words: Pat Bridges photos: Mark Clavin
“We've got a pool and a snowmaking pond. The pond would be good for you." This is the bastardized interpretation of the now iconic scene between Bill Murray and Chevy Chase in Caddy Shack that set the tone for my take on the 2018 Airblaster SKOLF World Tour Finals.
For the uninitiated SKOLF was conceived in 2016 to be an onsnow hybrid of SKATE and golf. Riders get grouped into foursomes and tasked with completing a set list tricks on predetermined features. Each setup, be it a jib, jump or other type of terrain park obstacle, is considered a "hole." Depending upon the difficulty of the trick and how the feature lies a par is set. Par represents the designated amount of tries a challenger gets to complete the task. Riders get rewarded for coming in under par or penalized for going over.
Originally conceived by Airblaster's Jesse Garndkowski and Jack Hewitt with help from Snowboy's Krush Kulesza, SKOLF has grown from a one-off gathering in 2017 into a full blown World Tour in 2018 with stops in Europe and Canada as well as Pennsylvania, Oregon and California. The Tour Finals occurred over two days in early February at Woodward Copper, CO with all of the winners from each of the earlier stops joining a host of notable SKOLF newcomers as well as select members of the extended Airblaster family. The unique, fun and rider friendly format provided a welcome respite from the usual grind of filming and competing for standout shreds like Nils Mindnich, Spencer Schubert, Brandon Davis, Max Warbington, Madison Blackley, Max Tokunaga, Ben Bogart and Nirvana Ortanez. Ultimately though when it comes to linking tricks when out on the frozen links anyone and everyone has a chance to become a SKOLF champion.
While some holes were rather pedestrian asking riders to perform 900's or throwback swivels, a handful of the challenges were more akin to a Japanese game show than anything you're likely to see performed on snow. For instance, hole # 7 forced the participants to lock eyes with Jackson Fowler mid-runway and continue the gaze until riding away after jibbing a twenty foot long tube. Another seemingly insane task had the competitors performing a "G Don" toes on the nose challenge down a runway, off a kicker and into a regulation-sized Olympic slopestyle training bag!
The highlight of the two-day affair for onlookers was easily hole #12 where the SKOLFers were dealt a mogul field with a booter and downbar mid slope leaving many competitors replying "the bumps" whenever asked what their handicap is.
There isn't a way to understand the energy, entertainment and inspiration that is SKOLF unless you see the debauchery firsthand, but the accompanying video goes a long way towards relaying the stoke. With a handful of ace's Madison Blackley took top honors for the ladies at the 2018 SKOLF World Tour Finals. Traveling all the way form Scandinavia and landing in a tie for 3rd place with Brandon Davis was Kristoffer Lerand. 2018 US Olympic Slopestyle team member Kyle Mack chose the SKOLF World Finals as a last minute warm-up before heading to South Korea. A last minute entrant Kyle was considered a favorite from the moment he strapped in atop the first hole. This prophecy would prove true for the most part as Kyle would share the lead for most of the two day affair with Pennsylvanian champ Gabe Marzillier. Kyle and Gabe matched ace's for most of the setups and took 4's on the impossible 6th and 15th holes respectively. With drama impossible to script Kyle and Gabe arrived at 18 in a virtual tie where the Keystone States finest was better able to finesse the ball into the cup to take the 2018 SKOLF World Tour Finals Title and leave Kyle hoping he can improve upon his second place finish when he straps in for our country in PyeongChang. Congratulations to Gabe and the rest of the top finishers at SKOLF. Snowboarder would like to thank Airblaster, Woodward Copper, Snowboard, Lifeproof, Dr. Bru and Ten Barrel for supporting such a stellar event as we are already looking forward to what 2019 will have in store with the next chapter of the SKOLF World Tour.