Whitelines has just emerged from a weekend at the Horsefeathers Pleasure Jam, where the uber-talented Elias Elhardt took the title. Rising Finnish star Enni Rukajaervi took the top girl’s prize. Being secluded in the internet black hole that is Schladming for the weekend means we haven’t been able to post and tweet as much as we wanted from this epic contest. But, after a weekend that included being rescued from the middle of nowhere by a moustachioed Austrian called Superhans, escaping the clutches of a crazy Christian chick who tried to convert us, and consuming our own bodyweight in schnitzel, we can at least give you an authoritative match report.
The Horsefeathers Pleasure Jam, which takes its kinky-sounding name from the Czech Clothing brand Horsefeathers and the German snowboard mag Pleasure, traditionally marks the start of the TTR World Tour in the Northern Hemisphere. There are other, earlier events, but this Slopestyle showdown on the Austrian Glacier of Dachstein tends to be the first to attract truly big names. Thankfully, this year’s contest was no exception to that rule, and the weekend saw the likes of Marco Grilc and Jusso Laivisto competing with Elhardt for the title. Unfortunately two of the biggest invited riders – Eero Ettala and Stefan Gimpl – dropped out at the last minute because of illnesses. However, a strong British contingent, comprising Jack Shackleton, Lewis Coutier-Jones, Amiee Fuller, Jamie Nicholls and Gary Greenshields more than made up for these big guns’ absence.
The first day of the contest saw an impressive number of spectators braving the windy weather and poor visibility to watch the qualification rounds. As the riders started to hit the park however, it became obvious that the conditions for the early qualifiers were far from ideal. With winds gusting strongly every which way, several riders were buffeted around in mid-air. Various people overshot the landings as a result, while others were struggling to get enough speed in the face of strong headwinds. The weather did brighten up later on however, but that just meant that those whose names were further down the list of qualifiers had an easier time of it. Nevertheless, the early starters rode hard, and some impressive runs were thrown down, with Norway’s Gjermund Braten, the super-stylish Italian Simon Gruber and local hero Max Weickl taking the top three spots.
The Brits also rode well, although the dice did seem to be loaded against them. Gary Greenshields, by his own admission, was struggling to stick his final trick as the conditions made it pretty much impossible to judge the landing of the backside rodeo. Lewis Courtier-Jones and Jack Shackleton put in plucky performances, but in the end it wasn’t to be for the Brits. Jamie Nicholls deserves a special mention sticking a sick run that meant he only narrowly missed out on one of the 15 qualification spots. Coming 18th in a field of around 70 riders, many of whom are seasoned competitors, is a seriously impressive achievement.
With none of the British guys having qualified for finals day, it fell to Aimee Fuller to fly the flag. Benefiting from the fact that her heat was postponed until the Saturday morning, Amy took advantage of the blue skies to throw down a run that took her through to the afternoon’s finals. Unfortunately some sketchy landings meant she wasn’t one of the four girls in the Super-final, but her result was testament to her talent in a field that included the likes of Cheryl Maas and Sarka Pancochova.
After a few more men were knocked out in the early-afternoon finals, the stage was set for the showdown of the super-finals. A quick reshape of the perfectly-formed kicker line gave riders some time to prep themselves. Whether it was this or the pressure of the final I’m not sure, but the level was really stepped up a gear. Sevens and nines became the norm on each of the three kickers. Slovenian Marko Grilc’s double backflip wowed the large crowd of his countrymen who’d popped across the border for the comp, and Swedish rider Tobias Karlsson threw down a show-stopping double frontflip. Combined with the rest of his run, this was enough to give Karlsson fourth place overall. Local hero Max Weickl, who inevitably got the biggest cheers every time he dropped in, was a very popular choice for third, after throwing down a run which consisted of backside 7, backside rodeo 7 and a frontside 5, all stomped super cleanly. Torgier Bergrem’s 7, nine and switch back 7 were enough to take second place, but it was Elias Elhardt’s run, which sandwiched a massive backside ten double cork between a front 7 and a laid-out backflip, that impressed the judges – and the crowd – the most. His standout trick was also enough to gain him the best trick title, and a surf trip to Bali.
Once again, the Pleasure Jam proved to be the perfect season opener, bringing together some of the top talent from all over Europe. We looking forward to seeing the regular fixture reappear next year. On top of this, the performance of the Brits at the contest bodes well for the rest of the season. Bring on the winter.
To watch the finals day video click here