It's all about learning to board on Snö

Snowboarders: Street kids of the snow world or just treated like it

The Taunting Pyrenees

So technically I can’t complain, writing this blog I’m sat in 30 degrees heat with a beautiful view of the Pyrenees …but I swear those snowcapped mountains are taunting me slightly and the fact my chances of getting hayfever for 2 months are that much slimmer in the mountains, it only makes me want the snow more (seriously the summer so far has been very snotty!). Whilst trying to further satisfy my fever to return to the snow (Snowboard to Skateboard: ‘Ow’ is this de-evolution?) I’m starting to dive further into snowboarding in the UK, well trying at least it ain’t easy my friend! It seems most major British snowboarding entities lie hidden within ski clubs and teams with the exception of SCUK  although, their news stories are still full of the two planks rather than one!

I guess what I’m noticing is the attitude to almost keep snowboarding back, with the pretence of aiding it to move forward, a good old fashioned ‘know your place’ ….Lets give a little money to the street kids hanging out by the slopes and we leave looking good, yet they can’t take over our mountain.

Is this what’s holding snowboarding back…
It’s very interesting to read retrospectively about 19yr old Jamie Nicholls ‘Twitter swear’ incident whilst he was out training with the GB team in January. Paddy Mortimer the Director of BSS (Whiteline’s give a good account here) seemed to sum up our British snowboarders fears in two tweets, the keywords being ‘funded’ and ‘try-out’…the implication is that by jokingly swearing at a team mate, Jamie could have his funding withdrawn and be dropped from the team… and he was surprised at the backlash from the snowboarding community!!!

Paddy’s response to the incident was actually much more cringe -worthy for me,  not only did colleagues have to point it out why he was wrong, but his first line of defence was that he comes from a ‘team sport’ and furthermore he goes on to say that the ‘middle-classes’ who fund the sport don’t want that sort of language. Who is this guy a Cricketer from the 19th Century! He apologises for the platform he chose to express his opinion but not for what he said. Would the alternative be to wait for Jamie to return home with pitchforks at the ready. Crikey your home country should be your basecamp, and yes I agree you are representing the country (though only potentially as the second tweet points out), but I think ‘retaining a stiff upper lip at all times’ and removing any spark of personality from a country’s team is pretty mean for a guy who proposes he was taken on as he comes without previous baggage.

TDF Foix

…Now I’m not someone who likes swearing, or even tends to swear a lot myself and admittedly in the public eye recently poor Laura Robson came under-fire at Eastbourne for letting slip a few fleeting swear words during the competition. But its also a different sport with a different culture, has Bradley Wiggins’s or Mark Cavendish’s use of bad language held them back from succeeding in the Tour de France or the Olympics?

It doesn’t surprise me to learn that opinions in the British Snowboarding arena are quite conflicted, with suggestions that snowboarding plays second fiddle to the more established skiing, more through preconceived ideas rather than anything else. It would be a real shame if the snowboarders turned away from participating for their country, hopefully they’ll stick it out and help push through the out-dated regimented collective in favour of being true to the heart of snowboarding.

I do get that snowboarding is still the new kid on the block and that predominantly snowboarders from the UK fund a lot of their trips with the help of sponsors. I’m also aware that without this initial support from the ski clubs and skiers that snowboarding in the UK would be struggling even more. But I do also think that snowboarding has become a snow sport in its own right and there are some amazing youngsters coming through (Tom Farrow and Jen Osborne to name but a few).

…Wait there’s more
There is another element! I’ve noticed that the way the sport is pushed in the UK is quite different, there is no pack element, most British boarders are pushed out there on their own like lone wolves, in comparison to their European or American counterparts, who mix and match in groups and get out across the world to chase snow. This is quite odd as all the UK boarders do have a community and group of friends that support them at their home ground, however in practice and competition they are sent out alone. I guess maybe the overall standards are just not quite there yet, and that the pack push is more down to commercial sponsors. I’ll be honest and say its taken a bit of time for me to see past the commercial brands that are splashed absolutely everywhere. At first I found it most annoying, but as I have become more aware of the snowboarding world, it has made me switch on to just how important they are to the development of the sport and advancement of individual snowboarders. Maybe the nations snowboarding coaching team need to take on some more commercial sponsor ideas to keep the sport moving onwards.

I guess what I’m trying to say is building up a false image of the sport may create initial funding, but it also kinda rips out the heart of the snowboarders passion for the snow. From my little experience on the slope what drives the boarders is the community it has around it, feeding on the hunger to improve but also sharing the knowledge to include everybody in the growth. Sharing the experience, as the ‘street kids’ or local boarders currently do on the dry and indoor slopes, can surely only make the sport stronger and maintain its current momentum.


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August 2013
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