By Keenan Cawley
I was trying to understand the heart of a quarterpipe - what lie underneath the stoic shell of the structure. At its core, beneath the mushy blue coping: a mound of snow. Frozen. Its belly was impenetrable, even to 20 foot dive-bombs and edge-mishaps. In that sense, it wasn’t unlike a monolith. For the day, at least. But it would crumble. How could something so blatant, something so visibly intimidating and apathetic, simultaneously breakdown the boarders riding it and itself? The quarterpipe, at this stage especially, operates on a different spectrum altogether; the quarterpipe followed a framework of its own, and if one wished to “unlock” the potential of the quarterpipe, they had to follow suit. It became evident to me that the basic principle for understanding the humanity behind the monster was faith.
But faith is a touchy subject. Not ‘touchy’ as in ‘uncomfortable’ but rather physically. Faith is the culprit of endless grabbing; endless because when you think you’ve got hold of it, you realize it slipped through your fingertips and you’ve got to try grasping at it again. Maybe it was snow you held that liquified from your persistent palm. Maybe your tail wiggled loose from your clutch, catching you off-guard or off-track, regardless: distracted. Maybe you dropped in from higher but subconsciously fidgeted on the in-run. Or maybe you didn’t waver at all; maybe you believed whole-heartedly in your faith. And maybe you flew.
So where was this faith coming from? I couldn’t ask the quarterpipe; a major issue in understanding it stemmed from the fact that it was mute. That left the riders. Like the heroes and heroines on their journey, cogs clicking in a riddle-machine, call-in contestants in a radio giveaway, they all had their own impetus. I asked them where they put their faith when approaching the quarterpipe: was it with God (read: ~God~, ‘god’, or ‘self’) or with Science?
The snowboarders, by large, had their answers ready. There were no surprises because I, being an actual novice to the feature, had no assumptions. Max Warbington answered “Science” and then proceeded to do a fs 900, a grasser revert, and a staple gun. His precision backed up his theory, without a doubt. Then Hunter Goulet answered “God” and shot fs airs, and one bs nosegrab in particular, to the top of the markers. His belief, just like Max’s, made sense to me. A possible distinction there (height vs technicality) was debunked by Windham Miller (who could’ve been answering to the sobriquet “Shaun Palmer”) as he was seen blasting Japan airs in the same range despite placing his faith in Science.
Similarly juxtapositional were Reid Smith and Justin Phipps; Reid’s “Hollow thy skull” notion had him fs invert pretzeling in the face of Phipps’ Science-driven andrecht pretzel. The only consistent thread I noticed was that the women, nearly across the board of my sample, declared Science as the force behind them, all the way from Taylor Elliott’s bs plants on the Liquid Death extension to Ellie Weiler’s cripplers and McTwists.
The true answer gave way in the last 30-or-so minutes of the championship. The clouds blew in on a more-constant breeze, the sun disappearing in gray. The crowd grew larger due to rising action; both passers-by and self-tapped riders choosing to pile up and gaze at the “Super Finals.” Queralt Castellet and Summer Fenton performed a beautiful doubles act (a giant method and bs 540, respectively) and then Yuki Kadono, Kolman LeCroy, and Raibu Katayama began to push for the sky. All three screamed downhill and soared through the wind. The answer hit me when Raibu landed his final air. Throughout the day, some riders had attempted to smear the already-hazy line between God and Science, however none suggested that the question itself was flawed. Everyone who chose to hike up and strap in descended with their own nugget of faith. It didn’t matter where you placed it - in Science, God, yourself, Frank Wells, the crowd, your board - what mattered was that you had it.
And Raibu and Queralt certainly had it. They were declared the new World Quarterpipe Champions. Ellie Weiler and local hero Teddy Rauh were awarded Best Time with shimmering Nixon watches. And where had they put their collective faiths? Does it matter? The quarterpipe didn’t care. Especially not about me and my little notebook. All it was was snow and snow’s just water. Mysterious water, changing shapes, rumbling and moaning, aching and dementing to be exorcised. I went back to the site the day after. The quarterpipe was gone. It hadn’t crumbled but, like monolithic installations of the internet-past - and as fate would have it - it vanished. As far as I’m concerned, its disappearance had nothing to do with God or Science.
Thank you to Dakine, Mammoth Mountain, Liquid Death, 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Ikon Pass, Sun Bum, Nixon and James Brand for all their support!