Posts Tagged ‘snowboarding’

In a few days, I’ll be in Aspen, but before I jet off, I want to make my predictions.  This year’s Dew Tour surprises made it harder for me to settle on a name.  Here’s what I’m going with:

Ski Big Air – Henrik Harlaut
Men’s Ski Slopestyle – Gus Kenworthy
Women’s Ski Slopestyle – Dara Howell
Men’s Ski Superpipe – David Wise
Women’s Ski Superpipe – Maddie Bowman
Snowboard Big Air – Yuki Kadono
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle – Ståle Sandbech
Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle – Christy Prior
Men’s Snowboard Superpipe – Iouri Podladtchikov
Women’s Snowboard Superpipe – Chloe Kim

I won’t be doing another post until I get back, but I might just do some quick and dirty updates on my Tumblr or Twitter, depending on the internet situation.

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X Games Aspen 2015 has been quite the game changerfor both action sports and for me personally.  I decided to immerse myself in the social media experience and as a result, had the time of my life.  It’s really unbelievable how much social media has changed the X Games experience.  It allows us to connect to fellow fans from all around the world, staff who can give us a behind-the-scenes peek, and even the athletes.  When this year’s competitors weren’t busy Instagramming and Tweeting, they participated in some of the most intense battles for first, resulting in a lot of progression and the changing of guards.

Best Female Athlete – Chloe Kim (Snowboard) Despite some criticism for having to be reminded to grab (let’s just hope she was just nervous), Chloe Kim killed it in the SuperPipe.  She had a natural flow, and she proved to be the toughest high school freshman, winning gold after chipping her tooth in a gnarly crash during practice.

Best Male Athlete – Danny Davis (Snowboard)

As I posted on Twitter, Danny Davis had so much style that even my mom knew he should be in first.  He never lost his cool, throwing down the top-qualifying run at the end of eliminations and edging out a high-flying Taku Hiraoka on his final run.

Newcomer to Watch – Christy Prior (Snowboard)
Taking bronze your first X Games is quite the feat.  Christy Prior had the technical skills and the style to make her Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle one to remember.  She is definitely here to stay.

Most Dramatic Finals – Men’s Ski SuperPipe
The gorgeous sight of the sun disappearing behind the mountains provided a dramatic backdrop of this competition, where the men kept going bigger and harder.  It was cool to see the progression and the emotions, and everybody was on edge over which country would rise to the top (U.S., Canada, or France) until the very end.

Best Trick – Sage Kotsenberg’s Backside 1260 Off the Heels (Snowboard)
Amidst the buzz of Big Air and Spencer O’Brien’s 900, Sage Kotsenberg slipping a new trick with a lot of his signature flair.  He didn’t get nearly enough recognition for innovation so I’m giving it to him here.

Picture Perfect Moment – Yiwei Zhang shoots for the crescent moon.
 photo wxg15-1_zpsvlggpj21.jpg By Christian Murdock/Associated Press.  From sfgate.com
The juxtaposition of the moon and Yiwei Zhang in the Men’s Snowboard SuperPipe elimination gives the shot an out-of-this-world quality.  The spray of snow in the corner is the perfect embellishment, as it is reminiscent of smoke coming from a rocket.

Best Moment Outside Competition – X Games Extra Show

Okay, I may be a little biased since I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ask Chloe Kim a question on the show (and chat about my dad’s office decor with Jack Mitrani off-air).  However, snowboarding fans have long known that Jack and Craig McMorris are a winning duo, and it’s great that X Games has brought them on to show the fun side of the event.

Most Educational Moment – Drones at the X Games
Finally, a use for drones that doesn’t make people cringe!   They’re bringing in a new perspective on the competition, and it will be interesting to see how they change action sports photography.

Greatest Comeback – Nick Goepper (Ski)
After not qualifying for the finals, Nick Goepper could have thrown in the towel.  However, he got in as a last minute replacement and brought his A game.  Sure his victory might have resulted from some good fortune, but it was mostly skill and level head.

Most Inspirational – Chris Devlin-Young (Mono Skier X)
Fifty three-year-old Chris Devlin-Young proved that one should never let age or disability get in the way of the gold.  He won the first Mono Skier X gold and still has the skill to dominate the races.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Simon Dumont (Ski)
 photo wxg15-2_zpsmtfho88a.jpg
By Garth Milan/Red Bull Content Pool.  From redbull.com
Freeskiing would not be where it is without Simon Dumont.  He’s had his ups and down at Winter X, but he always puts on a good show and tries to push the sport.  He could’ve bowed out with the hard slam he took (especially already being injured), but he still gave fans one final show.

I’m bummed that there are still pronunciation issues and name inaccuracies, but hopefully that will improve with him. However, I had a blast dedicating my weekend to the X Games.I wound up only getting four of my predictions for gold right, but I enjoyed the surprises. Congratulations to all the winners and mad props to those who got back up after a hard slam to medal.  I also want to wish a speedy recovery to the less lucky ones: Henrik Harlaut, Levi LaValle, Alex Beaulieu-Marchand, and Mike Schultz.

I’m still riding the high from the X Games Aspen, and I am eager to write my recap.  However, there is a more important topic at hand that needs to be addressed: sexual harassment.  It is a big problem everywhere. I’ve encountered it in high school, in college, at burlesque shows while dressed in lingerie, at anime conventions dressed in business casual, from strangers, from friends, and from authority figures. Therefore this is not something snowboarders are exempt, and that is what enrages some of us about the Arthur Longo video that YoBeat posted.

It’s hard to speak out when you’re in the minority. It’s even harder when women in other male-dominated industries have received rape and death threats for taking a stand against sexism and harassment (see Anita Sarkeesian and Lindy West). Therefore I want to commend two people who took a stand against Arthur’s video.

One reader decides to confront YoBeat about the problematic video.  Her letter is passionate, as sexism is a huge issue in snowboarding (and everywhere else).  She points out that lack of indication that there was any consent.  Maybe if the video had included a message about how everybody in here was a willing participant and that you shouldn’t try this without consent, there would not be as much outrage.  That wasn’t the case.  The writer expresses disappointment that a publication with a female editor-in-chief would promote a video that treats women like crap for clicks and giggles.  I share her feelings and am further disappointed because YoBeat chose to publish the letter with such a dismissive tone and not address the issue hand.

I first heard about it through the blog What It’s Like To Be a Beginning Snowboarder When All of Your Friends Aren’t.  I commend Kate for showing solidarity and reminding the community to lose archaic attitudes about harassment.    It doesn’t matter how much we admire Arthur Longo; it’s not a compliment to be touched inappropriately by a pro snowboarder or anybody else.  Something else Kate points out is the possibility of being labeled as an “angry feminist” for her post.  Although I embrace the title (because women have a right to get mad), I don’t approve of it being used to silence voices that deserve to be heard.  Women are seriously concerned about sexual harassment, and we should listen.

Regardless of intent, the video and YoBeat‘s response to criticism did harm by making the slopes less safe for women.  We need to remember that there are underage riders even at the pro levels, and so not only do we need to protect them, we need to teach them how to respect their fellow riders, no matter what their gender.  It’s okay to have fun, but not at the expensive of others.

I had another post to write, but with the X Games kicking off tomorrow, I wanted to make predictions for some of the events. It’s too fun to not do it. I’m also doing Fantasy Freeride League again (click here – it’s not too late to join).

Ski Big Air – Bobby Brown
Men’s Ski Slopestyle – Gus Kenworthy
Women’s Ski Slopestyle – Emma Dahlström
Men’s Ski Superpipe – David Wise
Women’s Ski Superpipe – Maddie Bowman
Snowboard Big Air – Yuki Kadono
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle – Mark McMorris
Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle – Jamie Anderson
Men’s Snowboard Superpipe – Greg Bretz
Women’s Snowboard Superpipe – Chloe Kim

Last month, I was super stoked to see Yiwei Zhang take second place in Men’s Snowboard Superpipe at the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships. More and more Asian riders are making their way into big contests, and that is fantastic. However, I get a sense of dread in seeing them on TV because there is a high possibility that their names will get butchered. This is something that frustrates me immensely especially when you have someone like Xuetong Cai who has been competing for five years and still has ESPN and NBC confusing her last name for her first name.

That’s just unacceptable. Therefore I have decided to create a pronunciation guide for some well-known Chinese and Japanese snowboarders.  Some sounds don’t translate well into English, but I’ve tried my best to approximate (with links on two difficult syllables).  For more information on how to pronounce Japanese and Mandarin correctly, please check out these pages: So You Want to Learn Japanese? and Yabla Chinese – Pinyin Chart.  NOTE: I’m writing first name, then last.

Japanese male snowboarders

  • Ayumu Hirano = Eye-yoo-moo Hee-rah-no
  • Kazuhiro Kokubo = Kah-zoo-hee-row Koh-koo-boh
  • Kohei Kudo = Koh-hey Koo-doh
  • Ryo Aono = Ree-oh Ah-oh-no
  • Taku Hiraoka = Tah-koo Hee-rah-oh-kah
  • Yuki Kadono = Yoo-kee Kah-doh-no

Japanese female snowboarders

  • Miyabi Onitsuka = Mee-yah-bee Oh-nee-tsu-kah
  • Yuka Fujimori = Yoo-kah Foo-gee-mo-ree

Chinese male snowboaders

  • Yiwei Zhang = Yee-way Zahng

Chinese female snowboarders

  • Shuang Li = Swahng Lee
  • Xuetong Cai = Shue-tohng Tsai
  • Zhifeng Sun = Zh-fung Swen

If you’re still lost, I created a video.  I’m hoping this will give people a better idea of how to say these snowboaders’ names.  After all, we do our best to learn European names so the same diligence should be applied to Asian riders.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for Oakley’s Snowboarding: For Me airing on ABC tomorrow.  At the same time, I’m totally okay missing it due to the lack of ladies in the film.  Oakley has female snowboarders on its team, and while I understand that not everybody can be featured, the documentary approach of the movie make it seem like a glimpse of the community.  Except it doesn’t show any of the top female riders, who deserve as much air time. Moreover seeing a female face will inspire young girls to pick up snowboarding (and companies like Oakley will profit from the new cusstomers).

This makes me thankful that snowboarding has individuals like Danyale Patterson, “Queen of the Too Hard Empire”.  As stated in her recently funded Kickstarter, her Too Hard series is “a [women’s] snowboard project completely run by women snowboarders”.  Danyale and the other JibGurlz prove that female riders aren’t timid, and they are willing to take matter into their own hands to make their own movies. Here is the latest, Too Hard: Tres Hard.

Tres Hard from danyale patterson on Vimeo.

For something that delves more into the mind and lives of female snowboarders, there is Burton’s 2013 WOMEN [SNOWBOARDING]. This is what I imagined Snowboarding: For Me would be like if it consisted of all women although the film does not go nearly as deep in the commentary as I would have liked. It could have had the riders talk more about their inspirations, their struggles, and their goals and less about being “one of the guys”. While that may be the reality of snowboarding and equality is what feminism is about, we don’t want girls to think that they need to hang with the guys or have their approval (just look at the Jib Gurlz). Nevertheless, I’m glad Burton attempted to put the spotlight on their female riders (next time, maybe they could get a full length feature?).

I’m sad that both of these films are under half an hour and will not get the exposure that Snowboarding: For Me will get. Their existence, however, is a shining beacon for feminism in action sports. The women are doing stuff—great stuff—in terms of riding hard, getting it recorded, put out there. We’re hearing their voices, and hopefully more of that will happen in the future because snowboarding is for everyone.

As I was writing my posts about the need for more feminism in action sports, I realized that I could do something about it. Even though I am just a fan, I can use this blog as a platform to promote female athletes who get ignored by big events and to provide resources to girls like me when I started watching the X Games. I decided to kick this new series off with MAHFIA TV not only because I was inspired after featuring Kim Woozy’s TEDTalk, but also because the site is a perfect example of how we can make action sports more feminist.

Kim, a snowboarder, founded MAHFIA TV with video producer Jonathan Villegas after she and some fellow female athletes noticed the lack of media outlets promoting what they do. With the mantra “killin’ it softly”, the site features photos and videos of ladies shredding from Spain to Korea, South Africa to Austin, Texas during the X Games.

mahfiatvphoto

Vanessa Torres. By Nam-Chi Van and Kim Woozy

As a truly comprehensive platform for women in the action sports community, MAHFIA TV brings in other elements of the industry, like music and marketing. Through her MAHFIA SESSIONS series, Kim continues to the conversation on the need for more brands for women, by women in action sports with an emphasis on action (as opposed to posing) and camaraderie.

Check out these interviews with Kim about MAHFIA TV:
GrindTV – “Kim Woozy changing the game for girls in action sports”
Cooler – “This Is Me: Kim Woozy”

Last month, World of X Games aired a special all about female action sports athletes.  It was so refreshing.  As of late, the X Games has started to give women the coverage they deserve. . .  finally.  It was so disheartening to see women’s events diminish throughout the years, and it hurts when my highlights mostly feature men (I think that’s why I started to pay more attention to the winter sports).  There is hope though.  In addition to the “Women of Action” episode, X Games held a Real Women contest to highlight the athletes who for one reason or another, don’t participate in X.  On top of that, female BMX riders were invited to hit the course during one of the practice sessions.

However, we can hope all we want, and that doesn’t change the harsh reality.  The on-line “Women of Action” series speaks of a glass ceiling that is found in any male-dominated field, be it science or skating.  Then there’s the shameful state of women’s motocross about which I’m glad the TV episode covered.  There are many opinions about the issue, but something is wrong when top riders like Ashley Fiolek and Jessica Patterson are dropped by their sponsors because the series promoter has decided to cut pro racing for women.  We’ve seen this before, like when Cara-Beth Burnside was dropped by the company that helped her become the first female skater to have her own shoe.  Vans won’t even deign to put her on their Legends team despite how much she’s done for the sport, and they’re losing a portion of their customers because of it—and the fact that their designs for women’s shoes have become more stereotypically feminine (we’ll discuss this in part 2).

Speaking of skate legends, check out this TED Talk by Cindy Whitehead.

She highlights the day-to-day issues that women—hobbyists, amateurs, pros, and legends alike—face in doing what they love.  The hateful comments and skepticism are what pushed me away from the scene.  To this day, I feel self-conscious going to local events.  Sexism happens on multiple levels, and it’s so ingrained that the action sports community has to make a hard effort to fight it.  Otherwise it will destroy the potential that the sports have to grow while depriving girls of something wonderful.

We’ve seen women ride with the men: Peggy Oki, Fabiola da Silva, Vicki Golden, and Emma Gilmour to name a few.  They make the case for an elimination of gendered events, but here’s the problem: sexism is systemic.  Male athletes get the coverage and sponsors because they are still the main demographic of action sports fans.  As Cindy mentioned, people automatically assume that an action sports athlete is a man.  The stereotypes are that ingrained in our minds, as is the idea that women are physically less capable than men.

In the “Glass Ceiling” article, ESPN asks James Riordon if size and strength really affect how much air you get and how many spins you do.  His answer: “The discrepancy in upper-body strength isn’t enough to hinder spinning. What it comes down to is there is no physics-based reason why men and women aren’t at the same level, at least not at the top level of the sport.”  Maybe there are other physicists who want to refute his statement, but snowboard Kelly Clark, in the same piece, brings up Chloe Kim who evokes comparisons to a young Shaun White.

It is through snowboarding that we see what happens when women are given the chance to show their stuff.  The Olympics have really helped with giving them more exposure, and as a result, other events have to follow suit.  That leads to increase opportunities, which allows the women push themselves further.  Perhaps the brightest beacon comes with Elena Hight’s double backside alley-oop rodeo, the first for a woman or a man and top voted moment in the history of X.
It seems that enough people out there know what a good thing is when they see it, and I’ll hang onto that hope.

To commemorate two decades of competition and innovation, X Games Austin compiled a series of milestones titled “20 Years 20 Firsts”.  Fans could vote on their favorite, and the winner was Elena Hight stomping the first ever double backside alley-oop rodeo.

The list inspired me to create one of my own.  Since this year’s X Games marks my fifteenth year of following the competition (I started watching in 1999), I decided to countdown my top fifteen firsts at X Games.

15. Jake Brown’s 720 in Skateboard Big Air (2007) – The subsequent fall overshadowed his history-making achievement, and while the horror will forever be etched in my mind, Jake’s daring trick deserves to be remembered as well.

14. TJ Schiller’s double cork 1620 in Ski Big Air (2011) – I used to be able to keep up with the math, but then TJ came along and made me wish I had a calculator.  Although he may have had to settle for second, he raised the bar for freeskiing.

13. Eito Yasutoko becomes the first Asian gold medalist in Men’s Vert Skating (2000) – He was the first Asian I saw win an X Games event (I missed seeing Ayumi Kawasaki the previous year).  It gave me something to relate to and proved that action sports is truly global.

12. Tucker Hibbert wins the first Snocross race at X (2000) – Never did I think I would be into snowmobiles, but watching 15-year-old Tucker become the youngest X Games gold medalist, beating out his father in the process, got me interested.
15y15f-12 photo 000204tucker_i_zps80512410.jpg
Photo by Aaron Kores/ESPN.com

11. Ashley Fiolek becomes the first deaf X Games medalist in Women’s Moto X Super X (2009) – Ashley’s story is so inspiring and to see her win showed that with hard work, determination, and skill, you can overcome great odds.

10. Elena Hight’s double backside alley-oop rodeo in Women’s Snowboard Superpipe (2013) – Elena’s achievement proved that gender doesn’t matter, just innovation.  The fact that she won the vote is an encouraging step for female action sports athletes in overcoming the glass ceiling.

9. Zacky Warden’s bike flip backflip to late tailwhip in BMX Big Air (2013) – There are so many things going on in that trick combo that it’s hard to break it down without slow-mo.  The creativity and technicality is mind-blowing.

8. Torstein Horgmo’s triple flip in Snowboard Big Air (2011) – Although it may have been more flip than cork, no one thought a triple anything was possible.  Torstein took the chance and set in motion the events that would change snowboarding.

7. Fabiola da Silva and Ayumi Kawasaki compete in the Men’s Vert Skating (2001) – Thanks to the Fabiola Rule, both ladies’ scores were judged against the men.  Although neither qualified for the finals, it opened doors and foreshadowed Fabiola’s future boundary-shattering accomplishments.
 photo ayumikawasaki_zpsf7a696be.jpg
Ayumi Kawasaki in the prelims. Photo by Bakke/Shazamm/ESPN (from Skatelog)

6. Caleb Wyatt’s no-handed to no-footed backflip on snow in Moto X Best Trick (2004) – As backflips were starting to become the norm, Caleb took it to a whole new level while on tricky terrain.  He shut up all the haters, and heck the whole thing even inspired poetry.

5. Kevin Robinson’s double flair in BMX Vert Best Trick (2006) – Kevin is best known for his flair, and now he’ll be immortalized for doing the first double flair.  The highlight of watching it was telling my mom that this is where the rider we saw a few years back is and having her root for Kevin too.

4. Vicki Golden becomes the first female freestyle motocross competitor in Moto X Best Whip (2013) – When I got into action sports, I fantasized about being the first female FMX rider at the X Games.  People told me it wasn’t possible for any woman to ride with the boys, but Vicki proved them wrong.

3. Travis Pastrana’s double backflip in Moto X Best Trick (2006) – This was the first time I remember being completely unsure of the outcome because a double backflip on a dirt bike seemed so far-fetched.  The suspense, the glorious payout, and the mutual admiration of both fans and non-fans alike made this one of the best moments ever.
 photo travis-pastrana-double-backflip-xgames_zpsc0ba4b4a.jpg
Photo by Christian Pondella/Red Bull Photo Files (from Motorcycle-USA)

2. Travis Pastrana wins the first Moto X gold (1999) – I had to put Travis twice because if it weren’t for him, I would have never gotten into FMX and be where I’m at.  He was the perfect ambassador for this new sport, and the rest is history.

1. Tony Hawk’s 900 in Skateboard Best Trick (1999) – This was the other moment from X Games that changed my life forever.  The sheer determination, coupled with the support from his fellow skaters and the disregard for competition rules, summed up what action sports was all about and inspired me to never give up.

I used to think that being an action sports fan would put me at odds with being a lifetime environmentalist.  It was so hard to engage in a proper dialogue with my fellow FMX lovers because they only ever saw environmentalists as “the enemy” trying to deprive them of the opportunity to ride; it was equally difficult to bring up dirt bikes in a conversation about protecting the earth.  Once I asked my ecology teacher whether dirt bikes were really that bad, and she said the damage was in going off-course into protected land, not in pollution.

These days, I see a step forward with the shift to cleaner four-stroke engines, but motocross needs to catch up with the rest of the action sports community in embracing a greener lifestyle.  Enough about the negatives though.  Let’s properly celebrate Earth Day by focusing on how action sports enthusiasts are also environmentalists.

Surfrider Foundation began with three Malibu surfers trying to save First Point.  Now the organization works to protect coastal and ocean ecosystems in eighteen countries through research, education, and activism.  Their programs are proof that everybody who loves water can co-exist as they promote sustainable living, public beach access, gardening methods that reduce run-off pollution, and ways to improve water quality.

The Surfrider Foundation's publication

The Surfrider Foundation’s publication

This past weekend, surfers in Bali got together for the final Beach Clean Up event.  Staff members from Quiksilver, Surfer Girl, Coca-Cola Amatil Indonesia, and other organizations worked with locals, journalists, and surfers to pick up over three thousand kilograms of trash over the course of the four events.

Snowboarders have shown just as much initiative with Marie-France Roy making a movie about her environmentally conscious peers and Jamie Anderson and Elena Hight promoting eco-friendly clothing.

The X Games also took to promoting REPREVE’s water bottle-made beanies.

I was a bit worried over the environmental impact of Red Bull Supernatural, but I should have known better.  Travis Rice and Red Bull actually brought in a forester and a biologist to make sure the event wouldn’t do any harm.  When concerns were raised about the local pine population, the builders made sure not to cut down any.  This is a perfect example of how to build a course without negatively impacting natural habitats.

In reaction to the impact of climate change on winter sports, Jeremy Jones, one of the riders featured in Roy’s film, created Protect Our Winters (POW).  Last year, the non-profit petition for President Obama to abandon the Keystone XL pipeline in favor of more renewable energy sources.  Various winter sports athletes banned together via POW to form the Riders Alliance, and their activism caught the attention of The Sierra Club, just in time for the Olympics.  POW actually utilized the publicity generated by the Olympics to raise awareness on climate change, and they’ve partnered with North Face to educate students.

Also featured in Sierra Club publications is Bob Burnquist.  He’s the co-founder of the Action Sports Environmental Coalition, which played a role in the X Games’ early efforts to go green.  He has worked with Chipotle, Whole Foods, and Oakley to promote sustainable living.

The ASEC site hadn’t been updated in a couple of years, but I hope they’re still active.  Regardless of where you choose to practice your sport, it’s important to consider the environment and protect the earth.  If even it’s something small like picking up after ourselves (and our friends) and not using plastic bottles, we as a community can help make a difference.  Happy Earth Day!