Photos: Dan Medhurst
Last week saw the Whitelines Rail Jam hit the Brits for the first time ever, bringing the usual combination of badass riding, banging tunes and a bit of beer-drinking to the slopes of Laax. At around 6pm, when the days' competition and prize-giving had wrapped up, a bunch of shaggy-haired park-shapers came down the hill to sculpt the stairset at the bottom of the slopes to perfection. Meanwhile, lights were rigged, a table was moved for the judges and Seb Kern (aka DJ Socom) began setting up to provide us with one of his signature sets of jump up drum n' bass and dubstep. The down bar and box of the stairset are within spitting distance of the legendary Crap Bar (so-called because 'crap' means 'rock' in the local dialect, not because of the quality of their pint-pouring) so we were fairly sure there'd be a decent crowd of spectators. All we needed now was some riders...
Thankfully, as the light faded, they began to arrive, scuttling forward into the pool of light created by the rig like insects drawn towards a flame. Or something. Anyway, what started off as a trickle soon became a flood, and we found ourselves scrabbling to get enough disclaimer forms for everyone to fill in. Alongside the Brits goers who were clamouring to get involved, there were several locals up for the crack, and soon people were following each other down the in-ramp faster than you could say: "dropping!"
Judges Col Mytton and Andy Sherman Mills did well to keep up with the tricks being thrown in the no-holds barred open jam session, and were soon making impressive-looking (if incomprehensible) notes. Meanwhile Whitelines was busy handing out t-shirts to riders who stomped particularly impressive combos, shaking our booty to Seb Kern's tunes, and keeping the judges supplied with beer.
Of the Brits, Nathan Onions, Finn Bremner and Sam McGrath were looking good, as was an (unfortunately unknown) dude in a South Africa puffa jacket, who kept going for a back lip on the down bar, notching up more than one nasty taco-ing in the process. Veteran rail-rider Stu 'Steady Eddie' Edwards was also getting stuck in, showing the kids how to do a whole bunch of sick tricks, despite taking a couple of nasty slams early on.
The girls were getting equally involved, with Becky Menday and Katie Ormerod both on fire. They were being pushed by one of Ride's Swiss team members, the seriously steezy Joelle Juchi, who was whipping out tricks like half-cab on front-one off, and even half-cab on front-three off on the down bar.
Once the allotted forty-five minutes of jamming was up, the judges called on eight lads and three lasses to keep riding for the final. With ten minutes left on the clock, the overall impressions they had given for the past hour were wiped out, meaning the pressure was on to impress. In the end it was young Scot Matt McCormick who took the top prize, and deservedly so. He'd been scampering back up the slope after every run like the Energizer bunny on speed, and probably got in twice as many hits as anyone else. Behind him was his fellow countryman Sam McGrath, whose bag of tricks marks him out as one to watch for the future, while the easy style of Nathan Onions earned him third.
In the girls' contest, Joelle Juchi was the obvious choice for the win, with her assured steeze earning her the top prize. However the UK's very own rail specialist Becky Menday was not far behind, earning herself a decent slice of cash money, while Katie Ormerod got third. Once the hour was up and the prizes (which included a Ride snowboard, a £300 Nooka watch and a pair of Union bindings as well as Whitelines subscriptions and money) were parcelled out, everyone retired to the bar for a couple more. Once again, the jam had served as a showcase for some of the UK's best jibbing talent, and with the excellent set-up provided by Laax and The Brits organisers had proved to be possibly the finest yet. Here's hoping we can do it all over again next year!
Massive thanks are due to judges Col Mytton and Andy Mills, as well MC James Thorne, and Joel Plaja - for ensuring that riders signed away their rights before they rode. Also to the evening's sponsors, Ride Snowboards and Nooka, and to Spencer Claridge of the Brits for making it happen. Keep your eyes peeled for details of the next Whitelines Jam, coming up at The Snowboard Test in May.
WHITELINES RAIL JAM @THE BRITS 2012 RESULTS
1st – Matt McCormick (Ride Board, Whitelines Sub, 40 CHF)
2nd – Sam McGrath (Nooka Watch, Whitelines Sub)
3rd – Nathan Onions (Union/Onboard Bindings, Whitelines Sub)
1st – Joelle Juchi (Union/Onboard Bindings)
2nd – Becky Menday (Whitelines Sub, 40 CHF)
3rd – Katie Ormerod (Whitelines Sub, 20 CHF)
We've had an email from the family of the 'mystery dude' in the South Africa puffa. His name's Luke Dutton, and he's actually English, but lives in Durban - which explains the jacket I guess. So that clears that up, but there's still the question of where you go in South Africa to get that good at snowboarding?