would then award a point to the team whose rider's trick impressed them the most. The first two rounds were a close affair with not much separating the two teams and in the third and final round, when neither team captain stomped their final hits, the MCs and the judges called for a rebate - well, three actually, before they could make their decision. When the dust settled, Nuddsy's team were declared the winners thanks to some ridiculous transfers from Sparrow Knox and some mega clean, tech hits from the rest of the team.
Still not finished with the setup, Sparrow continued to session the stairset long after the rail jam had wrapped up. Not being content with a huge transfer from flat rail takeoff to the down rail during the comp, Sparrow went for a frontside 270 over the same gap but couldn't stay level in the air, ending up smashing his face in the snow and splitting his eye open. Being more than a few free beers down, a bunch of photogs and onlookers had to talk him out of going up and trying it again for his best interests - he was bleeding (and stumbling) all over the place and could have damn well killed himself! It was this balls-out attitude and total absence of fear that had earlier earned him the Most Valuable Player award and a whole sheet of drinks tokens for our Whitelines party - god forbid.
Despite finishing up second, it was blindingly obvious that the riders in the runner-up team had also been killing it all afternoon. Will Smith had been boosting huge cab 270s and method tweaks to boardslides onto the down flat down while Ollie Dutton seriously impressed the judges and fellow riders with his cab 270s, switch front boards through the kinks and switch back blunts. In fact, he rode so well that Gaz decided to donate some of his own 80 quid winnings to Ollie, feeling he deserved more than 20 quid for his team's second place finish.
It was a super nice gesture and one that, along with the mexican waves, cheers of encouragement from the crowd and overwhelming support when anybody took a slam, summed up the vibe of the afternoon perfectly - a bunch of friends pushing each other and celebrating UK shred together in the sunshine. Once again the setup was stepped up a notch, the level of riding was stronger than ever and overall, the event was a resounding success. Let's hope that special atmosphere doesn't go anywhere anytime soon eh?
Big thanks to Monster Energy, DC Snowboards UK, Kauntertal, FBBB, Boom Gloves and all the peeps who made the event such a success (including the kind folk who helped us pick away at literally hundreds of stickers from the stairset - much appreciated fellas!). Until next year!
WHITELINES RAIL JAM KAUNERTAL 2013 RESULTS
1ST PLACE: TEAM NUDDSY
Andy Nudds, Sparrow Knox, Gaz Andrews, Ross Needham, Angus Leith, Orla Doolin
2ND PLACE: TEAM DUTTON
Ollie Dutton, Will Smith, Sean Tumelty, Jonny Pickup, Pascal, Reo Peterson
MVP: Sparrow Knox
BEST NSPONSORED (winning DC snowboard): Pascal