Official: Natural Selection will run tomorrow morning with the world’s best snowboarders attacking the world’s best professional snowboard contest!

The horror, the horror.

I woke up at 4:30 this morning with a terror pulling me slowly then quickly from sweet slumber, viciously. That sort of full-bodied terror that takes multiple minutes to semi-recover. Shortness of breath. Picking up the phone to check the time every three minutes. Heavy questioning of one’s life choices. Full knowledge that sleep would never return.


The reason for this horror?

Manic from being part of a press junket unseen in professional surfing since the early 2000s, I excitedly signed up for the following morning’s early tram guided backcountry tour with a heavy crew of legendary snowboard journalists and snowstorm expected to hit that night.

A dream while floating on a cloud of very fine beer and sausages, all complimentary.

A nightmare at 4:30.

My experience with fresh powder backcountry was tomahawking down hills behind a Make-a-Wish kid with Travis Rice as guide and my loving wife almost reaching her breaking point.

Sure, I learned from my shame and willed myself into what I imagined passed as acceptable form, cutting into the trees every now and then, finding a quadrangle untracked slightly off a groomer, but that form had never been truly tested since.

Even worse, I’ve made it my life’s work to shame VALs on the world’s most anti-depressive surf website BeachGrit.

Vulnerable Adult Learners.

Those who pick up surfing, or any extreme sport, late in life and make a mockery of the whole business by having no internal gauge on how, when, where they should do.

What they should wear.

I have a pair of Kith x Moncler cheetah print alpine boots.

I don’t have a backpack with transponder, shovel, poles, airbag.


Thankfully the greatest custom snowboard maker in the world, Mikey Franco, lives in Jackson Hole and my loving wife hooked up the backpack though I, still high on a pillow of fine beer and sausages, insisted I’d be ok with my young daughter’s sequined unicorn backpack filled with American Girl Doll clothes.

I picked it up an hour before the tram was set to depart, awake and terrified for three hours prior.

Getting into the tram line, I gingerly asked legendary snowboard journalist Drew Zieff where I should put my transponder, when to pull the ripcord on the airbag that would, theoretically save me from avalanche burial.

A complete VAL.

An utter VAL.

Tram up, terrified, sitting in lodge at top while snow and wind whipped outside, terrified, whole crew gathering including the legendary snowboard journalist Colin Wiseman, terrified.

Guides, wonderful and friendly, knowledgeable, speaking to the general knowledge of the heavy crew not me.

Then it was go time. I traversed behind, dropped in to a bowl and….

….had more fun than I have ever had in my life.

Straight VAL fun.

The best thing I had ever done in my entire life and I didn’t care if my arms were akimbo, legs unbent, dumb, dumber and kooky. I was loving every entire second and loved the next drop and the next drop and the next drop through the trees even though I can’t pick a line to save my life.

Snowboarding is the greatest extreme sport on earth, truly, and I’m a VAL for declaring in my hideous VAL style but it just plain is and I don’t care if the world knows it.

Though I don’t know how anyone jumps on a snowboard and looks smooth. I was forced to, at some point, and it was 1 foot, not Hawaiian, of air and ungainly, giraffe-like, which makes me marvel, all the more, at Travis Rice’s Natural Selection which officially goes live tomorrow at 9:30 am (Jackson Hole time) on Red Bull TV.

The very definition of a buried lead but I am still celebrating not getting buried myself and vibrating with glorious VAL synapses.

More as the story develops.

Voice of professional snowboarding Todd Richards takes hammer to Shaun White’s recent decision making: “I (expletive deleted) knew he was going to pull out of X-Games, I (expletive deleted) knew it!”

There was blood.

Shaun White is, without doubt, the greatest professional halfpipe snowboarder in history and deserves almost all of his gold medals but he is older, now, though not necessarily wiser, or at least according to the voice of professional snowboarding.

The Flying Tomato, you see, had promised to participate in the just-wrapped X-Games though pulled out hours before competition.


Let Todd Richards explain on the exquisite podcast The Monday M.A.S.S. alongside Chris Cotê.

The most beautiful rant in extreme sport this month? Year? Decade?

You be the judge.

Begin around 18:30…

Breaking: Natural Selection holds introductory press junket with fantastic beer and sausages, pleasures unseen in professional surfing since early 2000s!

The dream is alpine.

“Well if this is out there, think of how much more is out there!” Navin R. Johnson danced through his parents’ living room, shouting, after listening to music that spoke to him for the very first time.

That jerk took his inspiration into the wide, wide world working as a circus performer and gas station attendant before finding his fortune through inventing the Opti-Grab™ thereby revolutionizing eyewear forever.

This jerk is a surf journalist and heard the siren song of the mountains tumbling down powdery hills following his ex-professionally snowboarding wife, a Make-a-Wish kid and the world’s greatest snowboarder Travis Rice years ago though hasn’t been able to cover an actual professional snowboarding event until right now.

Covid-19 has laid bare my World Surf League and all of its various contests. Bungling, lack of imagination, arrogant stupidity has canceled not one but two entire professional surfing seasons and when I heard Travis Rice, the very same Travis Rice who I had tumbled behind, who took a nice bite out of my young daughter’s head, was launching an entire tour in a dystopia called Natural Selection… well.

…how much more is out there?

And so I flew to Jackson Hole with my ex-professionally snowboarding wife and Travis Rice’s snack to see.

A media junket was announced the day after we arrived.

Media junket?

Professional surfing has not conducted a media junket since I ran a hot lap on the European leg of the tour, then called the Association of Surfing Professionals, fifteen years ago. Professional surfing hates its media so a junket?

When I walked up seeing every professional snowboarder participating in Natural Selection freely, happily mingling with the snowboard media, beer and the best sausages in the world courtesy of local sausage maker Bovine & Swine, a genuine air of excitement and camaraderie, I could not believe my eyes.

What is this?

My young daughter, waiting for me to take her ice skating on the adjacent rink but sensing opportunity, took her just consumed ring pop and used it as a microphone to interview the greatest in this snowboarding game about some bunny avalanche.

I drank free Fat Tire, staring at my cheetah print Moncler alpine boots, shy and off my game because what?

Because why?

Snowboard journalists can actually talk to professional snowboarders while drinking free Fat Tire, eating bespoke sausages featuring bacon and blue cheese,

I didn’t ask any questions.

My young daughter got answers on the bunny avalanche from everyone including Mark McMorris who confused “bunny avalanche” with Nevada’s famous brothel “Bunny Ranch,” Travis Rice who issued a lecture on natural selection, Hana Beaman who was worried about the trauma of the bunnies and their collective PTSD and Blake Paul who hoped the bunnies had pieps, a shovel and backpack.

The legendary David Carrier-Porcheron was the one who triggered the bunny avalanche and should have been at Natural Selection, including the legendary press junket, except he is surfing in Costa Rica and cannot make it due Covid-19.

She is clearly a better snowboard journalist than me but I have early ups on the tram, tomorrow morning, with the snowboard journalist community.

I don’t have pieps, a shovel or a backpack.

In collaboration with the true and core Transfer magazine.

Grandma’s favorite home and garden magazine gets worryingly excited about upcoming Natural Selection: “February 3 marks day one of a dream snowboarding event!”

Sunset magazine takes bold step.

Sunset magazine is a wonderful, endearing American icon as comforting as a bowl of fresh Chex mix, knitted wool mittens, Werther’s Original candies, potpourri in bathrooms and everything else that makes us love our grandmothers.

Founded in 1898 as a promotional magazine for the Southern Pacific Railroad designed to combat negative stereotypes about California, Sunset was embraced by our great-grandmothers then our grandmothers as soon as they got their first Buick.

Very homey.

In worrying news, however, Sunset has just published a long feature about the upcoming Natural Selection kickoff event at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort replete with a wide-ranging Travis Rice interview.

It begins thusly…

February 3 marks Day One of a dream snowboarding event that will drop the world’s top snowboarders, with diverse riding backgrounds that range from Olympians to backcountry icons, into a one-of-a-kind competition.

The brainchild of big mountain icon and renowned filmmaker Travis Rice, the YETI Natural Selection Tour is set to run from Feb. 3-9 at Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the first of a three-stop tour featuring events at Baldface Lodge in Nelson, British Columbia, and Tordrillo Mountain Lodge at Alaska’s Judd Lake.

…before Travis explains in further detail.

And great publicity from an iconic outlet but it troubles me to imagine our grandmothers reading, logging on to Red Bull TV and experiencing for themselves. I am concerned their hearts will not be able to take it but am I underestimating their overall cardiovascular health?


We must all call our grandmothers directly following the event to check in.

It is the very least we can do after all those Werther’s Originals.


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.