Pre-Party: Surf Journalist locks into mountain birthright ahead of Natural Selection, the world’s greatest, and only, professional big mountain extravaganza!


The sun rose late in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on February 1, bathing this pre-redemption Narnia tableau in sparkling glory. C.S. Lewis’s classic starring four brothers and sisters, talking fawns and beavers, a lion, witch and wardrobe was one of my very favorite books growing up. That admixture of adventure, eternally high stakes, children with swords, bows and arrows set my young heart racing though I didn’t understand how a world perpetually snowy was a bad thing.

I lived on the Oregon coast where it rarely snowed but perpetually rained.


I dreamed of snow, of Turkish Delight produced by dropping magic driplets from a horse-drawn sleigh into it, cozy fur blankets and, twice a year, when my family drove inland for weekends at Hoodoo Ski Bowl were absolute highlights even though there was neither Turkish Delight nor cozy fur blankets for Hoodoo’s motto spoke to my family’s ethos.

Steep, deep and cheap.

When it was time to finally escape coastal Oregon’s gloom for good, I raced to southern California then Australia then back to southern California, becoming a famous surf journalist along the way, but the snow, the mountains, haunted my dreams.

Maybe it was genetic.

My uncle-cousin is a legend in mountaineering lore. Art Gilkey, who was raised in Iowa but moved to a farm outside of Portland, Oregon after graduating university, was an early Alaskan explorer and part of the third American expedition to K2 in 1953. Their exploits, captured vividly in The Savage Mountain, detail feats of bravery, comradery, skill that are rarer and rarer in our lily-livered modernity.

The team got pinned down by a vicious storm before summiting, Gilkey developed deep vein thrombosis and cut himself loose on descent, which featured a miracle belay, to save the others. His body was discovered in 1993 melting out of glacier on the base of the mountain.

Absolutely epic.



There’s something about the mountains, something about how they peel away softness, weakness, pronounced lack of will.

Artifice is laid bare, here, then abandoned because what good are our social pivots and postures when life and death hang in the balance?

I am currently wearing a pair of Kith x Moncler horse hair cheetah print alpine boots ready to cover Natural Selection’s kick-off, snow-ensconced, and its coterie of un-lily-livered men and women conquering a mountain with flair, style and bottled fear.

Tomorrow you shall meet the chosen few.

My feet shall remain luxuriously warm but also ready for anything.

Rising Sun: Japan’s Yuto Totsuka beats Australia’s Scotty James in X-Games halfpipe final with America’s Shaun White sitting out claiming injury!

A good idea, delayed.

In the very early days of World War II, Japan’s Imperial Navy was so dominant on the high seas that a proposal was floated to invade northern Australia. Captain Sadatoshi Tomioka, the head of the Navy General Staff’s Planning section, argued that the United States was likely to use Australia as a base to launch a counter-offensive in the South-West Pacific. He suggested the invasion could be carried out by a small landing force as this area of Australia was lightly defended and isolated from Australia’s main population centers.

There was not general support for this proposal within the Navy, however, and Isoroku Yamamoto, the commander of the Combined Fleet, consistently opposed with his position carrying the day.

Hindsight, being 20-20, would indicate that Japan should have, in fact, invaded Australia but at least, 80 years on, it came to fruition with Japan’s Yuto Totsuka beating Australia’s Scotty James in Aspen, Colorado to win X-Games gold in the men’s halfpipe.

America’s Shaun White sat out claiming boo-boo.

“After talking with the medical staff, decided that pushing through would only make things worse,” he posted to Instagram. “It’s a difficult decision to make, but just need to give my knee some time to recover and I’ll be back soon.”

Yuto threw two 1400s, James did not and Captain Sadatoshi Tomioka is smiling from the grave.

Very cool.

America’s Jamie Anderson took gold in Big Air and will be invading Jackson, Wyoming for Natural Selection in the next few days.

USA, USA, etc.

More as the story develops.

Breaking: John Jackson wins coveted wildcard entry into Natural Selection all thanks to surf journalist looking to repay his debts!

Ledger clean.

I am not a “joiner” or “doer.” Likely a product of my Generation X upbringing where showing care about anything at all was deeply uncool, I have never once voted for a “rider of the year,” “clip of the year,” “moment of the year” or “move of the year” across any of our extreme sporting genres. I see the “fan favorite” contests on social media, the pleas for mercy, and steadfastly ignore.

No, I have never once voted until just days ago when I fiddled onto Red Bull’s website to press that button for John Jackson, sending him to Natural Selection as a wildcard and repaying a near-decade old debt.

For it was a near-decade ago that I was in Reno, Nevada with my new wife, her eight-year-old daughter and her brand-new Christmas puppy named Hashbrown. We had spent a happy holiday in Squaw but it was time for the dear child to rejoin her father and his family back home in San Diego. My wife and I were due in San Francisco.

The drive from Squaw to Reno had been uneventful save a growing nervousness in the child, who had never flown by herself before and never with a puppy, certainly not one named Hashbrown.

Sensible concern.

My wife and I tried to comfort her and she put on a brave face but as we wheeled her luggage into the terminal, the discomfort was palpable and heart-wrenching, made worse by the airline employees informing us that she was too young to fly with a puppy alone.

Right as tears began to bubble, John Jackson strode in also flying to San Diego. The very picture of a happy dirty hippie. He stopped to chat with my wife, she explained that it would be the child’s first solo flight and also first with Hashbrown and that the airline was gumming up the works.

John Jackson beamed and said, “I’ll take her!” And without a second thought signed up to be her guardian, putting his arm around her, picking Hashbrown’s kennel up and strolling through the gate with a smile.

The clouds parted.

That night, after landing, my wife called her daughter who recounted how enjoyable the trip had been, and how safe she felt, all thanks to John Jackson.

A near-decade on, that same John Jackson is headed to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to participate in Natural Selection, the vey picture of a happy dirty hippie, because his beautiful selflessness and my first ever vote.

Debt repaid.

Lower Trestles local, phenom Hailey Langland, gold medal threat in Slope Style at X-Games: “I grew up on the coast and actually started snowboarding before I even started surfing!”

Fate is a glorious thing.

San Clemente, California, is known for its robust surf and skate scenes but less snow for professional snowboarders on the cusp of hammering their stamp on the wide world of actions sports but 2020/21, amirite?

And let us meet 20-year-old Hailey Langland who is currently in Aspen, Colorado ahead of this weekend’s X-Games.

Hailey, who should, by rights, be out at Lowers just getting it was instead put on a different track by her prescient parents and dragged up to Big Bear at the tender age of five.

“They tried to get me started on like this tiny, tiny snowboard that was like bigger than I was,” she told Fox 5 News. “It never really ended. We just kept going and I kind of fell in love with it, which is crazy because I grew up on the coast and I actually started snowboarding before I even started surfing.”

Prescient parents seeing as, if she started surfing first, Langland would be saddled with the World Surf League as her competitive outlet.

In any case, she will compete in Slope Style today, as opposed to wishing World Surf League CEO Erik Logan a speedy recovery from his season-breaking Covid-19 diagnosis.

“I feel pretty good,” she said. “I have been riding really well this season, comparatively to the last few seasons and I’m really excited to see where this winter’s going to take me. I feel really good and I’m just happy to be back in Aspen.”

Watch on ESPN tonight.

Modern Miracle: Snowboarder saves himself by calling girlfriend, snapping selfie, after getting trapped in backcountry avalanche!

We live in the future.

Selfies have become a cultural cancer, what with folk obsessively turning cameras back on themselves to capture every last expression, but in snowy British Columbia selfies can also save lives and let us learn the very wonderful story of a snowboarder out alone in the backcountry near Cypress Provincial Park.

It is there that an avalanche trapped him, burying him to the waist, but he was able to retrieve his phone and call his girlfriend who, in turn, called the police. The man then snapped a photo of his location allowing rescue teams to spot him from the air and scramble a ground team which pulled him out hours later.

A doctor on the scene declared he was in serious, but stable, condition with a fractured pelvis and other injuries.

North Shore Rescue team leader Mike Danks said the whole business was very complex involving avalanche experts, a doctor, an emergency room nurse, paramedic and multiple rope rescue teams as well as ski patrol.

He added when in backcountry trouble the first call should be to 911.

Not the girlfriend.