Published in Whitelines Magazine Issue 94, January 2011
Once upon a time, in the mountains outside Munich, there lived a young lad called Stefan. His full name was Stefan Markhauser, but everybody knew him as Heisa. His mother owned a farm up in the mountains of Oberbayern, where she no-doubt kept cows and chickens and such-like. Little Stefan liked to play outside a lot, especially in the winter, when the cold wind shit the mountains and it snowed heavily. Stefan and his friends’ favourite game was called ‘snowboarding’. They would spend all day snowboarding, pushing each other around on obstacles they had built, laughing and joking in the snow. Stefan’s mother never understood snowboarding and she always worried about him, especially as the obstacles he hit became bigger. “You be careful out there little Heisa," she’d say. But she was happy that he was happy, and she let Stefan and his friends use the farmland to build a few rails and jibs. As the boys’ obstacles got better, word of their exploits spread. Soon riders began arriving from all over Germany to join in their jam sessions. Then one day, a strange wizard arrived from a far-off place called Nike6.0. He liked what he saw of the farm but believed it had the potential to be even bigger and better than it already was. With a wave of his magic wand, the wizard from Nike 6.0 transformed their jam sessions. He added bigger, more awe-inspiring obstacles and conjured up some of the world’s best jibbers to ride them. Heisa and his friends couldn’t believe their eyes! What had started as a piss-about in their backyard was now a full-blown international snowboard event.
Well, that’s how the story goes anyway…
The first thing we at Whitelines hear about any of this is when we’re handed a flyer at the ISPO tradeshow, an annual industry gathering in Munich. “Secret location" reads the piece of card, “invitation only". The exclusivity is unusual, but as we board the mini-buses with our fellow privileged invitees – a collection of European industry and media types – there is a definite buzz in the air. Where are we going? What are we heading towards? Actually, where the hell are we right now? Winding our way out of Munich gives us no answers. Even if we did know the countryside around here, it’s pitch black outside, so we wouldn’t be able to see anything. After about an hour of driving – the last bit of which is spent on increasingly empty rural roads – we come to a halt on a remote lane outside a knackered-looking wooden barn. The rutted dirt track is frozen solid, so walking requires a concerted effort. As we crunch through the icy puddles, it’s not instantly obvious that anything is happening at all. I try not to think of Josef Fritzl, or the weird stuff that supposedly happens to outsiders in these secluded alpine villages… But soon we hear the familiar synthy strains of MGMT’s Kids, and as we come round the corner, the full noise of the sound system hits, along with the glare of the flood lights, which are illuminating a truly incredible setup. We stand there blinking in amazement at the magical looking rail garden in front of us.
To our right, being sessioned as we arrive, is a kicker onto a sketchy-looking wooden butter box, which spits riders out onto an enormous manure tank – painted in Nike 6.0’s signature bright orange; to our left, there’s a polejam kicker, while in the darkness ahead of us is a 12stair set fl anked by marble ledges; and to our left is the pièce-de-resistance: a pair of down-rails made of rough-hewn tree trunks, are set up beside a double kink of monstrous proportions. All three slope down from the snow-covered roof of one of the rickety old barns. These lead into a wall ride or several other jibs, giving riders a myriad of options. And that’s not all – later, after sinking a weissbier or two, I wander round the back of a barn to relieve myself and spy a sizeable kicker gapping the farm track further down. The field running into it is almost completely flat, but then who needs hills when you’ve got farm vehicles and sleds to tow you in?
The rider list Nike 6.0 has put together for the session is longer than an orang-utan’s right arm and packed with more talent than a bumper double-D edition of Nuts. Louis-Felix Paradis and Jed Anderson have come across from Canada, Nick Visconti is repping the US, Victor de le Rue is one of the riders flying the flag for France, and über talented Polish ripper Wojtek Pawlusiak is also there. And then there’s the local contingent – along with Heisa himself, there’s his friend and fellow parkmaker Basti Rittig, Alex Tank, and Marco Smollato name just a few. Marc Swoboda has nipped across the border from Austria and Kalle Ohlson has come down from Sweden. Oh, and holding their own alongside all these international superstars are three of the UK’s finest – Sparrow Knox, Tom ‘Little T’Guilmard, and Jamie Nicholls.
With talent like this hanging around and such an incredible set-up to play on, it’s hardly surprising that the riding we’re watching is next level. And just in case any extra motivation was needed, the farm boys’ magical benefactors have come up with 10,000 Euros, which they’re handing out as on-the-spot cash prizes for the best tricks. The riders are tearing into the setup at will – German jibber Dani Rajcsanyi, Louis-Felix Paradis, and Wojtek Pawlusiak kick things off with some mind-melting combos on the downrail of the stair set, including cab 3 switch nosepress from Louis-F and a backside 270 hardway to 270 from Wojtek! Jamie earns himself a crisp 50-euro note for front-flipping off the end of the kinked ledge. The session soon moves on to the orange manure tank(euphemistically called the ‘North Shore jib’) and the riders are still killing it – pushing themselves and each other to new levels. Little T earns himself a nice bit of bit of beer money whipping out some of his trademark steezy presses, and Basti Rittig nearly clears the whole tank with a front 180 to 5-0.
Watching them get stuck in, it’s pretty hard not to be impressed by how sick the whole thing is – it might all be made out of local logs, but the run-in speeds and the size of the kickers have all been calculated to perfection. And how often to you get to see Louis-Felix Paradis nosebonk a tank that normally containsseveral tons of liquid shit? The final leg of the session sees the riders take on the rails on the roof of the barn. They have to troop up there in twos and threes (it seems the ramshackle old barn roof wasn’t designed to take the weight of twenty of the world’s best jibbers at once!) but that doesn’t kill the atmosphere. Everyone is cheering everyone else’s tricks, and there’s slap pounding and high-fiving all over the place. The MC is definitely a little on the eccentric side, but his banter keeps everyone pumped and his wallet –bulging with Nike 6.0 dollar at the start of the night – empties out surprisingly quickly. It does seem slightly strange that all this entertainment is being put on without a crowd there to see it. With the sheer number of incredible riders, the marquee and the specially constructed skate-ramp, this is more than just a private session, and it seems a shame there’s no-one there to witness the sickness on display. Those of us who are there though – Heisa’s mates, assorted media types and other hangers on – are buzzing. And most importantly, the riders all appear to be loving it. At the end of the night, they gather together and award a prize for best overall shredder of the session. By mutual agreement, it’s split between Nick Visconti – whose unusual choice of lines and trademark tuck-knee boardslides have been blowing minds all evening – and Austrian rad-merchant Marc Swoboda, whose consistency and all-round skill level has been off the hook. As we board the bus back to Munich, all the riders are full of it – swapping stories, chatting about tricks and practically bouncing off the walls with excitement. Sparrow, Little T and Jamie are buzzing. But then why wouldn’t they be? They’ve just ridden one of the sickest, best thought-out rail set-ups anywhere, in the company of the world’s most progressive rail riders. And best of all, it’s all gone down in some random fields out in the middle of nowhere! Heisa’s little jib park has transformed into something truly special. Long may the Farm jam continue! I can only imagine what Heisa’s mum thinks of the whole thing…