Words: Pat Bridges
The beauty of the inagural America's Next Top Pro Model event may just be how simple the concept and event setups really are. This became abundantly clear as Lauri Heiskari dropped in to the first event, the highest ollie competition, cruised the runway and sent a perfect stock ollie. A quick check of the Matador height markers indicated that the pole was set 3 feet off the ground and officially, America's Next Top Pro Model 2010 was underway.
Twenty riders are in Mt. Hood, Oregon to take part in what has been described as the most innovative snowboarding contest since Travis Rice's Natural Selection. Technically, the ANTPM is an invite-only contest, yet anyone who has a signature model board is welcome to compete. This means that the riders in attendance at the Top Pro are an eclectic mix of our sport's most congenial icons. At no other event can one find Sean Genovese and Lucas Magoon pitting their skills against the likes of Steven Fisher and TJ Schneider.
Over the course of one hour the riders took to the runway in rapid succession in an effort to achieve the highest ollie. The elimination format whittled down the field quickly and with each successful vault by the field, the bar was raised four inches. Seven riders made it thru to the 3' 8" mark. Marc Frank Montoya, Chris Bradshaw, Keegan Valaika, Austin Smith, Scotty Arnold, Derek Dennison and Lauri Heiskari were the select few who found themselves atop the drop in for this pivotal round. One by one the bar came down and the pros were eliminated. Four riders found themselves clearing this heat to advance to the 4 foot mark which would ultimately decide who would be the America's Next Top pro Model Highest Ollie champion. The least likely finalist, Lauri Heiskari, was the first to go. With a clean leap, Lauri silenced all critics, including himself, to clear the bar easy style! This meant that Austin Smith, MFM and SNOWBOARDER's August 2009 cover boy Keegan Valaika had their work cut out for them. Unfortunately none of them could match Heiskari's height and at the first ANTPM event, the Highest Ollie, had a champion in Lauri Heiskari.
With a progression of overall points being awarded from first to third, a tiebreaker was needed to determine how the lower two podium spots would play out. To do this, SNOWBOARDER decided to switch the format, literally, and the highest switch ollie would decide second and third. Though Austin made a respectable try at the 3' 8" mark, and Marco attempted a switch backside 180, Keegan easily bounded over the bar, leaving some onlookers speculating that he could have taken the whole deal had he just ridden fakie the entire day.
With a successful kickoff all the pros headed higher up the WIndells Camp lane to tackle the 100' of metal that stood between them and another piece of America's Next Top pro Model 2010 glory.
America's Next Top Pro Model is made possible with support from Matador, The House, Windells Snowboard Camp and Timberline Resort. Stay tuned for more up-to-the minute ANTPM action at snowboardermag.com.
Highest Ollie Results:
1. Lauri Heiskari – DC XFB Pro Lauri Heiskari
2. Keegan Valaika – Burton Love
3. Austin Smith – Nitro Austin Smith