Photography is the most accessible and intelligible language of snowboarding, understood not only by those who ride but also those who don’t but should. It’s not only a catalyst for progression but also a record of how snowboarding has progressed: It can teach and inspire, as well as set benchmarks to which all can aspire, both in photography and riding.
For the majority of us riding has little or nothing to do with competition, unless you count bettering your style while trying to out-spin your friends. But then, as with all things that WE mess with, there are always those who want to win.
There are a number of ways to do this in snowboarding but all equate to the same thing, making a living out of it. And the most direct way to achieve this is through competition; you win, get noticed, collect sponsors and make cash: Making a living box ticked!
I shot this image of 17-year-old flying Finn Kalle Järvilehto hammering a 12 at the O’Neill Evolution, in Davos. Kalle is one of a new clutch of rookies making their way in snowboarding through competition. He is currently ranked 8th in the World Tour rankings for Big Air.
But what relevance does competition have to the mere mortal snowboarder for whom a 12 is the stuff of imagination? Or for that mater how relevant is it to snowboarding-the-scene rather than snowboarding-the-sport?
I put this question to Danny Larsen; a man who has made his living, at least in the last five years, in the realms of film and editorial coverage.
“The way I see it, competitive snowboarding has always and will continue to be a part of snowboarding. People love to measure how good they are compared to others and even if you cut the prize money you would still find a bunch of people competing because that's what they love to do” he replied philosophically."
Do you think it is an incubator for new tricks? I ask.
“For sure, but I still think that real progression happens outside of the competitive circuit. I always compare it to music: Competitive snowboarding is a talent show, or even worse a karaoke contest. Magazines, films and web content on the other hand will focus on what's special about snowboarding, because people always want something new and will keep it alive and fresh. People will find new ways of snowboard, doing tricks, what to do tricks and so on”.
That said the Olympic pipe contest in Vancouver, it was the most watch discipline of the entire games. It has to do some good for the acceptance of at least the ‘sport’ of snowboarding if not the lifestyle.
Whatever your opinion kids like Kalle Järvilehto throwing down 12s is always impressive, whether they be in the backcountry or on a comp booter.
Long live snowboarding in all its guises.
Camera: Nikon D3
Lens: 14-24mm 2.8 @ 24mm
Speed: 1/1000 sec
F-stop: f 4.0
Rider: Kalle Järvilehto
Location: O’Neill Evolution
Photographer: Danny Burrows