With the fifth edition of Burton’s Rail Days happening tonight (watch the free live webcast here) – anticipation is building for one of the world’s biggest rail contests in one of the world’s biggest cities – Tokyo, Japan.
So, to get a little taster of the gigantic spread of snowboarding sushi that’s going to get served on Saturday, November 14, we caught up with Zach Aller, the relatively unknown French Canadian amateur, who got a last-minute call to compete in Tokyo 12 months ago, and won the whole damn contest.
Zach, you’re last year’s winner, yet you weren’t even on the original invite list. What’s the story?
I maneuvered my way onto the waiting list and then I think Aleks Østreng got injured, so I got a call from the then Knowbuddy (RIP) TM at midnight two days before the contest. He basically was like, your flight leaves in six hours, are you down? I was down and I was on my first ever Tinder date too. She drove me to the airport and left with my car. I called my job from Tokyo and tried to explain what had happened overnight and took the girl out for a nice steak dinner when I got back.
Was this your first Japan trip? What were your impressions arriving at the arena?
First time in Asia for me! I was blown away by Narita Airport and the drive to Tokyo. Everything I saw seemed to come from another, more advanced planet. Their use of space is so impressive and the people so polite. The arena itself felt like we were competing in a real life video game. All of it was unreal to be honest, start to finish.
How was the setup? It looks intense!
It was pretty intense for sure. We voted to remove one feature which seemed super sketchy. Then at practice I had some fun on the transfer rail, but we had to be real careful not to lose control and ride off to the right, where there were basically two drops down to the flats, like 20 feet [6.1m]. But after making a few modifications, we felt safe and started having fun. The turn between the two rails was a challenge for sure, which is why I think so many people had a hard time sticking a run top to bottom without falling or popping out early. I guess it was just my day, you know – I still have a hard time grasping it.
What’s the Japanese urban scene like?
I honestly don’t know much about it, except what I’ve seen from crews like Deja Vu going over there and coming back with amazing footage. I would love to come link up with a crew there and explore some urban stuff. But I’m not gonna lie: to me, Japan equals powder. I would probably hit a rail or two, then rip it north to the promised land of pow pow.
As last year’s dark horse winner and this year’s defending champ… are you getting nervous?
Now that you mention it… slightly. I’m going over there to have fun and soak it in while I can. I’m super blessed to have people still support what I do and help me get out there. I’ve been super busy with work here and haven’t really had time to get worked up over any pressure. Hopefully the course will be rad and I’m looking forward to seeing the homies again and partying with everyone. I love Japan!
Want to see Zach compete in tonight's event?
Watch the free Burton Rail Days livecast right here: