Archive for the ‘Essays and Musings’ Category

One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of “supernatural” is “departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature”.   For about two months, I kept wondering why Travis Rice’s innovative snowboarding event was called “Supernatural”. Then it aired on TV, and I understood. Travis took what nature had to offer snowboarders, built upon it with a team of lumberjacks, and then gave it back to nature to add the finishing touches. The result was a hybrid wonderland for backcountry boarders.

The riders themselves seemed to transcend human limitations. The idea that a snowboarder can literally “bonk a tree” (translation: tap the tree mid-air with the board) sounds like a move from a video game. I had no idea how the contest was scored, and I didn’t really care. It was enough to see these guys take on Mother Nature and appear as though they may take flight. Red Bull Supernatural brought in the poetry in motion found in snowboarding films to the one-upmanship and pushing of personal limits that naturally occurs with competition.

The question remains: is this the future of snowboarding? Putting my personal hopes aside, I don’t really know. It could go either way. X Games has already brought in the video element with their Real Snow competition, and I know people who don’t find snowboarding that exciting because “it looks like a bunch of spins” to them. I can see some of these people enjoying a contest like Supernatural because the course is constantly changing as more riders get on it and the weather shifts.  With the help of Contour, they can actually witness how steep the drop is and how fast these guys are going. Plus everything just looks cool when there’s powder flying everywhere and natural obstacles popping up in unexpected places.

On the other hand, the contest is a bit like modern art. People generally like to understand what they’re watching, and Supernatural may be too out there for a mainstream audience. Judging is subjective, and it’s hard to see what the riders are doing from a distance. People also like drama. I found that the broadcast could have been improved because there was a lot of dead air from the commentators as the competitors looked for the right hits. Supernatural doesn’t give us the high tension moments of who’s going to land the first triple cork or is Shaun White going to defend his gold. The mystery of a rider’s run that makes the contest more interesting for some causes others to be bored with the lack of suspense.

Supernatural, Scotty LagoFrom Mark McMorris' Instagram
A shot taken by Terje Haakonsen of Scotty Lago freeriding with Mark McMorris in the background. From Mark McMorris’ Instagram.

In the end, Red Bull Supernatural isn’t focused on getting viewers to watch a new type of contest. As Travis Rice has explained to ESPN, he created this event to unify snowboarding: to bring together vets and newcomers, slopestyle and backcountry, art and sport. It has reminded us that snowboarding isn’t about the number of spins you do or how many gold medals you have; it’s about finding new lines in untouched snow, conquering the fear you feel looking down a 55-degree incline, and above all, having fun.

While FMX riders may laugh in the face of danger, I bet they still find marriage proposals to be frightening.  About a month ago, Travis Pastrana popped the question to his skater girlfriend Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins at the Nitro Circus show in Vegas, and he was so nervous that he wound up doing it earlier than planned.  The video clip is pretty spectacular; leave it to the moto guys to take a more unconventional approach to proposing.  I’m a sucker for romance so here are my top 3 proposals by (or to) FMX riders.

3. Adam Jones gets down on one knee post-competition.
Photobucket Photo from
I was looking through pictures of an WFA contest a few years ago, and I came across a shot of Adam’s proposal. It was so cute that I saved it. Random fact about Adam’s wife (whose name is slipping my mind): she is the girl who smells his armpits in the “double pits to chesty” Axe commercial.

2. Travis Pastrana proposes to Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins on the Mega Ramp.

I’d say that was the best stunt of the night. Congratulations to those two! For a clip of the full proposal, go here.

1. Pink pops the question to Carey Hart in the middle of the race.
Photobucket Photo from People.
I’m a fan of unconventionality, and it was pretty awesome that Pink wrote her proposal on the pit board (plus “I’m serious!”) and then told Carey to go back and race since she wasn’t planning on marrying a “loser”. Recently they welcomed a baby girl, Willow Sage, into their family so congrats to them!

You’ve all heard the news about the destruction the earthquake and tsunami has brought upon Japan.  I lived and taught in the Miyagi Prefecture for a year, and I even went to a surfing competition there.  The beach, located in Koizumi, is probably now filled with debris and corpses.


I am disappointed to see a lack of support from the action sports community. Japan has given us several amazing action sports athletes: snowboarders Kazuhiro Kokubo (who must be going through a rollercoaster of emotions having just won the Burton U.S. Open this past weekend) and Soko Yamaoka, FMX rider Taka Higashino, motocross racer Sayaka Kaneshiro, freeskiier Ryo Shibasaki, and in-line skaters Eito and Takeshi Yasutoko.  It’s time we show our support for them and for a country that embraces action sports.  Please consider donating your money to the American Red Cross or another disaster relief organization.  I have compiled links at my Japanese pop culture blog: click to find the many ways you can help.

This is not to say the whole community has not responded to this tragedy..  Japanese surfer/triathlete and founder of Index Wetsuits Ikki Fujiwara has set up a fund. He has also revealed that Damien and C.J. Hobgood have shown their support. (The computer I’m on right now doesn’t support Japanese characters so I can’t try to figure out what the post says.)

Other athletes have used Twitter to either express their sympathies and/or get fans to donate to Red Cross. Here are just a selection of tweets.

  • Gretchen Bleiler – “Still can’t believe what happened in Japan. Let’s help them out~donate $10 to Japan relief just text REDCROSS to 90999”
  • Steve Caballero – “Japan had an earthquake leaving many without food & NOT ONE case of looting recorded, the world can learn sumthin from these awesome people!” – retweeted by Chad Kagy
  • Ronnie Faisst – “Wow! Praying for everyone in Japan! Hope all my homeboys and there families over there are safe!”
  • Taka Higashino – “Just got land LA from bonjour Japan is now crazy !!! So sad !!!!”
  • T.J. Schiller – “Oh my god – my prayers go out to everyone over there. Be safe!” – He also had a message in Japanese to Ryo Shibasaki and was retweeted by Justin Dorey.
  • Kelly Slater – “wavesforwater is going into action. Trying to find connections in Japan to help any way they can. If you have good info, please tweet them.”
  • Hannah Teter – “HELP JAPAN. I am. Text “Red Cross” to 90999 =$10 on bill, or donate here Save The Children”
  • Shaun White – “My thoughts are with the people of Japan today. I hope all my friends are safe. Contact me when you can please! –”

Listening to: “Hanamizuki” by Yo Hitoto