I think each and every one of us has snickered at the notion that the contest is called natural selection. As a play-on-words, pun junkie myself, I always savored the fact that such an official contest took on such a fun name.
In scientific terms of course, natural selection refers to the survival of individuals due to differences in phenotype. It’s a key process in the theory of evolution. And until this most recent iteration in Revelstoke, the name held a sort of distant, almost pun like meaning. But when I first flew over the pillow stack in a helicopter, I gasped. “Holy shit, someone could actually die here.” I spoke it rather softly compared to whirling rotors into the microphone that protrudes from the over-the-ear headphone. The backset mic wasn’t hot, so I didn’t startle anyone when I said it.
Though none of the riders would flat out say it-if anything from wanting to speak it into existence, you could see it in their face that the thought had crossed their mind too. It’s as if Travis Rice rode into the riders meeting on a tricycle with white face paint on and said in a deep voice, “wanna play a game.”
It’s hard to argue that Travis Rice isn’t the main character in this whole story. He has the air of an early 2000’s movie action sports star. And in an era where there is a discussion that snowboarding is going soft (albeit, maybe true) Travis Rice is doing his absolute best to wrench it in the polar opposite direction. It was a calculated move in providing a contest that was so extreme it was almost funny. Like a satire on what an extreme snowboard contest would look like.
I think the endemic media have an annoying and repetitive rhetoric surrounding the stakes of any event. “This is the gnarliest jump, craziest contest” you know, bullshit like that. This was a rare look into something truly different, and though I was standing at the top of the course during it all, I think it translated on the screen.
Moments like Ben Ferguson scaling a catwalk over a massive wall, a deed that gave him the nickname “batman” by most of us after the event. Though it didn’t work out quite as he planned, it was truly the only way to take out Travis in the first round. Ben’s performance was undervalued I think by many. Or maybe just under-executed, but the strategy was one of the bravest I saw all Day. As Ben Would say later over beers, “you gotta out-rick the rick.” Here’s to trying.
Craven Battled the lines as well, Blake had moments of high-speed charging that were underscored by the judges, Jared Elston chose powerful lines, as did Elena Hight. Mikkel dropped into a tunnel and the whole field worried he would disappear. Zoi Sadowski tried the first 720 of the day and once again showed her prowess. I think Hailey has what it takes to take out Zoi, but Zoi is wired for competition, and Hailey is easy going, which positively results in a flowing, easy to watch style. Elena Hight rode with power and had she just broken the seal on some freestyle, I think we might have seen her take the victory— but for the most intensive understanding of what went down I really suggest you watch it.
And of course contests like this don’t really go off without some judging debate. The biggest one probably being Dustin Craven and Travis Rice in the Semi Finals. And while I side with the notion that Craven had the better runs in Semi finals, Travis kind of shut us all the fuck up in finals by doing two lines that only travis could do. At the end of the day, Travis continues to steam ahead as he aims to promote everyone being gnarly. It’s like his dominant trait in the process of Natural Selection that he is using to weed out the field. Will the others catch up? I reckon Alaska will be the next test.
PHOTOS FROM STAN: