Next Level

The Background

As told by Marko Grilc
David and I had been doing our own thing for most of the season but we’d been keeping in touch. When I heard Cauterets – a very cool resort in the French Pyrenees – was going to build a jump for us, I was super stoked. The prospect of riding with David and Christoph [Weber] again reminded me of all the cool times we’d had travelling around the world, camping in an RV and playing endless games on the X-Box.

When I got there, I found David was already throwing down some pretty technical jumps. He hadn’t been filming and riding much that season so I’d been expecting him to take it pretty easy with some safety tricks. I mean, surely he’d be ring rusty? Holy shit was I wrong!

I think that David’s mind is ready to overcome fear and land the craziest shit first try. Before long he turned to me and said, “I’m going to try a switch back rodeo 9.” I was thinking, “That is really ballsy.”
Stomp. First try.
Than he came up and said, “Maybe 12,” and at that point I was like, “Yeah right dude.”
He stomped it third try, as clean as if he was landing a straight air.
I guess that since I rode with him the last time I’d kind of forgotten what he is capable of. A couple of us had to leave that day, but I was left feeling really impressed at how he pushes snowboarding year after year. The next day we got a phone call and heard that he’d nailed a switch double cork, and I was just shocked…
Still, I think what really sums up David best is the email he sent that first evening, just after we’d left. When it turned up with an attachment in my inbox, I was thinking he’d probably sent us the sequence and was claiming it or whatever. But no, after stomping two tricks that had never been done before in the history of snowboarding, he sent us a screen shot of his new iCopter record – a game we’d been playing on the iPhone.

The Jumps As told by David Benedek

“Here we go again,” you’re probably thinking, “another step-over jump with some flippy stuff.” I do too, actually. One of my priorities has always been not to repeat myself, and never to be afraid to question what I’m doing – even if it’s successful.

So, going back to the same resort a year later – and trying to build a ‘new’ step-over jump for the fourth consecutive year now – I really started wondering how this might look to outsiders. Definitely not very creative. But the truth is, since we started working on a safer and better jump design a couple of years ago, we have yet to build a kicker that truly matched our imagination. The Gap Session was sketchy as hell to be honest, and most of the others that did work certainly weren’t easy to ride. Approach speeds above 60mph, transitions too long to be adjusted… you name it. In all these years of hitting step-overs I dropped in switch one single time. That doesn’t really make it a great jump to try stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, we still believe 100% in the original concept, and a few of those jumps were still 10 times better than anything I’d ridden before. But if you only have the chance to build one jump a year, it’s very slow progress towards the perfect specs.

So, please: if you think we suck because we’ve been somewhat repeating ourselves for the past couple of years, be a little forgiving. We’re just still trying to get this thing figured out. It’ll actually take a few more tries!

On this particular attempt, our main ambition was to lower the approach speed to make the kicker easier to ride and more fun. You obviously have to make the gap smaller, but with a steep landing and the potential to travel a long way down it you’d still have the same airtime. After ten days of waiting and adjusting it worked quite well, and I’m pretty sure we’re on the right track.

New tricks are sometimes the product of a very long process. Certain ideas for tricks I’ve carried in my head for years before trying them for the first time. It’s like they progress subconsciously over time and become more solid. I don’t really think about it much, but after a while a vague idea will simply transform into a feeling of how to do it. The good thing about this is that even if you don’t ride very much, or you’re out injured for a while, you can progress mentally. Trying a trick like this for the first time is both exciting and scary because it shows you how close your imagination is to the real thing. Definitely the heaviest self-confidence test I know.

With this in mind here is a little more about the tricks you see here and how I did them. You might not want to try them for yourself just yet, but you can always exercise your imagination…

Switch Double Cork

I’ve understood how to do this one for a long time, as it’s practically identical to the regular version. Still, it’s a lot scarier, since you need to be sure to get enough pop switch. Once you’re in the air though it’s a really fun feeling as the second half of the trick feels like an inverted backside 5.

How to do it
It looks complicated but it’s really all in the take-off. Approaching switch, put in a little turn on the transition so you’re ready to leave the jump on your heel edge. The take-off actually happens in two movements: instead of a regular frontside spin, where you simply rotate your upper body sideways, you need to move UP and THEN to the side – a bit like launching into a backflip. This will give you all the spin you need. From then on it’s simply a case of holding on and hoping you come around fast enough.

Switch Backside Rodeo 900

Nothing new here. People might argue this one isn’t a true backside rodeo, but whatever you call it the invert goes in the same direction. Thus I call it a backside rodeo, although technically it’s maybe more of a late spin.

How to do it
Ride in switch with a little bit of toe edge, just like a normal switch backside. At the very last moment of the take off however, you move your power from your toe edge towards your heels. Chances are you’ll still be pretty flat when you leave the jump, but a second later you’ll start dropping towards your toeside. It’s a scary feeling at first but don’t panic – before you know it you’ll be coming around with a clear view of the landing. If you get too inverted it’s a little tricky to get back on your feet with a 900, so maybe try a 7 at first [I’ll be sure to remember that one David! – Ed] And if you don’t get too inverted it will feel like the easiest thing you’ve ever tried – honest! The last rotation feels like a simple frontside 360, and since you already have a bit of flip-momentum it puts you so centred on your feet that it’s easier to land than a switch backside 180. I’m not kidding. Every single 9 I tried, I landed – even if I opened up and thought I was going to land on my head. It just puts you back on your feet.

Switch Backside Rodeo 1260

Unfortunately the one I landed in this shot is a lot flatter than some of my other attempts, so it looks a lot less like a double invert. A few of my earlier goes (which I didn’t land) look totally nutty. Here’s a tip that might seem weird: you can abort this trick at any point, making it a lot safer than it looks.

How to do it
Going from a 900 to a 1260 is not much different on paper but the feeling and movement can vary a LOT, depending on how inverted you are. Some of my attempts were really upside down, which makes it feel like you’re doing two complete backside rodeos in a row. Very cool, and scary! All you have to do is use a lot more power on the take off and hold on tight for the duration of the trick. It’s definitely a lot of spinning, which makes it hard to stop the rotation fast enough upon landing, but essentially the trick sets you up on your feet in the same way as the 9.

What’s next?

In retrospect, I think we got a little closer to making the concept of a step-over work in the way we dreamed it would – even though it feels like we’re still progressing in baby steps. The approach speed on this jump was a lot slower than on any of our earlier kickers, and that was a major improvement. Sure, it was a smaller jump, but the airtime was almost the same. I do wish we could have ridden it for longer than two days though, and that we’d really been able to work on the landing (since that was definitely the least perfect part of the set-up). So maybe a year from now you’ll see us repeat ourselves once again, building yet another step-over and hopefully getting a little closer to our imagination.

In case you don’t see any photos, we probably went out and worked on some weird jump for weeks and couldn’t get it to work… time will tell.

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