Natural Selection’s Jackson Hole tour kick-off is officially one for the record books and the superlatives lining those pages, even the most superior superlatives, fall flat. Travis Rice’s brainchild-turned-reality was phenomenal for fans of professional snowboarding, certainly, composing a dissertation on big mountain riding with odes to technicality, creativity, spontaneity and fun but it was also phenomenal for notoriously grouchy fans of professional surfing. The famously grouchiest, from Scotland unsurprisingly, wrote me in the wee hours to declare, “Really enjoyed this. Course is epic, format is good. But fuck, how brutal is the commentary? Selema makes Turpel look like he’s part of Mensa. Truly awful. Worse than the WSL I reckon.”
Joe Turpel, voice of the World Surf League, sounds like a pull-string Cabbage Patch Kid.
Selema sounds like Tony Hawk’s 900 20-years aged.
But even the less-than-inspired chitter-chatter could not put a damper on this day, no how, now way.
It was pure magic and magic in a time when the “science is real” crowd has gained much traction, pushing magic to the fringes, but not today, not when Travis Rice seeing that slate grey sky overhead, called for a sun chant and got one from Blake Paul with help from the rest of the competitors.
It worked, while competition was underway, the sun blasting that course with light. Gorgeous, surreal, almost perfect.
For Travis too. Not in a traditional “winning-the-competition” sort of way, no, but something far greater. Natural Selection is his legacy, its success his shining success.
Canada’s Mark McMorris took Jackson Hole for the men and how?
Magic maybe borrowed from Nevada’s famed Bunny Ranch.
Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, young dark horse from New Zealand, showed such wild poise, such incredible skill topping the women and why?
Magic no doubt granted from Australia and New Zealand’s most popular snowboard magazine tapping a surf journalist to cover the event. An unprecedented move with unprecedented results and now Zoi shall be heading to Alaska to compete in the championships.
Mikkel Bang’s switch method? His rock tap fail followed so bravely by a rock tap success?
The highlights of the day according to many in attendance and clearly due magic gifted from the Michelin-starred spoon of a world famous Swedish chef. After untracked early up powder runs he cooked a steak, vegetable, caviar in some phenomenal reduction feast for the most select few at Princess Jody Kemmerer’s mountain home including Travis and Mikkel and now Mikkel will be going to Alaska too.
That magical sun finally set, turning the sky into fluffy cotton candy, but its magic kept twinkling, transferring from hill to host hotel and the upstairs afterparty.
Oh me, oh my professional snowboarders how to do it right. Unlike professional surfing, where the world’s greatest Kelly Slater has set the tone by being extremely stingy, there is a rule where the winner pays 50% of his or her winnings to the bar tab.
Old fashioneds flowed like milk. Vodka sodas like honey. The athletes, crew, course builders, cameramen, toasted, back slapped, laughed and recounted a singularly incredible week. Mark Landvik, the funniest man in snowboarding, regaled the gathered with stories. Hana Beaman sat laughing. Mark McMorris, still dressed in royal purple, would ring a magic bell near the bar to signal his card was laid down once again and a hoot would rise to the rafters. His victory speech claimed that being part of Natural Section was the greatest thing he’s achieved in a career besotted with Olympic gold. That this victory was not about him but about snowboarding.
Travis stood to the side in his tall, fluffy Peruvian hat smiling at what he had wrought.
What he had willed into existence and what magic kissed.