Sunday, November 8, 2009

Shaun White's Secret Weapon

Progression certainly is the name of the game in any action sport, it takes after the old saying "innovate or die".  Snowboarding is a sport that has progressed tremendously over the last 10-15 years which is proven by the fact that it is now an Olympic sport!  However, in the realm of half-pipe snowboarding, "progression" seems to simply mean "more spins".  Sometimes, watching snowboard half-pipe contests is eerily similar to figure skating because of all the focus on how many spins they can do!  Snowboarding, as a sport, thrives on creativity and innovation...shouldn't innovation be more than just adding another half-spin onto a trick?   Some may think that half-pipe riding has hit a bit of a brick wall because of a slight decline of major progression.  It would be foolish to claim there has been a recent drought of progression in snowboarding, that just isn't true, but it would be safe to say that half-pipe riding has been in need of a "stimulus package" to bring back some more excitement and interest to the sport.  Shaun White, the god of the halfpipe, has upped-the-ante and found a way to get the ball rolling again!

Red Bull teamed up with Shaun White last season to build a super-secret halfpipe back in the mountains of Silverton, Colorado in hopes of giving their golden-child the tools he needed to progess his riding and eventually the whole world of snowboarding.  They found an area up against some steep mountains away from resorts, cities, traffic, and people.  After a tremendous effort, the Red Bull crew constructed an absolutely beautiful half-pipe sculpted into avalanche runoff snow that had much more consistency than typical resort half-pipes (no air pockets or icy areas).  The pictures and videos included on RedBull's website make me want to jump in my snowboard gear and go ride that pipe even though I have never caught any air out of a half-pipe in my life! (I love backcountry riding and tend to stay away from the park and pipe.)  The coolest feature of the super secret compound is the foam pit at the bottom of the pipe!  In freestyle motocross, the foam pit helped progress the sport faster than anybody could have imagined and I think this new snow-foam-pit is going to have similar impacts to the snowboarding world.

Shaun spent some time out at the new compound and was able to develop a number of never-before-seen tricks that are much more than just another half-turn on an already dialed trick.  These tricks are revolutionary and will definitely give Shaun the edge at all of the major competitions this coming season.  The new tricks that Shaun is claiming are as follows:
     -Front double cork Ten
     -Switch Back 900
     -Double Back Rodeo
     -Cab Double Cork Ten
These are only the tricks he is claiming right now...I wouldn't be surprised to see him let a few more out of the bag at big moments in major competitions.  Hopefully, he will continue to use this tool and share it with others to bring the sport to a much higher level.

In training for these new tricks, Shaun would practice into the foam pit until he felt comfortable with it.  With his great athletic ability, he was able to figure out how to swing his body to get the proper rotation and movement that would line him up for a perfect landing.  After getting comfortable in the foam, he would try the trick on the snow and was very successful in learning the tricks in very little time!  He said that just one day of riding at the secret pipe was equal to years of regular riding because in order to attempt those crazy tricks normally, you have to have the perfect snow and weather and you also have to feel perfect in order to risk trying something crazy like that.  So, according to his equation, if one day of riding at the new spot is equal to a few years, he essentially got decades of riding under his belt in just a few short weeks!

I am very excited to see if Shaun's time in the secluded Colorado mountains translates to more contest wins this season.  If you have the time, check out this Youtube Video or Red Bull's Project X for a lot of mind-blowing videos about this incredible halfpipe and you can also see all of the tricks that Shaun has been able to dial because of it!  Awesome job to Shaun and Red Bull and keep up the great work!

Thanks for reading!