The Return of Red Bull Heavy Metal | Joe Sexton and Benny Milam

We caught up with Joe Sexton and Benny Milam on the return of the Red Bull Heavy Metal street snowboarding competition

After a nearly two-decade hiatus, Red Bull Heavy Metal returned to the streets of the lakeside city of Duluth, Minnesota. The one-day competition took place on the 16th of January, as 40 elite street snowboarders showcased their rail riding skills in three separate zones designed to test each facet of their skillsets.

“The goal was to bring street snowboarding to places that sometimes doesn’t even get snowfall naturally”

The zones included “The Tower” that featured a 20-foot drop, “The Playground” which showcased a technical section of down bars, transfers, trees, and tables, and culminated at “The Metal”, the contest’s heaviest zone which focused on Cascade Park’s notorious kink rail and 30-step downstair that’s well known to locals and other street riders who have spent time in Duluth.

We caught up with Minnesota native and street snowboarding legend Joe Sexton, who was brought on as Competition Director for the event, and the other Minnesota legend Benny Milam, who also finished first on the men’s podium.

Last weekend’s event looked sick! Are you happy with how it all turned out?
Joe: Thank you! Yes, very happy with how it turned out. The weather cooperated which is always out of your control, and the riders and spectators really showed up to make this an unforgettable event.

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Benny: Yeah I honestly can’t believe the turnout. People were coming from all over to come watch the event. It might have been cold but that didn’t stop anyone from coming out any enjoying the madness

Can you tell us a bit about the whole concept and story behind Red Bull Heavy Metal?
Joe: The heavy metal was originally created to shine a light on street snowboarding. The goal was to bring street snowboarding to places that sometimes doesn’t even get snowfall naturally. It also was a contest that didn’t feature traditional “contest” snowboarders, so it was a place for the audience to see the riders usually featured only in videos in a contest scenario.

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Benny: So last winter Red Bull came to me asking if I had any ideas for a new Red Bull Project but I really wanted to do something that we could get more than just myself and a few homies involved in. So they (Erich Dummer) mentioned the idea of bringing back the classic “Red Bull heavy metal” contest which I was super into. When the idea came about, Levi Lavallee was in the process of filming a Red Bull project where he rips around the streets of Duluth on his snowmobile so getting the City on board was no problem. We took a few trips up to Cascade over the summer to figure out a plan and it all escalated from there.

The comp was last held in 2003, why bring it back now?
Joe: I think because snowboarding was just in a different place back then, its had some time to take a breath and reassess and now I think its the perfect time to bring it back. People seem really excited about street snowboarding at the moment.

“People seem really excited about street snowboarding at the moment”

Benny: It’s always cool to be able to bring something back to its roots and with wanting to do a street contest, it only seemed right.

Where can we see this concept grow and how do you reckon it might affect the future of snowboarding?
Joe: Hopefully we can expand on the current concept, try new locations, new markets. I think it will affect the future hopefully by people being more open to this side of snowboarding and seeing if for the difficulty and creativity that it truly is.

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Benny: I think this concept is only going to get bigger with how the culture of street riding is growing. After this season with events like Heavy Metal and Ethan Morgans Street Jam, you can definitely expect to see more contests taking it to the streets.

Highlights from last weekend’s event?
Joe: Honestly the whole thing was highlight! Watching the riders figure out the course and getting excited and watching them push each other was really cool. When the sun went down and the lights went up on the kink rail, looking out on all the spectators, that was a really cool feeling! It’s just like a really cool moment for snowboarding.

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Benny: It was really dope to get the industry up to Duluth. Duluth is a pretty classic destination for filming street, but I don’t think it’s ever had that many heads in the industry at one time so it was cool to get everyone together and give the locals a taste of what snowboarding is all about. Also, all the kids were juiced! And if the kids are hyped that’s all that really matters because they are the future. It’s all about keeping the kids stoked.

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