words: Mary Walsh
photos: Aaron Blatt and Chris “Scandolf” Moran
It was a hot night in Southern California last Friday, September 12, 2014 when a few hundred family, friends, and industry attendees arrived in San Clemente for the first viewing of The SNOWBOARDER Movie: Foreword. Stance Socks had graciously opened their doors to host the crowd for the evening, projecting the film on an enormous indoor screen. Excitement was high as people filtered in and cracked icy PBR's to kill the late summer heat, letting wintery anticipation fill the space. The riders of Foreword had, of course, flown in to SoCal for the screening as well. A movie premiere is an exciting thing, but last Friday night held even more anticipation as for many of the individuals in Foreword, this was their first large-scale film project they had ever been a part of.
The accessibility of video cameras and the propagation of subsequent edits all over the internet has created a landscape flooded with young kids whose skills have been shaped by repeat viewings of video parts by Joe Sexton, Gigi Ruf, Scott Stevens, Bode Merrill, Jed Anderson, and the like. But while this expansion of attainable media has created a platform for aspiring riders, there's a lot to wade through in the melee and making oneself stand out requires a lot of legwork, potentially more than ever before in snowboarding's brief history. Coupled with this is the industry's eagerness to identify the next up and comer, to sign the next up and comer, to be the next up and comer. This competition for both riders and brands makes it challenging to identify the individuals who are truly carrying the torch as they come of age as the current generation.
And this is one of the things that makes The SNOWBOARDER Movie: Foreword a unique project. In Foreword, the selected riders should not be defined solely as up and comers. Yes, they are early on the arc of their professional careers, but they are ten snowboarders who are set to redefine the status quo on their own terms and are more than just the next big names to pass by on Facebook newsfeeds. Ben Ferguson, Blake Paul, Dillon Ojo, Dylan Alito, Garrett Warnick, Hans Mindnich, Jaeger Bailey, Nils Mindnich, Sam Taxwood, and Spencer Schubert are not complacent to merely inherit the reigns of snowboarding, but set on redefining what those reigns entail. In Foreword, fifteen years since SNOWBOARDER Magazine's last film offering, 1999, SNOWBOARDER set out to not only celebrate the individuals who we feel will positively affect snowboarding over the next decade and beyond, but honor the tradition of the snowboard film as the best way to showcase their talents.
Seeing as the cast of Foreword came of age within the cadre of SNOWBOARDER events like The Launch and Superpark, it is fitting that the first scenes of the film take place on the corduroy runs of Woodward Copper, on which Ben Ferguson, Hans Mindnich, Sam Taxwood, and friends showcase the resort terrain that led them to their current positions within snowboarding. Ben Ferguson has proved himself to be much more than just an emerging pipe rider as his board control and talent on transition far surpass any restrictions set by halfpipe walls or contest rules. Watching Taxwood rip up the walls and boost out of the coping is heavy.
From that session, The SNOWBOARDER Movie: Foreword shifts into gear. The efforts of filmers Trent Ludwig, Jon Ray, Derek Weimer, and John Cavan paired perfectly with that of the cast of snowboarders and while watching it is the best way to experience Foreword, don't worry, opener and ender are not revealed in the following, so read on.
It goes without saying that the Quebecois have been adamant about staking their claim as tastemakers of rail riding and over the past two years, Dillon Ojo has emerged as one of the most promising French Canadians braving sub-zero centigrade to proliferate new takes on both classic and creative street locations. In his first full length part, this Nowamean rider literally bumps Riff Raff and figuratively blows doors. Trick after trick of jaw droppers lead up to an ender that the moniker of "never been done" doesn't do justice to. Ben Bilodeau shares the song and infuses some SLC style into the segment with a proper frontboard and some hefty lines and redirects.
Along with Ojo, Hans and Nils Mindnich make up the East Coast representation in Foreword. Hans and Nils, despite the lack of vertical they had access to growing up, were bred for big mountains and Foreword provides a proper introduction to the Mindnichs’ striking natural abilities in bigger peaks and deeper snow. Hans offers one of the most assertive parts of the movie, and rightly so, as this Vermonter has a lot to prove, though his efforts are in no way contrived. Though Hans' mellow misdemeanor doesn't let on, the past few seasons he, along with his younger brother, have transitioned from kids with head-to-toe sponsor packages into riders rebuilt whose natural snowboarding talents are gaining recognition away from the contest arenas of their youth as they moves into a more appropriate canvas: the backcountry. In his first year spent really filming in the North American steeps, Hans' ability to transition his competent jumping ability onto powder jumps and natural terrain is striking.
Nils is no different. He is the more sage of the brothers when snowboarding, but shares the ability to throw unexpected tricks with organic easiness. Nils regularly utilizes grab selection in a way that few other snowboarders choose to, eschewing the norm for his own brand of increasingly prolific style: tuck knees, double grabs and bloody Draculas are staples for Nils when out of bounds. These tricks, along with a some big spins are just the beginning of what this 20-year-old snowboarder has to offer.
Sharing a part with Nils is Sam Taxwood. In Foreword Sam's capabilities on transition and in the backcountry are plentiful in his part. In addition to his requisite banger rail shots, intro film of Taxwood boosting overhead airs in the Woodward Copper pipe, front nines in the backcountry and massive hip airs make for a more than well-rounded segment that includes a textbook switch method redirect. It's further proof that Stax is just a badass whose powerful riding shows no signs of letting up in the coming seasons. Unfortunately, last year a mid-season injury sidelined the Taxwood for a portion of the winter and considering the shots he was able to collect despite this only makes us more excited to see what he puts down in the coming seasons.
At only 21-years-old, Jaeger Bailey is one of the more seasoned of the crew when it comes to movie projects, having filmed parts with Think Thank and competed in the X Games Real Snow competition. With all of that under his belt, this Washington-born rider’s portion of Foreword is undoubtedly his best offering yet as his snowboarding continues to evolve. Jaeger’s part is a packed compilation of proper frontboards and backlips, transfers, a few flips here and there, and some very large drops. Most importantly, what Jaeger does is creative. His success in how he approaches spots elevates his snowboarding--it's just real fun to watch.
Street-savvy Dylan Alito performs in his section, his snowboarding loud and fast like an eighties power chord punk song. An X Games silver medalist and celebrated party starter, when Dylan straps in, he sends it full throttle (this also applies to his afterparty outlook). His section in The SNOWBOARDER Movie is further proof that his tendency to throw down in urban environments pushes him further each season, combining proper tricks with the occasional one-footer or flip. Cruising the streets with a loose and defiant style, Alito takes on bomb drops with complete disregard for the potential knee-crushing outcomes, continually riding away victorious. Tallying up, his part is another win for this Denver local.
In stark contrast to the street segments of Ojo, Bailey, and Alito, it's no surprise that with Blake Paul's Jackson, Wyoming roots he would deliver a compelling off-piste part that has an almost artistic feel about it. Whether Blake is making hard carves in hard boots or dropping powdery pillows, he is effortlessly at home on his board. From front three Japans to switch back ones and big front nines, the fluidity of #bproddiproductions' snowboarding mirrors the picturesque location that has shaped his abilities. Blake's section is floaty and smooth and he ends it with a clean front ten, riding off through the deep snow to continue his reign as the Backcountry Prince.
Garrett "Worm" Warnick comes in with one of the most diverse portions of the movie, splitting his part evenly between sending it in the streets and dropping into backcountry cheese wedges, deftly switching between both scenarios. Worm rides with a deliberate style shaped from growing up on the trails of Mammoth, but the young kid lapping Main Park has now applied his abilities outside the boundaries of a resort and it’s working out real well. In Foreword, switch backside variations, lofty back ones and more made the transition from terrain park to big mountain, interspersed with cityscape bomb drops, pole jams, and redirects, proving that while Worm emerged out of a place that has bred a litany of pro riders, he's following no one's sled tracks but his own.
Spencer Schubert has become a popular face on the internet the past few seasons. Through his shots in High Cascade session videos, Lick the Cat edits, and Dragon's am team series last year, Spencer's style of snowboarding has become familiar, yet consistently unexpected as he combines an unusual way of looking at things with a deep, legitimate trick selection. In Foreword, his exclusively urban part is exactly that. From the opening trick to the ender, Spencer's section is full-on heaters, at times navigating ludicrous features and making heavy tricks look almost easy. Almost. While shooting the movie, Spencer crewed up with Dillon Ojo, and while he is from practically the furthest area away from the rail riding mecca of Quebec, he is the de facto flag bearer of the Bend, Oregon-raised rail movement. It's a smaller contingent than what's going on in eastern Canada, but if Spenny’s level of talent has anything to say about it, it's poised to go the distance.
Throughout Foreword, the themes of opportunity, effort, and accomplishment permeate alongside footage of Chris Bradshaw, Bode Merrill, Jake Blauvelt, and Bryan Iguchi who share their experiences within the snowboarding's multi-faceted fabric. It's a nod to both these individuals and the cameos that appear in almost every section, as well as the whole Foreword roster who are welcomed in by these esteemed snowboarders as respected peers. As the credits roll and the Foreword crew takes it back into the terrain park, hotlapping through Woodward Tahoe, it is clear that if these ten riders are helping to lead the way when it comes to our culture's emerging present and future, snowboarding is undoubtedly in the hands it should be.
Thanks to all the sponsors that helped to make The SNOWBOARDER Movie: Foreword: Volcom, ThirtyTwo, Salomon, Vans, Woodward, Dragon, Gnu, Ride, Giro, Burton, Anon, Von Zipper, The North Face, Bataleon, and Elm Company. All of the riders who put their blood, sweat and tears literally into this project. Java Fernandez, Tristan, and the crew at Stance, Stix and PBR, Bird Dog Whiskey, and everyone who came out on Friday night to watch the movie and celebrate with all of us.
To watch The SNOWBOARDER Movie: Foreword, check out the premiere tour dates.