The End: A final summation of Natural Selection, from a cursed surf journalist’s point of view, and what it means for the future!

Hello, tomorrow.

Travis Rice saunters toward the Continuum hotel breathing heavily, fully geared, snow dappled. Exhausted. A random European stops his progress, begs for a picture, compliments him for what he had witnessed.

The “great days of snowboard ever.”

Travis, ever gracious, talks story from the hill, leans in and throws his patented devil horns.

He has just come down from that Natural Selection course, working shoulder to shoulder all day with the crew, tearing platforms off the features, breaking down what can be broken down.

Nature hath selected and to nature it shall return, mostly so some random European inspired by the broadcast doesn’t come and try to Austin Sweetin.

There were many inspired random Europeans. Chileans, Australians, Canadians, etc., Americans too. An absolutely shocking amount who tuned into both the first day and the final day, witnessing snowboarding’s re-birth.

That’s what it felt like, what it became, over the week and was spoken about over, over and over again.

Snowboarding’s re-imagining.

Foremothers and fathers lauded, a style of riding they pioneered taken to a next level, love of powder, progression, punk, not caring about anything but going as big as one could, impressing gathered sisters and brothers, impressing the ghosts of snowboarding past.

The week was about snowboarding.

“Thank you, snowboarding” was what Mark McMorris uttered from the balcony at the Natural Selection afterparty award’s show and he meant it. He was happy to be part of a crew of derelicts, of ne’redowells, of stone cold bastards and bastard-ettes.

Mark McMorris is a multi-gelded Olympian yet this was his moment. He had gone to the last iteration of Natural Selection in Bald Face, four-odd years ago, and tomahawked down that bald face like an embarrassment but, there, he realized what and who he wanted to be and became in extraordinary fashion.

Shaun White was here early, also a multi-gelded Olympian though not a part of the crew. Crew-adjacent maybe. A bastard but not stone cold. Shaun rode the Olympic hype, that Flying Tomato, Target, Us Weekly-thing to great success but snowboarding died under his watch. Not the kid dreaming, kid skinning into backcountry, kid jibbing in his derelict town imagination but some greater unifying vision.

He left before Mark McMorris hoisted his moose antler, proclaimed this was the most important thing he’s ever been part of, thanked snowboarding, shined a spotlight on some new greater unifying vision.

This matters.

It matters because it is absurdly fun, because it is destructively fun. Because it has a history, because it resonates, because it is rotten, because it is… stupidly real.

In this broken era, snowboarding feels like salvation. Pointing down a hill, doing powder turns, doing icy wind-buffed side-slips, poking into trees, remembering what it feels like to sail airborne, remembering what it feels like to fall and fall hard, laughing or crying about it with friends at the 4 pm end to a day is salvation.

An obscenely rose-lensed summation from a damned surf journalist?

Certainly and this surf journalist asked the very same question while backcountry-ing fresh powder at the beginning of the week with the world’s finest snowboard journalists.

“In surfing, new participation is the end, the curse,” I said. “Why do you even put up with my presence?”

“All snowboarding requires is for someone willing to hike to the next peak,” one responded, while beckoning to the surrounding mountain ranges bathed in cold light. “Someone willing to push slightly further.”

All of this feels like the next peak.

Something glorious.

A naively positive conclusion from a cursed surf journalist?


Travis Rice pushes into the Continuum hotel and is immediately accosted by media, professional, personal requests.

He smiles and throws his patented devil horns.

Final’s Day: New Zealand’s most popular snowboard magazine hires surf journalist as correspondent thereby guaranteeing dark horse compatriot Zoe Sadowski-Synnott Jackson Hole victory!


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.

Open Thread: Comment Live as Natural Selection crowns Jackson Hole champions on adrenalized day!

It's go time.

Adrenaline was pumping heavy through veins, this February 9 morning, before the sun poked over these Grand Tetons. Adrenaline, nervousness, excitement, thrill. Natural Selection is set to kick off its championship day, in a few short minutes and the matchups are stacked.

Round 2


Heat 1: Austen Sweetin vs. Blake Paul.

Heat 2: Ben Ferguson vs. Sage Kotsenburg

Heat 3: Travis Rice vs. Mark McMorris

Heat 4: Mikkel Bang vs Pat Moore


Heat 1: Hana Beaman vs. Zoi Sadowski-Syn

Heat 2: Elena Hight vs. Marion Haerty

Bon appetit.

Big wave surfer Ian Walsh (pictured).

Inspired: Surf journalist finds friendly big wave star amidst ultra-exclusive aerial tramway then rides untracked powder with mountain royalty and childhood hero!


The aerial tramway creeps into the swirling, whirling below-freezing snow billows halfway up the grand teton, chilling the air but not the mood. An impossible-to-suppress energy percolates and for good reason. The corrugated metal floor, red siding, tinted windows with iconic silhouette of cowboy bucking bronco is the very lap of luxury.

Early ups.

Two trams head from the base of the mountain 4139 vertical feet to the highest point at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort each morning before official day opening leaving a virginal expanse for an hour, or such. Slots on those trams are allocated to certain guides, celebrities, professional snowboarders and skiers, politicians, persons of note.

That lame Tom’s Shoes guy, who refuses to mask up, and I wish he would not due Covid but because he is spewing some utter nonsense to his pals.

A surf journalist, today, but not because he is a surf journalist. The only perk in a surf journalist’s life is increasingly rare text messages from the World Surf League’s senior vice president of brand identity.

No, he is here because his young daughter’s godmother is mountain royalty.

Jody Kemmerer.

A rare American blue blood psychotherapist who alternates time fixing inmates at New York’s Riker’s Island, chatting with the Karmapa Lama over yak butter tea in Tibet and snowboarding faster than anyone I know.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort belongs to her and, today, she is bringing this surf journalist and a famous chef Fredrik Berselius, owner of two Michelin stars, co-owner of Aska, one time model, from New York as her guests.

It’s colder, now, and I look around the lap of luxury and see big wave professional surfer Ian Walsh. He comes from Maui but, like many surfers, has a serious powder addiction. I don’t know who his patron but also know it’s not as good as mine. I see professional snowboarder Blake Paul and we discuss his Natural Selection Round 1 victory over Elias Elhardt, his upcoming heat against Austen Sweetin. The two rode together the previous day, spending time in Dick’s Ditch, and are chuffed that one will knock the other out.

It’s coldest, now, as the tram docks at its final station and that impossible-to-suppress energy bursts through the sliding doors into a blizzard but deep, fresh, fluff lies below, untracked, and everybody knows it.

Even Ian Walsh.

The lucky few huddle outside Corbet’s Cabin, the waft of freshly baking, legendary waffles floating through the door, cleaning goggles, jumping, keeping warm. A sense vibrates through that the ok will be given soon.

The group moves, as one, onto the snow. And when the ski patrol lifts his hands, giving the go, a hoot fills the air. I already have my bindings strapped down, having received a stern talking-to, the previous night, from my ex-professional snowboarder wife who seethed at me not to hold anyone up. I am taking her spot and promised not to bring shame upon the family.

Jody snowboards fast.

Down I slide, traversing blind across the windswept ice until vision and snow magically reappear and…

…absolute perfection.

Knee deep, at least, and entirely smooth, without a mark. I put my ugly scrawl on it but didn’t hold anyone up, racing after Jody and Frederik, following them into the trees and feeling silly joy, hollering and hearing their hollers too. In front of me but not so far in front that my wife would seethe.

We float all the way to the Sublette quad and kick on with the resort still unopened. Chasing at least one, maybe two, more tabula rasas.

On the chair, Fredrik talks about how much he loved t-bars in his native Sweden. I knew he was Swedish, living in New York, but it struck me for the first time in that moment.

He is a Swedish chef.

A Swedish chef.

The Swedish Chef is my childhood hero, artistic inspiration, north star in practicing surf journalism.

And now snowboard journalism.

Börk, börk, börk, börk, börk, börk, börk.

I spend the next two stainless canters carefully observing Fredrick’s lines, soaking in the wizardry.

Learning everything I can.

Trying to keep Jody in my line of sight.

Trying not to bring shame on my family.

At the end of the day, stumbling back to the hotel, I see Ian Walsh. We fist bump, surfers in a strange world, comrades. I ask him how he liked it.

“Felt like heli drops…” he says. “Mind blown.”

“Börk,” I respond.

Lay Day: Surf journalist caught up in singular glories of professional snowboarding and not paying attention loses young daughter to degenerate life of motorsports!

Much worry.

The high, the buzz, the abject thrill of Natural Selection Day 1 has finally worn off and life at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has returned to a semblance of normal. Snow falling lightly outside, Saturday lift lines stretching far too long, grown men from Tennessee on a “boys trip” filling them out.

Professional snowboarders either getting massages, resting their legs or out on the mountain with Shaun White and his opalescent puffy jacket, making turns, having easy fun.

Day 2 will happen Monday, I believe, or maybe it’s Tuesday and then spirits will soar again, hearts will race, emotions will fire but, today, conserving energy is important.

My young daughter, understanding days off implicitly and being forced to endure a long bar session, stretching deep into the prior night with legendary snowboard journalist Stan Leveille whose Christian name is not actually Stan, was happy for the rest and an early lunch.

I discovered Stan’s Christian name was not “Stan” by digging through his wallet when he left the high top table. Surf journalism is a cutthroat business and I don’t know if snowboard journalists are as hardened or dirty. His name is Kyle, I believe, or maybe it’s Gregory.

In any case, my young daughter was tired and happy to only do one quick pow run then play with her new young friends who happen to belong to Ken Block, the world’s greatest car driver, on the mountain too.

You have certainly seen his smash-hit Gymkhana videos or maybe even caught one of his rally races.

This surf journalist, still enthralled with fluff and jive immediately returned to those long lift lines after lunch, leaving her with the Blocks, and now I have not seen her for hours. Their theoretical plans included hot tubbing and ice-skating but I fear they may have commandeered a Ford F-150 RaptorTrax and are burning hot laps through the Teton Village.

Really ripping one.

I have absolutely no grounding in moto culture. No ability whatsoever. I recently replaced the windshield wipers of my simple Toyota Tacoma and left the plastic coverings on them for an entire 2000+ mile previous journey, over New Year’s, to Jackson Hole through rain, sleet and snow, cursing their ineffectiveness.

If my young daughter enters this moto life, I will be of no value to her.


I head to the same bar, same table, as the prior night to wait. Worry building. Nothing on my phone. Not a text or call from the Blocks.

Did they get their hands on the Ford Mustang Hoonicorn RTR V2?

The star of Gymkhana 5 Ford Fiesta ST RX43?


How can I find her?

The iconic Jamie Anderson sits at the adjacent booth and I consider asking her for help but then remember she is as directionally-challenged as me.

Have I lost my young daughter to a degenerate life of motorsports?

More as the story develops.