Photos by Mark Cheshire
Recently the 2010 Westbeach Snowflex Series Finale brought the best of British dryslope riding to France. Whitelines' James Box was there to witness all the action.
There were no excuses for not attending some sort of UK snowboarding event the weekend before last. UK shredders had a choice of 7 competitions to prove themselves at, all within a few hours drive of each other. Aberdeen held its annual, homegrown competition Own It, Braehead was the host of the FBBB Progression series, the slopestyle leg of the British Snow Tour took Castleford by storm, the Burton High5 rolled into Hemel Hemstead, the UK’s biggest snowboard show was taking centre stage at Milton Keynes, and the well established Swad Jam was rocking Swadlincote Ski Centre. (And Breathe!) But it was the finale of the Westbeach Snowflex Series at Nouex Les Mines, France, which deserves a special mention. The mother of all dryslopes once again became the stomping ground for some of the country's most impressive riders, who couldn’t turn down another trip across the Channel.
The monstrosity of a slope is located in the slightly odd town of Nouex Les Mines, just an hour from Calais. As you drive through the quiet streets you initially think you’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up on the set of Rawhide, but the thoughts of a wild west shootout are quickly replaced by sheer excitement. As the slope comes into full view you can’t help but be amazed. This thing is frickin huge! With three kickers dominating the slope, one of which can been seen from space, followed by a decent-sized halfpipe and hip giving riders a perfect run into a set of 3 rails, something which are often neglected on UK dryslopes.
Following an 8 hour drive the last thing you want to be told is that the slope was in fact shut for the evening. (A dryslope, fully floodlight and often compared to the size of New Zealand's Snow Park, should never close). Understandably everyone was slightly disappointed, but after a few 1% alcohol beers accompanied by France’s finest cheese, under the blazing sun, things didn’t seem too bad after all.
After a surprisingly quiet night in the hostel, everyone was raring to go and by 10 o’clock it was going off! Fortunately, the sunbathing weather which greeted us previously had conveniently being replaced by a thick fog giving the slope a much needed lubing.
With the tunes being blasted to the top of the slope and MC Keith Povah’s banter in full swing the first of two jam sessions were underway. With only 40 minutes to get as many tricks stomped as possible it wasn’t long until the bar was being pushed higher and higher. The very best of UK dryslope riders had travelled to hit the legendary, house sized kicker including Westbeach team riders Billy Morgan and Andy Nudds. Both had left Hintertux, Austria, the day before to drive straight to the slope and after a couple of hours sleep they still managed to stomp everything from massive back 1s to cab 9s.
Another rider to impress and quite frankly scare the judges was Jason Molyneux. Unsponsored Jason had a bag of tricks which meant he was rarely seen the correct way around, including backside rodeo 5s, laid out underflips and very late frontflips. Each attempt resulted in a gasp and the occasional ‘oh fuck’ from the judges. With 5 riders from each age category making it through to the second jam session, it couldn’t have been closer. Long gone have the days where a front 7 would guarantee a podium finish.
Following a full on 40 minutes shred, it was time to stage the Nouex Les Mines signature Chinese Downhill. Everyone at the top; either bomb it to the bottom to claim first place or strategically work your way down to pick up the spot prizes. Simple.
After a few elbows to the face, stamping on skiers bindings and general violence it was skier James Webb who took 1st place with Cody Heirons taking the title for the snowboarders.
Next up was the ‘speed round.’ An added feature to the competition allowing everyone to ride for longer and give the judges more time to separate the riders. Whittling down 7 snowboarders in the Over 16 category to just 3 was never going to be an easy decision, especially when everyone was so damn good. Stepchild and Eleven rider Cody Heirons was on form all day and nailed everything he tried, from huge back 5s to super stylish back 7s. He definitely earned his place in the Super Final. The other two places were closely fought for with Andy Nudds, Matt Macwhirter, Billy Morgan and Mike Austin all in contention. But it was Mike Austin’s frontside rodeo 5 and Billy Morgan’s cab 7 which carried them through to the two run super final. It’s worth knowing the standard of British snowboarding has got so high that a perfect switch back 7 from Matt Macwhirter didn’t prove to be enough.
In the Under 16 age category, the riders decided to be placed on the podium in this jam session due to the numbers entering. First up was Jake Terry with some stylish nose grabs and mutes, but it was Tomski Robinson who snatched the 1st place with an almost identical set of tricks but it was an extra frontside 1 which snatched 1st place.
So, it was upon us, the final everyone had been waiting for. A two run Super Final to decide 1st, 2nd and 3rd. First up were the women, and an exact same final as last years epic showdown! Liz Osbourne vs Samantha Rogers. To start with both going for stylish 180s, with Samantha being placed just ahead after the first run. For the second runs it was a frontside 360 for Samantha and a backside 360 for Liz, it couldn’t have been closer. With Liz gaining more points for a slightly cleaner landing and consequently taking 1st.
Up next was the highly-anticipated men's final . Was Billy Morgan going to be the first person to try land a double cork on Snowflex? Was Cody Heirons going to keep his perfect form for when it mattered? First up was Mike Austin with a super stylish rodeo 5 off the big booter, followed by an attempt at a corked cab 9 by Billy, and a massive back 7 by Cody. With best run being judged everyone knew it was this second run which decided everything. Mike Austin improved on his rodeo 5 by stomping this attempt clean as a whistle. After a fall on his first run it was now or never for Billy. As he came round to land his cab 9, everyone thought he had enough time to go around one time, but instead slammed to the ground from some height. Finally it was down to Cody Heiron to clean up, another huge, stylish back 7 was just enough to take 1st place, with Mike Austin taking 2nd, and Billy in 3rd.
Despite a busy weekend in the snowboard calendar it was another epic weekend in France, which did the highly successful Westbeach Snowflex Series justice. A big thanks must go out to all the sponsors, AKA Snowskate and everyone who made it to the events. Watch the video highlights from the event here and also keep an eye out for information on the newly added date to the series. 4th December at Bearsden!
OVER 16 WOMENS SNOWBOARD
1st Liz Osbourn
2nd Sam Rogers
UNDER 16 BOYS SNOWBOARD
1st Tomski Robinson
2nd Jake Terry
OVER 16 MENS SNOWBOARD
1st Cody Hierons
2nd Billy Morgan
3rd Mike Austin
Team Event Winners
Old enough to know better (Mike Austin, Wayne Taylor, Sam Noble and a Chuck Buddy)
Whitelines Most Improved Riders
Ross Marsh/Billy Morgan
Fall-Line Skiing & Snowboarding Best Unsponsored
Apo best unsponsored female snowboarder
The Freeze Festival Sickest Trick
Matt Macwhirter - Switch Back 7
Bern Helmets worst slams of the day
Rowan Cheshire/Billy Morgan
Ripper of the day
Pre Reg Prize Draw