Words and captions: T. Bird
Photos: Adam Moran
When Japan does something, they do it big, hence the old adage that hints at that. When it comes to snowboard contests in downtown Tokyo, said phrase "Big in Japan" is no exception. Burton brought out sixteen renowned jibbers from across the globe and employed the brainpower of SPT and the manpower of local Japanese crews to concoct and construct a massive feature, placed right in the middle of Roppongi Hills Arena for thousands of fanatic spectators to witness quite a spectacle.
The course itself consisted of a curved run, and when I say "run," it truly was, meaning that this setup would give mountains in the Midwest a run for their money. At the top section, the riders were afforded a down rail placed next to a wallride, giving them the option of hitting the rail au natural or transferring á lá Louif Paradis from the wall down onto the metal. To the rider's right was a long flat-down-flat with tranny hugging the bottom so the contestants could choose to Ollie over the rail to the transition below or slide the rail in its entirety. The bottom feature was a wallride over a closeout, funneling the riders down into the bottom zone where they would unstrap, hike up, and do it all over again. Burton's all-around wünderkid Mark Sollors was overheard saying that two hours on the course felt like a full day of riding. SPT's Chris Castaneda was the man on-site, and after watching him lug and labor for a week straight to get this monstrosity put together on time, it was safe to say that he was more than likely the hardest-working park builder of the week.
The riders who flew out composed an incredible list of talent. Zak Hale, Ethan Deiss, Austen Sweetin, Marc Swoboda, Jesse Augustinus, Florian Achenrainer, Neils Schack, Tommy Gesme, Ian Sams, Scotty Vine, Dominik Wagner, Mark Sollors, local Japanese ams Ryo Eguchi and Yuma Abe, Dylan Thompson, and Denis Leontyev set the stage for the Tokyo crowd and they certainly weren't disappointed with the riding that went down because with a crew this skilled and a setup this spectacular, it was inevitable that good shit was about to go down.
Throughout the two twenty minute jam sessions, ridiculous tricks were being landed left and right and although it was tough to keep track of all of it, there were some standouts. Mark Sollors, for one, was doing massive Ollie transfers to the transition below, as was Tommy Gesme with back 180 seatbelts to flat. Dylan Thompson was front boarding the giant kink's down and popping into the landing, Zak Hale was transferring from the wall to the rail, Flo Achenrainer was Andrechting over the rail into the bottom wall, crowd favorite Yuma Abe was frontside 630ing off the top rail into the bottom tranny, Jesse Augustinus found some insane transfers as well, while Austen Sweetin took to the bottom wall and went the highest of anyone on the night. But, when all was said and done, the list of sixteen was cut down to only four, and they were Dylan Thompson, Zak Hale, Ian Sams, and Yuma Abe. A heavy cut for finals mirrored an equally heavy field of riders.
For the finals, the format switched from a jam session to three runs apiece, with the best run taking home the $15,000 first place prize. Head judge Sandy McDonald was joined by the inimitable Jeremy Jones in deciding who would take home the win, and they certainly had their work cut out for themselves. Dylan Thompson, one of the favorites of the event, couldn't put down the line he wanted to land and landed in fourth place. Bear local Ian Sams made his trip worthwhile by taking third place while local boy Yuma Abe had arguably his best night ever in his young snowboarding career with a second place finish. However, it was Burton's Zak Hale who has himself $15,000 to declare at Customs when he lands back in the States as he took the win in commanding fashion. Zak was in control all night and from midway through the first jam session, no one could take him out of the top spot. Congratulations are in order for that guy, once we confirm that he spent his mandatory ten-percent at the bar last night (karaoke joint works, too).
The Burton Rail Days Presented by MINI is a wrap and what an event it was. Sionara, and we'll see you again next year. Kampai!
- Zak Hale
- Yuma Abe
- Ian Sams
- Dylan Thompson