“Snowboarding is in an age of surplus talent and limited compensation.”

Ben Gavelda

All you have to do is pick up your phone to realize this. The amount of talent on any snowboarders’ feed is astronomical. Stupidly hard pretzel variations, wildly creative tricks you’ve never seen before, and huge gaps being done by some guy with only 2k followers and not a brand to his name. This is the state of snowboarding, and I kinda love it. Yes it sucks that people can’t make a living off snowboarding like they used to. Professionals now have to work full-time jobs in order to film video parts, but with this shift, snowboarding feels like it’s going back to being more about the riders and their self-expression, as opposed to what might have been typical in the past, where riders were asked, or contractually told, to squeeze themselves into a mold.

Forest Bailey [o] Danny Kern

It wasn’t long ago that snowboarding was different. Around 2012 there was a large emphasis on proper spots and proper tricks. The swivels and switch-ups that once dominated in the early 2000s were dead, replaced by clean spins and slides with no variations. It was a puritan takeover. Everything had to be proper. But now the pendulum is swinging back towards self-expression. Almost anything goes nowadays. With Benchpress, Boobeyes, FSBS, Snooze Global, Alternative Timeline, contests like SKOLF, and events like Holy Bowly, snowboarding is again asking itself what it has room for, and who “it” is.

Obviously you can still see people doing very well done tricks, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Nothing beats a clean trick that feels good. And nothing is wrong with following the textbook when you’re learning a new trick. It’s hard to add personality to your first double cork. However, innovation is inevitable when you have so many remarkably talented riders out there. It was just a matter of time before snowboarding expanded once again. And, with social media added to the mix, the expansion is occurring more rapidly than it ever has. We are no longer waiting for fall video parts to build on. People can go up the gondola watching an edit on their phone and respond to it immediately, adding their personality to a trick that had inspired them and posting it later that day.

With this inclusion of personality, boarders are not only moving away from traditionally “proper” tricks, but they are also exploring their own environments more. Very little seems out of bounds. What was seen previously as disadvantages (i.e. small resorts, low elevation, small crews, etc.), has turned into a unique niche that cannot be replicated by more sponsor money. Parts of snowboarding now flourish exactly because of the obstacles snowboarders face.

Crews like The Yagoons and people like Mike Rav and Don Wheeler are prime examples of this. They are picking up where some of the earlier experimental crews like Think Thank left off, by carving, boardsliding the lips of rails, and dizzily spinning before and after tricks. The entire hill is being used. There is also Backstrom making edits buttering knuckles and Lucas Baume doing whatever the hell he wants on a quarter of the rail, and I don’t think it will stop here. With the dream of becoming a well-paid pro snowboarder crumbling, the majority of us have nothing to gain and nothing to lose. There is immense freedom in not having a paycheque attached to an expectation. The only responsibility we have is the personal responsibility of having as much fun as possible, and with that at the foundation, sky’s the limit. We can pull inspiration from anywhere, giving snowboarding more innovation, more personality, and more diversity than it has had in a long time.

This diversity can also help in other ways. Diversity creates resilience and resistance, and as a part of those two things, diversity also creates interest. So, as the scope of what can be done on a snowboard widens, the more it will appeal to people, which, with a little hope and luck, could contribute to not only the growth and longevity of our sport, but could also make being a pro snowboarder a viable option in the future. I mean, with more interest there is generally more money.

But, money aside, the important thing here is that snowboarding is changing. Snowboarding is becoming a stronger medium for self-expression than it has been. It’s including more people and it feels like we’re just having more fun out there. We’re going bigger, and we’re definitely going smaller, we’re doing different lines, we’re taking out our feet, we’re zeaching, we’re doing switch-ups, we’re buttering and carving… We’re in a renaissance. It feels great, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. I can’t wait to see how snowboarding changes the more people really start riding for themselves. – William Fraser

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