Words: T-Bird Photos: Blotto
I remember the first rail jam that really stoked me out. It was in Buffalo, New York, hosted by Red Bull, and consisted of the best rail riders in the world at the time. I also remember the image of Scotty Arnold locked into a perfect front board on a down bar because it hung on my wall as a testament to how a front board should be done at that time. That event was revolutionary for me. I couldn’t believe what the riders were doing on some of the most progressive features the streets had ever seen. Looking back on it now, that contest was indeed incredible and the tricks done in it have definitely progressed exponentially in the past decade or so, but after watching the 2012 Burton Rail Days in Japan go down last night at Roppongi Hills in downtown Tokyo I now realize that in the realm of rail jams, everything has changed for the better.
Last night, thousands of people packed into Roppongi Hills Plaza in Tokyo to witness a spectacle of urban snowboarding that I have rarely seen related in a contest setting. Headed up by Chris Castaneda of Snow Park Technologies, the setup was gargantuan. Featuring three different drop-in points of entry, the eighteen invited riders had the option of a simple down bar on the far rider’s left, a down creeper just to the right of that, and a wooden rail closeout to flat (though many riders opted to start gapping from that to the down bar). Next to that was a picnic table angled upward and a hitching post log to the far rider’s right, and just to the left of the hitching post was a big wooden Burton pole with a flag on top that that the riders could bonk if they felt like getting some airtime. It really was insane seeing this massive feature plopped square in the middle of downtown Tokyo, but it spoke to the fact that gone are the days when a single barrel down bar would consist of a world class street venue.
The pouring rain didn’t slow down the competitors down one bit, nor did it stop the crowd from cramming in shoulder-to-shoulder. Eighteen of the world’s most talented freestylers flew from all over the world to try their hand on the course and hoping to win the $15,000 cash prize. The list included Jonah Owen, Dominik Wagner, Ludwig Lejkner, Ethan Deiss, Brandon Hobush, Yuma Abe, Benny Urban, Alex Tank, Neils Schack, Marc Swoboda, Forest Bailey, Jamie Nicholls, Zak Hale, Dylan Alito, Jesse Augustina, Wojtek Pawlusiak, Takahiro Ishida, and Mark Sollors and they battled it out in a forty-five minute jam to narrow the finals down to six riders.
The tricks that you now see in any given rail jam is incredible in the sense that a proper back lip would once win one of these contests but now it’s merely a warm-up trick, and at the Burton Rail Days, it got really tech really fast. With the legendary Jeremy Jones sitting atop the course in the judges’ booth, there was no denying that Burton not only stepped it up with the setup, but they also legitimized the judging even more. Regardless, a few riders took to the hitching post with Andrechts, tail taps, nose bonks and myriad flips while Jamie Nicholls tailtap revert 450d the Burton flag a few times. The picnic table setup saw the likes of Marc Swoboda going inverted off the end and Wojtek Pawlusiak buttering on and off. The star of the show however, was definitely the looker’s right rail setup. With multiple options, the riders went after it every way possible. Ludwig Lejkner’s back lips were ridiculous. Brandon Hobush went front three to fifty while Jamie Nicholls took a cue to step it up and did the same trick but switch. Local Tokyo ripper Yuma Abe was the first to drop down from the wooden closeout to the down bar and the crowd went apeshit. Jonah Owen–no stranger to landing flat– took it to the bottom of the closeout with a flurry of front threes. Ethan Deiss handled the creeper and half Cabbed on to the down bar to switch tailpress. Dominik Wagner and Benny Urban impressed me quite a bit as everything they do is very properly executed. Smooth, clean, and landed solidly. Keep an eye out for those two. Zak Hale rode super well also with a few nosepress back 180s and front blunts with heaps of style, and Dylan Alito couldn’t quite seem to put it together in the qualifiers to move on to the finals but he still put on a quite a show for the crowd.
When the forty-five minute qualifier was over, it was Jamie Nicholls, last year’s winner, who qualified in the top spot with Forest Bailey in second place (Editor’s Note: Forest’s last trick in qualifiers broke his snowboard so he borrowed Neils Schat’s stick and rode it in the finals). Rounding out the rest of the finals field was Brandon Hobush, Jonah Owen, Dominik Wagner, and Zak Hale. It was a good mix of Euros and Americans and when
Words: T-Bird Photos: Blotto
Jamie Nichols is one of the up and coming Euro groms quickly finding themselves in the drivers seat. The difference with Jamie is that he is British so the steering wheel is on the right. Check out this indoor edit of Jamie and his chum Will Smith. It includes some pretty decent dome shredding including a Genesis firecracker down some stairs and a bs five over the whole jib feature.Read More