Meet the man behind snowboarding’s biggest trick

Get to know Billy Morgan, whose world-first Quad Cork 1800 has got everybody talking.
Billy Morgan poses for a portrait at the Sky Hotel during Winter X Games 18, in Aspen, CO, USA, on 23 January, 2014.
Billy Morgan © Garth Milan
By Jason Horton

Up until yesterday, the Quad Cork 1800 (four off-axis flips with five full rotations) was pure speculation, being the next logical progression in a snowboarding arms race that has been picking up speed of late.

Today, it’s a fact, and UK snowboarder Billy Morgan is officially the first rider in the world to pull off this trick, performed yesterday on a huge, purpose-built jump in Livigno, Italy. But who is Billy Morgan, and what does this represent for snowboarding?

Billy is a witty, half-cocky, half-shy lad from Southampton, England, who began snowboarding at the age of 14 on his local dryslope – an all-season training hill covered with toothbrush-like bristles. A background in acrobatic gymnastics gave Billy an instant advantage in the sport of freestyle snowboarding: his physical strength and air-awareness were already highly developed, and all he needed to do was spend time on snow learning the finer points of board control. By 2010, Billy had picked up a couple of British Big Air titles, then in December 2011 he landed the first-ever Triple Backside Rodeo 1260, becoming an internet sensation and one of the first riders to land a triple at that time. Since then, Billy has been steadily developing the all-round rail and air skills he needs to make it as a top-level Slopestyle rider, representing team GB at the Sochi Olympics, where he placed a respectable 10th.

So far, so normal. But what inspired Billy to make the leap (no pun intended) from a member of the Triple Club to founder of the Quad Club?

Watch Billy Morgan's Quad Cork in slowmo:

Well, for starters, he’s currently nursing a torn ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] in his knee, and is due for reconstructive surgery next week. And while that sounds like a very good reason not to be snowboarding at all, for Billy the impending stint of rehab gave him an extra push to try a trick he’s been thinking about for a long time.

“I knew what I had to do. It was basically just the same as the triple – you’ve just got to hold on for longer and you obviously need more airtime. So more than working out how to do the trick right, it was more about finding the right jump.”

The right jump arrived, just in time, at the Italian ski resort of Livigno, one of Europe’s best snowpark destinations. The jump was built purposefully big and steep for maximum airtime (at least 2.8 seconds of airtime is needed for four full corks) and took 40 hours to machine build and hand shape. As for Billy, he was as prepared as anyone could be for trying something completely new:

“There was no real training for the trick. I had been hoping to go to a diving board and just throw myself over four times just to see what it would feel like. But you need so much airtime to get the feeling that it’s kind of impossible. So I just had to do it in the end.”

And so he did it, first try. As you can see, it wasn’t a perfect landing, but then these things are rarely perfect first time around. The main thing is it’s done: the Quad is a reality, and now Billy and other riders like him can repeat it and perfect it.

See more pics of Billy Morgan:

And, as always in snowboarding when new tricks of technical complexity are added to the list, we’ll hear talk of the sport losing its style, or becoming too dangerous. But the bottom line is, if you don’t progress, you stagnate: progression in snowboarding is inevitable, so we should welcome it. Which leads us to ask Billy… has the limit been reached?

“No way! There’s no reason why people can’t spin around more. Do it off a cliff! As long as you can get the airtime, people will always be out to push boundaries and I love watching people do rad stuff on a snowboard.”

In other words… bring on the Quin!

(Although, on second thoughts, don't try this at home, folks!)

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