Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Does snowboarding need to go underground?

If anyone reads my blog on a regular basis, they cannot fail to notice that I have not written anything in quite some time. I have been thinking.

I have worked online for a decade now and I have loved snowboarding for almost as long. I would like to think I carved out my own little niche, as small as that may be, reviewing snowboarding movies and snowboarding video games, especially on my old website Stoked On Snowboarding. If I could never do any of the tricks pro snowboarders can do in the real world, I could at least can do them in the virtual one.

I have blogged for MSN, worked on Xbox LIVE, I've run CompuServe's Games Channel and even spent half a decade on BBC Radio 1's website but my contribution to the online life of snowboarding has always been enthusiastic and completely voluntary. My enthusiasm for snowboarding remains undiminished but I have decided to stop blogging about it. Well, if I can!

I suspect it might be akin to giving up smoking for some people, after all I DO like to have an opinion and I do enjoy writing.

But the truth is there are people who do it better than I do and they need your support. In this world of ever increasing media choice and decreasing advertising revenues, I feel I should not be providing a distraction from the websites and magazines that I love. Instead I should be simply telling you to go read them instead and love them as much as I do.

The arrival of the (quite frankly disappointing) Shaun White Snowboarding game left me at a loss. A beautifully crafted sim that tries to reproduce the spirit of snowboarding with your friends and is headed by arguably the world's favourite snowboarder (though not mine... sorry Shaun) is something that should be welcomed and celebrated. So 3 months later I wonder why that is so hard to do so.

Well, the control system is terrible (maybe it's different on a Wii board but it's counter intuitive for Xbox players). The makers might know a lot about snowboarding and fancy graphics and games physics but seem to have little love of video games or video gamers.

Where is the buzz I felt when I played Shaun Palmer Pro Snowboarding, or the first 1080 game or the first Amped? I mean I really really LOVED those games. I want to love Shaun White's game and I keep trying but I just don't. Looking at the number of online players there are, it feels about as popular as a PS3. It makes me wish snowboarding would go back underground (if it never was then at least I'd like it to feel like it was).

I feel it has tarnished my love of snowboard movies too. Lately they don't leave me in the same awe that they used to. And don't leave me bitterly miserable that I'm not up in the mountains riding them myself instead of watching Travis or Jussi or Bjorn and wishing I could keep up with one of the Jones even though I know that I never could.

I couldn't even drum up the enthusiasm to review the new Absinthe movie, and I love Absinthe as a crew, and secretly want their new snowboarding game to renew my faith in snowboard sims.

So for now I implore you to read and support and love those centres of snowboard worship White Lines and Huck magazines. Both products of the UK and unique for their warmth and expertise and sense of humour and lack of cynical exploitation of the best pastime a boy (or girl) can enjoy both alone or with their friends.

Either one of you should be talking to Xbox and offering to make weekly streaming video content for Xbox LIVE in the same way that Inside Xbox, Official Xbox Magazine and IGN currently are. If you aren't, I bet Absinthe are already thinking about it. It could live in Video Marketplace (Xbox isn't only about gaming you know, it's a community). Anyway I digress...

White Lines is simply the best magazine on the planet and I think one day their website might be too when they stop jealously guarding their printed content. I consume both and I am sure most of their readers feel the same.

Huck is a beautiful website and an ambitious magazine that may indeed also cover skateboarding and surfing (amongst other things) but has a brilliant asset in the journalism and unrivalled access to the world's top riders in Zoe Oksanen, who wrote about snowboarding long before she became the wife of my favourite snowboarder Jussi Oksanen (sorry Shaun).




Thursday, 19 February 2009

You've heard of people snowboarding in Brighton before but they don't usually mean the beach

Every one has heard of Brighton snowboard resort in the US but for one day in February, England had enough snow for people to build snowmen on Brighton beach on the South Coast.

And people were doing this!

Read all about it on the excellent HUCK mag site.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

That's It, That's All - review

That's It, That's All is possibly the first snowboard movie ever to be released on Blu Ray. You could get it from iTunes but make no mistake, this movie is meant to be viewed on the biggest screen possible and in HD. 

Prepare to globetrot as you have never globetrotted before through scenary so beautiful you could be watching a BBC natural history documentary. New Zealand, Jackson Hole, Alaska, Japan and er Munchner.... all captured in stunning lingering fly-bys, often at sunset.

Two years in the making, this is a high definition movie with high production values and a big budget. The helicopters have custom paint jobs (I notice that Absinthe Films had one this year too). There are even shots of the helicopters taken by other helicopters ...unless they have a superhero on the payroll. I try not to count Travis Rice as a superhero, even though he wears a cape sometimes, because I'm guessing he pretty much owns this movie and as such won't actually be on the payroll.

Usually when I watch snowboard films, I sit there wishing there was a bit more personal footage of the snowboarders. I always want to get to know the riders and hear their story. But be careful what you wish for, sometimes a bit of mystery can be a good thing. That's It, That's All could easily have been called the Travis Rice Hour. You definitely get the feeling you have met one of your heroes after watching it, and that my friend, is something they say you should never do. 

This is as much a biopic as a snowboard movie. So much so that I was beginning to worry Travis might announce his retirement as the credits roll, or that it would pan out to reveal him in a prison cell, like the dude in Dogtown & Z Boys. Even when the other snowboarders appear, they provide testimonials as to what an awesome dude Travis is. 

And to be fair, he does come across as a bit of a dude and a nice guy and there are times that you wish you were up there on screen telling everyone what a great guy your buddy Travis is.

Travis wears his signature Egyptian Pharoesque designer snowboard clothing range without one iota of irony. However, as we see from the close up podium footage, these snowboarders live like kings so who are we to judge when they dress like them? I mean look at the huge crowds they draw in this movie. 

One thing that is beyond dispute is the quality of the riding on display and Travis' love of snowboarding. When it comes to big air tricks, whether it's in competition or on the mountain, Travis rules and if you need evidence, there's plenty here. 

But the truly jaw dropping moment is when he narrowly escapes an avalanche in Alaska. If you think this is just for laughs, watch a bloodied Jeremy Jones, one of the best back country riders in the world, break his arm on the same trip.


For most of us, That's It, That's All is a must see, for many it will be a must own. 

A Brain Farm Production directed, edited and produced by Curt Morgan. 

Riders include Travis Rice, Mark Landvik, Nicolas Muller, Terje Haakonsen, Jeremy Jones, Scotty Lago, John Jackson and Pat Moore. 

Additonal riders - Brian Iguchi, Kyle Clancy, Jake Blauvelt, Sammy Leubke, Danny Kass, Eddie Wall, Shandy Campos, Mark Carter, Lonnie Kauk, Dan Brisse, Dustin Craven.

Download the trailer from: thatsit-thatsall.com

Stoked - Xbox 360 screen shots

Absinthe Films have been kind enough to send me a clutch of screen shots from their forthcoming collaboration with games developer Bongfish for Xbox 360. It's a snowboarding video game called Stoked with a US release date currently pinned on the end of December 2008.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Happy birthday Eero!

Today is Eero Ettalla's birthday. Another excuse to post Eero and Heikki's awesome phone cam video!

Check out Eero, Heikki and Juuso's blog:

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Big board and music mash up hits Battersea Powerstation

Don't miss Freeze, London's big snowboard comp & music mash up at Battersea Power Station from October 23rd - 26th.

Over 80 pro snowboarders and nearly 30 music acts will collide over one weekend at Battersea Power Station on the South Bank for Freesports on 4 Freeze, a huge snowboard and ski event sponsored by LG, energy drink Relentless, Shaun White Snowboarding and many more.

Some 30 UK riders, including Dom Harington, Ben Kilner and our top half pipe boy Dan Wakeham , will be up against the likes of Danny Kass and Stefan Gimpl in the Big Air competition. Even Shaun White is rumoured to be putting in an appearance.

Check out the list of riders.

On the gig front expect a mix of hip hop, indie bands and dance djs including Cypress Hill, Sway, The Enemy, Reverend and the Makers, The Automatic and my old mate from my Radio 1 website days, DJ Annie Mac. 

Check out Annie's new website where you can download a mix for free. This won't be just another gig for her. It's ridiculous how many people who work at Radio 1 are big into snowboarding.

The music line up at Freeze.

Channel 4 have an online only competition running to win tickets and a top prize of a big screen LG TV on their Freesports on 4 website. You can enter as many times as you like but you better be quick, closing date is noon on October 17th.

For more details on the event, how to get there and how to buy tickets, visit:

Download a free Annie Mac mix at:

Monday, 13 October 2008

Shaun White - Wii salute you!

November sees the release of Shaun White Snowboarding on every video game platform under the sun but of special note is the Wii version which allows you to control your rider with the Wii Balance Board introduced with Wii Fit.

Are we about to witness the birth of a franchaise? It seems Shaun White has learnt a new trick from his mentor Tony Hawk and it isn't on a skateboard.

From November 14th (UK), Montreal games developer Ubisoft release Shaun White Snowboarding for Xbox 360, DS, PS3, PS2, PSP and PC. But potentially the most intriguing version will be the exclusive Wii incarnation Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip which has it's own exclusive storyline and incorporates the Wii Fit Balance Board as a controller. 

I'd like to see how grabs work on that apparatus because they're not light! Here's some screen grabs from the Wii version  and below that, Live Wire and Ubisoft demo the game on YouTube.

Watch Ubisoft and Live Wire demo the game on You Tube.