Redemption. That’s the word that came to my mind after staring at the TV for 5+ hours last night so intensely that I forgot to breathe. The Natural Selection Tour managed to deliver, once again, the dream. Something that nobody, until now, would dare to even attempt to say out loud, let alone going for it and making it happen.
I have stayed quiet throughout the Duels, and I think I haven’t been the only one, because despite having enjoyed some very great riding in the clips, they fell a bit short of the expectations the NST had set the previous years. And of course, you can’t fault the team for not trying if the resort decides to pull off when it’s too late to find a new venue. There is not much you can do and I still think it was a very nice save. But that’s what it was: a save to get those qualified riders through.
To watch the whole Dules process felt a bit boring to be honest. And it’s a shame because it’s great content. They display sick riding that in any other context we would be soooo excited to watch. But in this case, the NST was its own enemy. I can only imagine that the Team and Travis himself know this, but they had a bigger goal to focus on.
So, if we fast forward to yesterday in Revelstoke: HOLY.FUCKING.SHIT. Who in their right mind would allow or even ask permission to do a LIVE contest in a place like that?
They say Revelstoke, but make no mistake, it’s far and beyond passed any lift or easy access. And whilst bringing a handful of pro riders out there might be rather easy, to set up a production to share the action in real time, with multiple angles and multiple drones, and with commentators thousands of kilometers away who can only rely on the same feed as everyone else, it’s a huge undertaking.
I was about to say a gamble, but there is definitely no gambling element in any of this, except perhaps the weather and snow conditions, because everything else has required an insane amount of planning, testing, designing, re-thinking and problem solving. And still the unexpected could, and did happen, I am sure.
But, can we rewind back to a moment to the selection of the terrain? I still haven’t found the words to describe it, whether it’s insanity, wishful thinking, a vision or a combination of all of the above. To be able to have the audience on the edge of their seats for almost 5 hours of snowboarding is just a slight indication of how good the conditions were, the spectacularity of the terrain, the quality of the display and most importantly of the insane level of riding all of the athletes delivered.
We have all watched dozens and hundreds of amazing snowboard videos. But these handful of riders delivered the same amount (or more!) of riding when it comes to technicality, exposure, preparation, performance, creativity and beautifulness in A CONTEST RUN! With the pressure, the whole snowboarding community watching you go through that process live whilst they were trying to find their way through the cliffs towards the finish line.
I must confess that my favourite runs were the first ones in the qualifications, there were some amazing ones afterwards of course, but in the first heat is when you saw every single one of the riders put their brain and body to work. It was just an incredible thing to watch, and I still can’t get my head around how system shifting this event is. Jackson Hole’s sidecountry was a great show. But this is what I would think was their intention all along.
And before I finish this opinionated and not very objective ramble I just want to point out what Natural Selection has done and will do to female snowboarding, but more specifically what this specific contest at Revelstoke has done for female snowboarding.
I think the big key here is again the terrain selection. This dreamy and scary pillow filled face had something for everyone. And by that I don’t mean us the Jerrys, I mean for them, the pros. Whilst the Travis-like geniuses were able to ride left and right, display freestyle tricks and gnarly pillow navigating lines, the venue also gave the opportunity to find endless combinations of more radical or more flowy approaches and even the combination of both.
I think this face was a challenge for all riders, but if we are talking about women, I think it was super challenging for them, but I also believe that it was a place that allowed them to build up their confidence and progress their snowboarding run after run. Adding an extra tweak, and extra drop, an extra spin. And of course you can build up on your runs on an easier face, but, this one kept them in check. There was no easy way out, so their focus and concentration had to be on point.
We heard many of them say that more than physically, it was mentally exhausting. Bringing your ‘A game’ to every single turn is not an easy feat. And yet, these amazing women delivered, progressed and showed that the only way is up (well, okay, the only way is down, but you know what I mean).
At the very end of the live stream show Hana Beaman explained how for this new generation of women the limits aren’t presented in the same way and they see challenges as opportunities. I believe that that’s not only true, but it’s true because of events like this, because of willing allies that enable the powerful sources of talent. And for that I am grateful and really excited to see what’s next.
One last thing: congratulations to all the NST team for such a great achievement and statement of what is possible. The only tricky part is that now the expectations are bigger than ever before!
PS: Not even going to bother to tell you who won. Just go and watch it yourself. You must!