words: T. Bird
There are many words that could be associated with Tokyo, Japan, one of the busiest and most bustling cities on Earth, but usually, "urban snowboarding" are not two of them…until now. Though the city doesn't get much snow in the winter time, there is a burgeoning snowboard population in Tokyo, and last night, many of them were huddled under the lights of Roppongi Hills Arena as Burton Snowboards brought them the fourth annual Burton Rail Days presented by MINI.
Sixteen of the best street riders on earth converged on Japan to tackle a gargantuan setup in the middle of the Roppongi district in Tokyo. The invited riders were a legendary list of accomplished jibbers, a current crop of this era's new talent, and a roster of street riding's next generation with names ranging from Jeremy Jones, Laurent-Nicolas Paquin, Mark Sollors, Frank April, Zak Hale, Johnny O'Connor, Jamie Nicholls, Jaeger Bailey, Shane Ruprecht, Benny Milam, Yuma Abe, Lasse Ihalainen, Zach Aller, Brett Wilkinson, Shoma Takao, and Reo Takahashi.
The course that was constructed in three days was a feat in and of itself. Over one hundred tons of shaved ice was sprayed on a street course proffering myriad options including a drop down double set of rails, a down flat down, a wallride, and even a full-on maximum airtime hip. Throughout the night, the judges would award individual accolades for best air, best wallride and best trick on the rails. However, that was only during the two twenty-minute jam sessions where the sixteen invited riders would then be whittled down to a mere six in the finals. The jam sessions were insane, with too much action to fully recall, but the amount of snowboarding that went down on that setup in forty minutes was arguably more snowboarding that's gone down in this city in history. Transfers, redirects, wallrides and airs were peppered throughout the qualifiers but at the end of the forty minutes, only six could advance.
When the two jams were over, the final six man roster looked like this:
1. Jaeger Bailey
2. Zach Aller
3. Jamie Nicholls
4. Zak Hale
5. Yuma Abe
6. Lasse Ihalainen
Those six would battle it out in the finals for their chance to win the $15,000 first place prize purse in a best-of-two-run format. Each rider would be scored on their best run and the highest score would take the win. For one of his runs, local Japanese rider Yuma Abe opted to skip every feature on the course and do an alley-oop frontside five on the wallride. The crowd loved it, and so did the judges, as they awarded him with a score high enough to take home third in front of his fellow countrymen. Jaeger Bailey, who was riding solid all night long, got himself an international podium with a second place finish, but it was French Canadian and Burton Knowbuddy Zach Aller whose front blunt 270 transfer to boardslide on the drop down bars won him the event, and rightly so. Zach got a call from his Burton Team Manager two nights before the event, hopped on a last-minute flight to Tokyo and without much—if any—sleep, won th 2014 Burton Rail Days Presented by MINI. It was a night for the ages down here inTokyo and I can't wait for next year to see it go off once again in Roppongi.
Best Wallride: Reo Takahashi
Best Air: Frank April
Best Trick on the Rails: Benny Milam
1st place: Zach Aller
2nd place: Jaeger Bailey
3rd place: Yuma Abe