In the early 2000s, Canadian snowboarding was nearing a sea change. As urban riding came onto the scene, focus pulled away from the West Coast. At the same time, corporate interests in Whistler had caused the demise of the Westbeach Classic, leaving a massive void in the springtime event schedule. Enter the Empire Shakedown, a festival at Mont Saint-Sauveur that brought riders worldwide to compete on a course with one big air jump and one street feature. Founded by Brendan O’Dowd and Patryck Bernier in 2002, Shakedown was rider-driven from the start. It was a jam format scored 50/50 on big air and “street,” where riders had to call their tricks before dropping and couldn’t be scored on the same trick twice. The first year, riders like Alex Auchu, Kevin Sansalone, DCP, and Eero Niemela competed for a winner-take-all $10,000 purse. Quebec was ready for it. 6,000 people showed up, and at the height of the Shakedown’s 14-year run, it drew 25,000 spectators. The crowd saw snowboarding in its best light and had the chance to rub shoulders with the riders at the legendary Shakedown after-parties, which included everything from fashion shows to Marc Frank Montoya DJ sets.
• The Shakedown rail setup was always a surprise until the day of the competition. It became an over-the-top focal point. By 2006, there was massive hype around the reveal. That year, there was a replica McDonald’s restaurant built underneath the plexiglass stairs.
• Prizing evolved from winner-take-all to a $50,000 purse shared between the Top 10 riders.
• O’Dowd and Bernier produced 30-minute broadcasts for Shakedown on TSN and French networks like RDS and TVA Sports. Producing the shows themselves allowed them to keep the messaging true to snowboarding.
• There were open amateur and invited pro categories. In 2006, Seb Toutant’s coach at the time was registered in the AM contest but couldn’t ride and gave his spot to Seb. Seb won qualifiers, was moved to the pro category, and won the whole thing. At age 13, it was his first major contest and his breakout moment.
• In 2009, the title sponsor of the Shakedown changed to Ride Snowboards. With Ride, the event grew into a tour that included stops in Washington and Germany.
• O’Dowd and Bernier are still producing events together today with their company Dizzle Entertainment. They work with clients like The North Face, Vans, Oakley and Red Bull, and are still focused on bringing authentic snowboard culture to their events.