words and photos: T. Bird

Since as long as I can remember, I've been a fan of the Air & Style. When I first started snowboarding, clips from the event would appear in Mack Dawg films and catch my attention immediately. Terje's air-to-fakie up in the rafters. Jamie Lynn's frontside spins off the toes. Even David Benedek and Travis Rice battling it out at the advent of the double cork. They were prestigious. They were a spectacle. They were awesome.

And they still are, in many ways. Winning an Air & Style is still as prestigious as ever, albeit there are exponentially more contests now than there have ever been in snowboarding's history, what with FIS World Cups, Grand Prix, X Games, Dew Tour, the US Open, the Laax Open…so on and so forth. But with that said, an Air & Style win is still a descriptor, in that standing atop the podium at one of these events is still something that people will use to introduce you to other people. "Hey, that's (insert name here). He won the Air & Style in (insert year here)."

Last Saturday in Beijing, China, yet another unforgettable Air & Style event went down in the iconic Bird's Nest stadium smack dab in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world. Thought he air quality was god awful, the quality of air was actually pretty amazing in the qualifiers. 30 of the best park jumpers on earth took to the behemoth of a kicker that sat atop one of the biggest scaffolding set ups I've ever seen and that 30 was whittled down to 16 by the night's end. Those lucky 16 were:

1. Mark McMorris
2. Sebastien Toutant
3. Darcy Sharpe
4. Marcus Kleveland
5. Mikey Ciccarelli
6. Roope Tonteri
7. Antoine Truchon
8. Mons Roisland
9. Clemens Millauer
10. Kalle Jaervilehto
11. Sebbe DeBuck
12. Moritz Thoenen
13. Jonas Boesiger
14. Tor Lundstrom
15. Mans Hedberg
16. Phillip Kundratitz

Those riders advanced to Semi-Finals on Saturday evening under the lights with a few thousand Chinese snowboard fans in attendance, and almost as many Chinese police keeping watch over the stadium. While in the qualifying round the riders got two hits on the kicker, in the Semi-Finals and Finals, they were given three, but with a caveat: Of the three attempts, two of the tries have to be spinning in different directions, so as to avoid a triple cork 1440 mute-off, so to speak. Not that this completely alleviated that, but it made it more interesting to watch and allowed the viewer to see a little variation in their runs.

The 16 riders in Semi-Finals had their three tries each and when the dust settled, it was the following eight riders that would go on to the Finals, and after a short intermission for the contestants to grab a bite to eat and the builders to give the jump a quick reshape, that's exactly what went down.

Sebastien Toutant got out to an early lead and he was looking strong and consistent throughout the night and it seemed like it was going to turn into the age-old battle of Sebastien vs. Mark McMorris. But what would an Air & Style be without a little drama from the underdogs, right? While Mark fell on his second hit, his Canadian counterpart Darcy Sharpe put down an insane frontside double cork 1260 nosegrab on his second run to compliment his first run backside triple cork 1440 and he snuck into third place. Norwegian wünderkid Marcus Kleveland shocked the entire field by putting down a Cab triple cork 1620 to pair with his backside triple cork 1440 and put him in first place going into the final runs of the night and Sebastien sat comfortably in second place with a backside triple cork 1440 and a frontside triple cork 1440. However, that left McMorris atop the scaffolding as the last rider to drop in the finals and everyone knows that nobody rides better than Mark when the heat is on. But, McMorris fell on his last attempt of the night and it was indeed Marcus Kleveland who took his first-ever Air & Style victory.

The Beijing Air & Style went off and kicked off the official Air & Style season tour. Next stops are Innsbruck, Austria and Los Angeles, California, so stay tuned for more coverage of the next two stops in the coming months.