The Launch 2019 at Bear Mountain Presented by O'Neill: Day 1 Photo Highlights
words: Mary Walsh/Mark Clavin
photos: Mike Yoshida, Mary Walsh, E-Stone, Chris Wellhausen, and Mark Clavin
For the past twelve years, The Launch has been an annual gathering of the rising generation. It's a yearly opportunity for snowboarding's best and brightest under the age of eighteen to gather in a supersized park constructed for them to send it and showcase what's to come when it comes to their collective riding. Since the event's inception over a decade ago, The Launch has been the initial stomping grounds for future Olympians, X Games champs, video part visionaries, and overall, riders who have continuously pushed the envelope and furthered expectations of what is possible when strapped in. The alumni list is large: Zak Hale, Sage Kotsenburg, Benny Milam, Garrett "Worm" Warnick, Sam Taxwood, Red Gerard, Brock Crouch, Jamie Anderson, Stale Sandbech, Blake Paul, Jaeger Bailey, Forest Bailey, Sebastien Toutant, Ben and Gabe Ferguson, Hans and Nils Mindnich, Marcus Kleveland, Erik Leon, and many more have launched Launch hips and jumps and gone on to set the pace of snowboarding's collective consciousness. It's because of this heritage, that every spring, nearly 200 up-and-comers convene to throw down and continue the annual progression fostered by their predecessors.
For 2019, The Launch presented by O'Neill North America returned to Bear Mountain, the mecca of Southern California park riding nestled in the San Bernardinos. Few other mountains have been so intertwined in The Launch's history: Bear has hosted the event three previous times, while sister resort, Snow Summith, has been the setting once. Every year that The Launch returns to Big Bear, the Bear Mountain park crew, led by Ryan Wormsbecker, tops their previous build with increasingly creative and behemoth features. Of course, this year's Launch was no different.
On March 19th, smack dab in the middle of a heavy snow year in Southern California, nearly 200 riders loaded Chair 9 at Bear's base. On the far rider's left of the mountain on the top of Park Run, the Bear crew had filled The Launch lane with oversized transition, multiple jumps of multiple varieties, and a slew of metal and wooden jibs scattered throughout the trail and hidden on veins amidst the trees. It was like a snowy skatepark on steroids, with a rail-filled wave on rider's right just down from the top of the lane, two jumps with tranny cut between them on rider's left, two 18-foot zaug-cut volcanoes staggered in the middle of the zone, then an 18-foot QP on the side of a step-over and a wallride just rider's right of the jump landing. That's not even everything, either—rails, barrels, tree jibs and more are everywhere.
The Launch crew typically holds nothing back as soon as the park opens, so as soon as the ropes were dropped, they wasted no time sussing out lines and ticking off tricks. Miles Fallon and Luke Lund started things off by hitting the tree jib near the top of the park. Dylan Okurowski boardslide a trio of successively taller barrels while a handful started feeling out the top jumps. Bear locals Lenny Mazzotti, Melissa Evans, Mike Gray, and Chris Bradshaw, as well as Mammoth residents Garrett Warnick, Scott Blum, and Stefi Luxton dropped in to test the transition, as well.
Soon the wallride at the bottom of the lane was the site of the first proper session. Lucas Foster, Justin Phipps, Sean Fitzsimons, Tate Cronk and plenty more went hand and head high for the better part of the afternoon. Just above the wall, the O'Neill crew started sessioning a down rail. Alexis Roland and Gab Jacques set the pace with equally proper and tech tricks that were backed up by Jack Wiley and Trevor Otterson, Justin Phipps, and Pat and Joey Fava.
Just after 4pm, the step-over jump lit up and Luke Winkelmann, Justin Phipps, Lucas Foster, Miles Fallon, Hayden Tyler, Dusty Henricksen, Dillon Henricksen, Jake Canter, Kolman Lecroy, and more started the first day send over the Big Bear horizon. It was far from a warm up, but it's only day one, so it's only up from here. We caught up with Winkelmann after the jump session for a quick breakdown of the day.
For the people, where are you from?
I am from Blowing Rock, North Carolina—snowboard mecca.
You stoked for March Madness then?
UNC TARHEELS. NO QUESTION.
How many Launches have you been to?
My first one was at Seven Springs so I guess I have been to six? Springs, Bear, Snow Summit, Copper, Mammoth… and now back at Bear!
How do you like the setup?
The setup was fire today. There is a lot more jibs than usual and some sick jumps to get down with. A ton of tranny as well, it is like a holy bowly. Pretty easy to get creative in there with all the lines you can take. So sick.
And you just placed fourth at the U.S. Open? How does it feel coming off that?
Craziest week of my life. Just went into the Open and wanted to land one run, and luckily they liked it. Then got 20th at the grand prix (laughs), and now we are out here.
Feature most stoked on?
I was just riding everything. That jump over the roof was so sick with the trees below, mellow lip. Felt super good.
Who are you most stoked to ride with?
Hyped to watch Keegan Hosefros ride. He rips at the Launch. Jake Canter, young boy coming up. It is sick to watch him ride right now. Storm Rowe, Denver Orr, big fans of them. Miles Fallon is always doing some different shit. And of course Oaktree (Dylan Okurowksi)… I have been watching his Instas all winter. Can't wait to see them all throw down.
Stay tuned to @snowboardermag and follow #TheLaunch2019 for updates direct from Bear Mountain as the next generation continues to send it at The Launch presented by O'Neill North America.