Do yourself a favor and watch even five minutes.
And this. This is what it looks like when core members of a niche extreme sporting community launch a competitive tour with the goal of pushing boundaries, shattering perceptions, scaring the goodness gracious out of those in rider’s vests, dropping jaws of those watching at home, diluting none of the love, passion, raison d’être.
Natural Selection’s Revelstoke stop showed what is possible in wildest dreams instead of cursed Oklahoma-by-way-of-Oprah-Winfrey-mush.
For those unawares, the aforementioned Natural Selection was Travis Rice’s answer to Olympic snowboarding. Driven by a love of nature and wild backcountry feats, he wanted it to be more honest, closer in spirit to what turned him on rather than halfpipe trick ponying and/or artificial slopestyling.
And now in its third year, after Jackson Hole, Bald Face and Alaska features this Revelstoke business is… mind bending.
A playing field so wide, with so many native features, cliffs, chutes, crazy steep and just plain crazy as to utterly boggle.
To strike fear into the heart of the passive observer and the willing participant alike.
I attended the press/athlete mixer last evening before today’s running, the fact that they allow press and rider to mingle over alcohol, a feat in and of itself, but last evening no athlete was drinking. Terror clawed as Rice had naturally selected the apocalypse. I have, truly, never seen professionals so green in the face, outside Filipe Toledo at Teahupoo.
Jared Elston, the youngest rider and son of a professional surfer, said that he had been studying the course as much as he could (riders are not allowed on until their first run but can examine maps and drone angles) but Rice was the only one of them who had ever ridden anything quite like this.
Mikkel Bang, a viking, wasn’t drinking though I coaxed him into one beer. A proper viking. One beer.
The morning broke, blue sky’d and glorious, but a heavy chill hung in the air. The wife, who has collaborated with Rice for 20 years and was out the door for a sunrise helicopter to the course muttered, “Why did Travis have to pick this. Why couldn’t he have just gone a little more mellow.”
As if to rub everyone’s noses right in it, Rice elected to drop first into the untracked wild. I won’t get into the contest format, here, (though it is better than professional surfing in every way) and there he went, commentators holding breath, drones buzzing. The next four-plus hours featured some of the most stunning extreme sport in history. The best snowboarders in the world getting lost in the trees. The best snowboarders in the world getting hung up mid cliff and having to sort a way off as it would have been virtually impossible to help them. The best snowboarders in the world being forced to push the very boundary of potential, flipping, twisting racing down sheer vertical drop and not for some fake midwest fan, either, but for the core of the core.
For each other.
It was for snowboarders, by snowboarders and it sang.
Oh the women were there too. There was no quarter for them, no easier line or more comfortable conditions, and they made history, from Zoi Sadowski-Synnott to Hight to Kimmy Fasani fresh off beating cancer throwing some of the biggest hammers of the day.
In an alternate universe, World Surf League Chief of Executives Erik Logan and his Chief of Sport Jessi Miley-Dyer are headed to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest in order to speak on “Surfing’s Swell of Success and the Business Behind it” and praising themselves on social media for it.
They honestly suck.