Defending the Awesome at Britain's Artificial Shred Spots

Brandon was the first to spot the giant rat. Photo: Ed Blomfield

Capita UK Tour 2014

“But can he do it on a cold, rainy night in Stoke?”

Anyone with even a passing interest in Premier League football will be familiar with that sentence. Whenever a superstar striker has been knocking them in overseas, some joker pipes up to suggest that producing the goods in sunny Spain is very different to doing it in the depth of a British winter – or summer, even...

Surely the same must be true of snowboarders. With the odd exception, most of today’s top pros grew up with perfect parks or powder on their doorstep. Now they travel the world, able to plan their winter travel around where the very best conditions will be.

Well, not always; when they visited the UK to promote their latest team movie, Defenders of Awesome 2, we extended a Great British welcome to Capita riders Brandon Cocard, Dustin Craven, Phil Jacques and Scott Stevens. After dusting off the cobwebs at the previous weekend’s Big Bang Snowboard Show in Tamworth, they had now come north of the border for the second stop of the tour. These guys are some of the best snowboarders alive right now – but can they ride plastic on a cold, windy afternoon in Glasgow?

“’You’ve done this before,’ I shout up to Brandon. ‘Nope, never!’ comes the reply”

Fortunately the rainstorms of the morning give way to sunshine just as the team’s massive bus pulls into the Bearsden car park. It’s blustery, but other than that the conditions are pretty perfect for riding dry slope. The visiting riders (along with Capita UK’s Calum Paton, Rio Petersen and Tarquin Robbins) emerge from the bus and have a wander around. Local riders Danny McCormick, Marc McClement and Sam Moorhouse are here too, and before long we’re all at the top of the slope.

“This wind is crazy!” says Scott, and he’s not wrong; it’s gusting something fierce, making kicker hits more than a little sketchy. Not that’d you know it from watching what’s being put down; these guys aren’t the first pro team to visit here, but they may well be the most up for it. Dustin wastes no time in demonstrating how plastic offers no hindrance to a perfect method, while Scott has soon come free at the back for a few signature one-footers. Meanwhile Brandon is quietly getting on with it, and before long he’s climbing the drop-in ramp and launching a picture-perfect switch backside 540 off the booter. “You’ve done this before,” I shout up to him as he gets ready to go again. “Nope, never!” comes the reply, before he drops for a corked back 7 nosegrab. This is raw talent; we’re watching Messi putting seven past the Potters at the Britannia, and no mistake.

Still, he is but a visitor to these shores, and to this slope. Danny and Marc, meanwhile, set about showing them what happens when you ride this stuff week-in-week-out for years. Danny displays what is perhaps the nicest backside 7 that’s ever been done off the Bearsden kicker, one that even leaves the Birdman’s efforts in the shade. Meanwhile Marc casually chucks a few double rodeos, each of which leaves our guests speechless. Scott quickly unstraps and grabs his iPhone, absolutely buzzing at what the boys are doing and keen to get it ‘grammed.

They’re all going hell-for-leather at the quarterpipe too; Dustin wangs a massive McTwist, while Phil tweaks out a nosegrab handplant. Finally it’s only Scott and Danny that have any puff left, and after they’ve had a few more hits we call time on the session. Scott thanks the guys for the good times by giving Marc his shirt and Danny his board. Either he’s worried about getting stung for excess baggage on the way home, or he really is the nicest guy in snowboarding.

After a bite to eat washed down with Irn Bru, we’re off to the Renfrew skate park for a quick roll before heading to the snowdome. As the leviathan that is the Monster bus parks up with sound system blaring, the local kids are dragging their scooters across the grass to see what all the fuss is about. Half the crew goes for a skate, while some take the opportunity to crash out in the bus. Before long the rain inevitably returns and the bus hits the road once more, this time bound for Braehead.

“The Roxy Bar & Screen is packed to the rafters for what turns out to be a fitting end to a barnstorming UK tour”

It’s no surprise to see an amazing turnout in the snowdome’s Barvaria bar for the Defenders Of Awesome 2 screening. As soon as that’s over, we check out the park that the crew had been shaping into the wee small hours. It’s a classic, with some serious features capable of testing Team Capita. The boys rinse it for hours, joined by locals including Greg Bow, Barry Cairns, Angus Malloch and the boys from the dry slope. The session continues long after the general public has filed out, before the assembled crew eventually retires to the bus for beers.

Next stop Manchester, and after a signing at Subvert snowboard shop the guys hit up Chill Factore. Once again the local scene is out in force, with Collum Mytton, John Weatherley and little Mia Brookes among those getting stuck in. Manchester is bursting with talent right now, and the lift queue gets so long that riders have to be careful not to plough into it at the end of their runs. The session on the bottom rail goes off, Brandon getting the standout banger with a massive frontside 3 on. With his knee playing up Scott’s having a mellow one, but finds some typically creative lines including a handstand frontflip over the barrel jib. The movie screening follows, introduced by Capita founder Blue Montgomery who had arrived in the UK earlier in the day. Once again the reception for the movie is raucous, and by the time the party moves to the bus everyone is in high spirits.

The next day the guys make it to Milton Keynes, and it’s fair to say that the previous night’s frivolities (which continued in the upmarket surroundings of the Travelodge carpark) have taken their toll. Still, it’s good to see them adopt a ‘when in Rome’ attitude to binge drinking, and they’re all relatively chipper by the time the Snowboard Asylum signing rolls around. Living up to his nickname, ‘Sleepy’ Stevens has clearly benefitted from his 14-hour kip, making light work of the spine feature and hucking frontside 900s off the kicker. Meanwhile Phil and Dustin are seemingly trying to find out which of them can throw the nicest slow front 3 MK has ever seen. Still not even in his teens yet, Capita’s own UK rail prodigy Will Gilmore is chucking 450s on, while Calum Paton – back at the scene of his world-record-breaking 78-metre railslide – is killing it too. Unfortunately British-based Capita designer Jono Wood nails himself on the wallride, catching his toe edge after falling from a height of roughly twelve feet. Scorpion, broken shoulder, torn ligaments, session over. Once Jono is safely carried from the slope and carted off to hospital, the shred continues for a little while longer before everyone calls it a night.

“Scott quickly unstraps and grabs his iPhone, absolutely buzzing at what the boys are doing”

With the shredding done the bus makes tracks for London, and a final screening of DOA2. The Roxy Bar & Screen south of the river is packed to the rafters for what turns out to be a fitting end to a barnstorming UK tour. The Capita guys have put on quite a show, although Phil is quick to say that the British snowboard scene gives as much as it gets. “We’ve seen so many kids killing it,” he says. “I’m very impressed about the size and the quality of the scene, since it’s all dryslopes and domes here – not what you’d think of as prime conditions for snowboarding. And in the shops we went to, lots of people were in there buying stuff – it seems like a really healthy situation. Danny and Marc at the dryslope were absolutely killing it, doing tricks I wasn’t expecting to see. Little Will is only 11, and rides like he’s 20! I think it’s pretty remarkable.”

Praise indeed.

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