The Rise Of The Rail Nazis

Are nazis taking over our sport? Add your comments below and the best one wins a mug.

Taken from Whitelines 104
Words by Danny Kinstreet
Illustration by Stone

Haters. They’re everywhere. They lurk below the comments line of every Youtube video and every post on Transworld. Their badly spelt, hypocritical and hyperbolic comments litter Facebook walls all over the web, hurling abuse at snowboarders of all shapes and sizes, from untalented amateurs to the top pros. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against a bit of good-natured piss-take or light-hearted banter, but it does seem to me that snowboarders are a particularly vicious lot when it comes to trolling – specially when we’re all supposed to be mellow, laid-back types who enjoy a bifta more than a drunken brawl.

But while snowboarders of all stripes are capable of being vicious, what’s struck me recently is that there’s a particular breed who are more vicious than most. We’re not talking about your common or garden troll who comes creeping out to hate on Shaun White videos here. We’re talking about the ones who will be on the comment sections slating 90 percent of the snowboard edits they watch. I like to call them Rail Nazis. Because while this is a bit of a generalisation, it seems to me to be rail riders who get the most vicious, and spend the most time ‘calling people out’.

Now the question of what’s ‘legit’ snowboarding is a complicated one. I can understand for example, how triple cork videos might come in for some flack. They’re not the most stylish trick on a snowboard. You’re missing the point of progression if you expect them to be, but you’re right, they don’t look as good as a classic method or a front board. I can understand too, how watching the 13-year-old girls screaming Mark McMorris’ name from the front row of the US Navy-sponsored X Games arena makes some people worry about where the sport’s headed. I can see why people think that rail riding, or just filming a video part with your mates is a ‘purer’ form of snowboarding. I agree with all that. That’s not the issue I have with the Rail Nazis. No, my problem is that true Rail Nazis don’t just hate on contests and the like. Nope, they’ll happily hate on their own kind too. They take their hate to the streets.

“You didn’t spin hardway on? Not legit.”

“The rail is in the park, not down some back alley? Pffff…”

“What do you mean your board’s not at exactly 90 degrees as you rode through the kink on that back lip? I don’t care if it’s a sixty-stair set, that’s a zeach goddamn it!”

The other day I came across a debate on the Whitelines Facebook page about an Eero Ettala edit. While even those who disliked his riding style admitted that the tricks were impressive (one of them had just got him on the cover of Onboard after all) they still managed to object to the fact that his pants were baggy (these things are seriously important) and (horror of horrors!) he was wearing his goggles on the streets!

These aren’t your common or garden trolls

I don’t know if it’s just because rail riders tend to be younger, and so are more likely to be internet-savvy, but you don’t get the same kind of comments on backcountry edits. I mean everyone knows that the stuff Terje wears makes him look a bit like your dad when he’s just standing around, but as soon as he steps on a board, none of that matters. You certainly wouldn’t have powder lovers getting on and slating him just because of the width of his pants… nope, this kind of properly militant style-Nazism only really seems to exist amongst the rail riding fraternity.

Which is weird, because it’s these people more than anyone else who think competitive, judged snowboarding is narrow and derivative. And yet, aren’t the ‘rules’ they are imposing equally narrow? It’s these folk who are most up in arms when snowboarding starts getting too close to gymnastics. But isn’t saying “it’s not legit unless it’s exactly 90 degrees” pretty much the same as telling gymnasts they can’t win unless their feet are perfectly together? Rail Nazis will claim that they’re all about keeping snowboarding free and ‘skate’ – keeping it a lifestyle, rather than a sport. But what’s ‘skate’ about applying rules to street riding? Sure, style is subjective, but when you start turning your opinions into rules, then aren’t you undermining everything you thought was cool about snowboarding in the first place? It’s like Indiana Jones once said. “Nazis! I hate those guys…”

Is style the be-all end-all in snowboarding? What is “good style”?  Where do you draw the line between celebrating stylish riding and being a hater?

Best comment wins a Whitelines mug and a protractor to make sure you never zeach again.


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