It was preying on my mind. I’m sure it was preying on your mind too. Ever since the clip released in July 2010 of Torstein Horgmo’s “Triple Cork”, I was thinking: Is this going to blow the doors off again? Is flip-to-win the new spin-to-win? Has it been pushed too far? I’ll confess, (sorry Torstein) I thought it was pretty ugly. Very clean but a bit wrong. I’m not going to go into the semantics of what a corked spin is yet but it looked very flippy to me. But he had his feet above his head three times before he landed and rode away, and apparently this had never been done before, so massive props to Torstein.
The footage screamed out across webland and sent reverb throughout the snowboard world. Competitive Snowboarders are a .... well... competitive bunch of guys and you do not want to be left playing on the old pitch when someone has picked up the goalposts and moved to another part of the park (just ask Chas Guldemond). The Race was on for all the other big air contenders to get after the triple too. The timing of the Torstein Triple release was interesting. Traditionally (and you guys can correct me if I’m wrong) these monster tricks get laid down in the spring because thats when resorts and sponsors can put down sufficient resources to build the massive jumps required for riders to practice and nail them for their video parts. In the winter months the comp schedule means there isn’t very much time to push these kind of tricks out of the ideas box and into the toolbox. Seeing this footage in July meant that nobody was going to have time to practice it before the X-Games...
Ahhhh the X-Games. It was made for this type of thing. A massive TV audience witnessing something that had never been done before. It was amazing to watch. Torstein knew that the only way he was going to win the big air was to land his Trip Cork. Seb Toots had his doubles on Lockdown. Stylee and scarily consistent. Torstein kept missing his triple. Why? The jump was really too small to be doing it on. At 75’ its not the kind of monster booter that riders are normally able to land this kind of crazyness on. The most interesting thing for me was seeing how he kept changing the rotations each attempt to try and get that third flip in. In the end, seeing him land it (hand down man down?) was amazing. I jumped off the couch. There was no way he couldn’t win with that. The ‘never seen in competition before’ goes a long way. Generally it takes another ‘never seen in competition before’ trick to beat it. And for the reasons above, that wasn’t going to happen. So he didn’t land it cleanly, and it wasn’t really a cork, it was a flip... I didn’t care. Did I? ....This is where I need to point out that a ‘cork’ is a ‘corked spin’ its not a flip. All it requires to be a cork is for you to be spinning and for your spin to be off axis, like when a spinning top starts to loop in big circles as its about to come down. Torstein wasn’t really spinning, he was flipping. Those last two flips had no other rotation... Coming back to the real world, no I didn’t care. The triple had entered competition and one thing was clear: If you were the only one to land it you were going to win. Over the course of the rest of the 2010/2011 season, several other videos came out with the young guns landing their triples. This includes (but not limited to) Sebastein Toutant and Mark Mc Morris. Other guys have landed them too and I read in one magazine how many riders now have them. I don’t remember either the magazine or how many other riders. But it was significant. The doors had indeed been blown off.
Onto my second question: Is flip-to-win the new spin-to-win? It pretty much already was. I alluded to it earlier about Chas Guldemond. He flat out said he wasn’t able to go upside down twice and although still competing he was having real trouble retaining his place at the top of the comp tree. He went away, worked hard and got his doubles. Late on at the end of the season he won an amazing and much deserved Gold at X Games Europe Slopestyle with the highest score ever posted in X Games Europe. Props. Essentially the Triple is the new Double. Soon you won’t be able to win unless you do one. But one thing may stand in the way of this: the course design.
Image copyright of WillBremridge | www.willbphoto.com
Torstein had a mighty struggle getting upside down three times on the X Games kicker. That was on real snow, at night (fast snow). Lots of the Big Air comps around the world are in city centers on scaffold jumps and I’d be very surprised if it were possible to get the air time on those. So competitions will have to build bigger jumps if they want to see triples go down at their event. Will they? Can they? Aren’t they building the biggest they can right now? I don’t know, I’m not an insider in this world but I’ve asked a man who is. He asked to remain anonymous but when asked if jumps would be changed to accommodate triples he said: “Yeah, steeper, poppier takeoffs. Maybe at first just the third jump in a triple line, but it's gonna happen. More than likely this season. (Its) just a matter of time. Guarantees McMorris, Toots and Torstein will throw it it a line if the jump is right. And considering they can ask for changes to the jumps, it'll happen.” There you have it. It doesn’t even sound that hard does it? And it opens up the slopestyle contests too. Maybe I’ve had it all wrong... but if anything it will reinforce the primacy of those able to nail the triples even more.
In the end, the question of whether we see competition jumps changing is one of economics. Will it make you more money if people land triples in your competitions? I’m going out on a limb here. If the comp isn’t on TV then there is no chance they’ll build jumps big enough to do triples. Because (and I do realize I’m generalizing) its the TV audience and not snowboarders who are driving this. Sure riders want to progress and we want to see the best guys in the world killing it but its those outside the bubble who want to be awed by the spectacle. They want to see things which have never been done because its a definitive measure of quality when they have no other way to measure quality. That’s why everyone knows who Shaun White is. He wins things: He MUST be the best. The Flip side of the comp circuit is for events which are about the riders. They are focused on having fun and being inventive. Recently I was really stoked on footage from the Dew Hut Jam on Mt Buller, Australia. Aussie riders getting rad, being inventive and killing it. Still progression but it just looked fun. The Burton Stash Gathering is also almost universally loved. These are lower profile events where entrants and core riders get really excited. Its because we can see the complexities of the tricks in more subtle tones than “a triple is better than a double.” You see really sick stuff going on and riders feel that they can throw down more risky tricks (especially on rails) because it will get some serious recognition from the crowd, fellow riders and the judges.
There is room for all. There has to be. One end of the scale needs the other. The rider’s comps need the TV comps to keep money flowing into snowboarding (all those gapers on the hill pay to keep your park open) and the TV comps need the rider’s comps to keep pulling through new talent and keep core riders involved.
So the final part of my initial musings: Has the triple cork pushed things too far? It’ll never be too far. You will never stop progression (it was stupidly suggested by Christine Brennan after Kevin Pearce’s terrible injury) and until the jumps get so big that the pros won’t hit them we will keep adding more and more rotations and corks/flips to the trick lists. Plenty of comps on the circuit will never build kickers big enough to throw down triples on. Some of these will be big flashy events and many will be rider led progression sessions aimed at the core. I have no doubt that big comps, on TV, will build kickers big enough to safely land real triples. Whether it happens this season or not, we shall find out soon enough.