Volcom Road Rager in New Zealand: Arthur Longo, Mike Rav, Olivier Gittler, Torgeir Bergrem, and More
This past summer, Volcom hit us up to document their Road Rager festivities in the Southern Hemisphere. Telling us the plan that an all-star cast of skate, snow, and surf crews were all going to meet up in vans on the South Island of New Zealand, we of course signed on. A few weeks later, it all lined up and hilarity ensued. Check out the photos below, along with the skate and surf edits made from the entirety of the two weeks
Words & Photos: Mark Clavin
It is about two hours into my trip with the Volcom team. I have already drank two bloody marys, two Stellas, an IPA and a glass of wine…. all while waiting in the LAX terminal to board my flight. Add a missed meal before boarding due to lack of planning, and add two more missed inflight meals on a thirteen-hour direct trip to the Southern Hemisphere due to the amount pre-flight libations consumed. Basically, I fell asleep on a plane taking off in summer and landed in the middle of winter with a calendar stating it was two days later. Geographical science aside, try explaining all that to your internal clock. This is where we arrive at my hypothesis—flying to New Zealand is most definitely a form of time travel.
My task was to meet up with the Volcom snow, surf, and skate crews for a week of riding on the South Island. Select riders from the entire Volcom family were dropping in to hang with the Wanaka scene, as well as reconnect with one another after a year of travel dictated by their differing disciplines kept them apart. All the teams were ripping their way through New Zealand on what was dubbed the #VolcomRoadRager, and it was to be capped off with laps at Cardrona together as one. The assignment was simple enough—document it. Little did I know that I would soon be using the scientific method to see if this seasonal migration to the Land of the Long White Cloud was less of a pattern, and more a rip in the space-time continuum.
The control group was set. Volcom team riders Arthur Longo, Olivier Gittler, Mike Rav, and Torgeir Bergrem, along with Global Snow Director Jeff Kabigting were to fly in from all over the world over the first three days. We were to ride and repeat for the entirety of the trip. Upon studying each arrival, the only measurable difference was the level of stoke that grew exponentially at the home base in Wanaka as each one walked in. Greeted by a cheer and a Gary Ablett (Gary Ablett— 1 Shot Espresso mixed with 1 full beer. Named after a famous Australian footballer, popularized within snowboarding by Volcom’s Shane Azar.), they showed signs of jet lag, but none had misplaced body parts or the classic tell-tale Hollywood giveaways of time-travel-gone-wrong. Originally thought to be loss of muscle strength due to lack of articulation when speaking… turned out to just be Arthur and Oli's French accents. Enhanced when presented with a Snakebite (1/2 Cider, 1/2 Beer with a bit of raspberry. Not sure who popularized it, but it is delicious.)—a drink that I had never heard of but became a large part of my experiment in the Southern Hemisphere—the accents turned into full-on French used to laugh cryptically at my expense.
As the first to arrive alongside Jeff and I, we had two days to study Oli and Arthur before the others flew in. Taking the first day to warm up on the in sunny conditions just a short drive from town at Treble Cone, we were lucky enough to score a helicopter ride from Southern Lakes Heliski up on day two to enjoy some untouched terrain. With pretty solid conditions up top, it was the perfect time to observe my time travel theory. Arthur pulled out an old 16mm film camera from his bag that I mistook for proof of landing in a different era. Quick to correct, it was a gift from his dad that he soldered back into working order to document some runs. I tried to date the two's riding styles as they linked turns and airs down the mountain, but in all reality… that shit was timeless. Oli's tractor-beam like personality compliments his riding perfectly, drawing you in to enjoy every carve he takes as if it was your own. Arthur was a bit more reserved, but it was easy to see why he is one of the most respected big mountain riders in the world with the calm and refined approach he took to every corner.
Landing safely back in Wanaka as the sun started to drop, Mike Rav was sitting on his boardbag next to the porch of our Air B n B playing guitar. And as anyone knows that has seen Rav ride, the synapses going on while he is strapped in creates a calculated chaos that only he is privy to until it unfolds. Insane to watch, nearly impossible to quantify. Turning on my heated blanket to act as an incubator for the night, I racked my brain on how to harness the power of Rav to move the theory along.
As we suited up for that morning of riding, in walked the final part of our control group, Torgeir Bergrem. Notably known for schooling the masses on style in the competitive field, he laced up and was ready to get right back in to his studies. I had yet to see him outside of the dyed snow lines, but let me tell you, he is one of the most well-rounded snowboarders strapping in today. Oli then had the idea of trailing Rav to copy any movement he made downhill. It was a wild display of four styles melding into a single vision winding down the run. A trip to see by any passerby or fan of snowboarding… but with no visible portal opening up that defied space and time to fall in line with my hypothesis, we moved on.
The next day we drove up the dirt switchbacks to Cardrona to find a completely socked in resort. Informed by JJ Rayward, our local-volcom-rider-turned-South-Island-sherpa, that it's commonly referred to as "Cloudrona", we quickly ventured back down to test a different theory about "drinking the sky blue". The two down days were spent eating a collection of local pastries and exploring the mountainous-yet-tropical looking vegetation. We took a dip in the freezing cold lake and sent letters to girlfriends. It was a bit more mellow than the start of the trip, but that is because we knew what was still to come. It was what Rav reffered to as "a meeting point for collision."
Turns out, in New Zealand, you just have to drink a flat white (Basically a latte with espresso and foam.) to get rid of flat light. And after drinking an exorbitant amount of coffee, the clouds parted and more Volcom riders appeared.
Pro surfers Noa Dean, Ozzy Wright, and Mitch Coleburn joined with skating's CJ Collins, Axel Cruysberghs, Jackson Pilz, Jesse Noonan, and Arto Saari for a display of snowboarding unlike any other. All these guys have spent their lives on either a skate or surfboard…but as a collective group when it came to snow, have logged less hours than your average work week. This by no means meant they were deterred. With Volcom's Shane Azar leading the way, the crew snaked down from top-to-bottom and even caught air in the mini-pipe by the day's end.
The collision point that Rav was referring to was found to be our house. It seemed that the housewarming party to welcome the well-traveled bunch lasted four days in a row. Locals like Will Jackson dropped by, Valentino Guseli crashed at the house. Stories of scoring waves and spots while traveling all over the island were told from the incomers, all while enjoying VBs (Victoria Bitters, a beer out of Melbourne.) and an assortment of local beer. There was the standard hanging from ceilings that one would expect at a gathering of this sort, but more remarkable was the excitement—no matter how late the night went—to snowboard the next morning. The feeling visibly permeated through everyone regardless of aches, conditions, or skill until the last day… but none of it solved my time travel problem. Every time I thought I was scratching at the surface at how such a place existed, it seemed like New Zealand was always 20 steps ahead—or more literally, 20 hours ahead.
Boarding the plane back home, I realized that my notebook was not as scientific as I once believed. It was more just a running tab of everything we ate and drank on the trip. But in an effort to salvage my self-assigned experiment, I wrote down my final observations. The first was that all three board sports could not only easily coexist, but flourish in NZ. The second, the waterfalls on the way to the mountains are spectacular. Third, the Volcom team consists of riders with completely different personalities and styles, yet they have no problem molding together on the opposite side of the world to just enjoy the simple act of snowboarding. Finally, my sixth-grade teacher might have been right in saying I have no idea how to run an experiment. I guess my findings were inconclusive, but I would be down to retest the hypothesis with this crew again anytime.