Words: Tommi Ollikainen Photos: Nick Khattar / NK Media
Part I: My initial reaction to receiving an invite to Superpark was straight disbelief. You know, “Nah they must’ve been drunk while trying to reach Travis Rice” -kind of skepticism. The invitation email, however, seemed legit, coming from the industry workhorse Pat Bridges himself. A few quick fact checks left no questions. It was a real deal.
Superpark is a synonym for the progression of park snowboarding. The session is organised annually at a location in North America. Continents’ best park crews are invited to sculpt a massive never-seen-before setup for the hundreds of pro- and am-riders flying in from all over the globe. The line-up includes anyone from your favourite pros to up-and-coming film crews to that still-unknown Japanese 15-year-old that just stomped the latest triple cork. All styles of freestyle snowboarding are well presented. And everyone’s ready to send it for their shot of glory.
The invited riders are set loose on progressive features, while the action is captured by dozens of snowboarding photographers, videographers and different media giving the rest of the world a chance to experience a part of the show.
To put it short, Superpark is huge. I mean, Superpark 7 was the final map in Amped 2, the best snowboarding game ever made. After it, that was it. You finished the game.
Did it mean that by taking part in it I was going to play through the game of snowboarding?
Did it mean I was going to have an extremely good time?
This year’s five-day session is organised at Mammoth Mountain in California. It’s been a long way from my home in Jyväskylä, Finland, but after two and a half days of eventful travels I am standing in the registration line-up with my Snackbreak boys Andy James and Johan Rosén and our Canadian photographer-chauffeur Nick Khattar. Just a couple of greasy dudes, stiff and sore from the days of travelling. But that famous Californian sun is shining on us, the jet-lag is under control and the spirits are high.
Looking around, just the line up to the registration hints that we’re up to something serious. The word on the streets has it professional snowboarding these days is next to extinct, but the crowd around shows no evidence for that. There are more pro snowboarders in this line alone than I have crossed paths with during my 17 years of boarding.
So, here we are, four friends, waiting to go snowboard in the sun, trying to figure out why boarders like Chris Grenier, Torstein Horgmo or Halldor Helgason are waiting right next us getting ready to go ride the same features as we are. Oh shit boys. What are we doing here?
The prefix super is included in Superpark for a reason. Two lifts are in the private use of the session, and the vast area surrounding them has been shaped by the park teams of Mammoth, Boreal, Loon, Carinthia and Seven Springs into a gigantic snowboard playground from your wildest dreams. Thousands of hours of cat operation was needed to make it happen. The huge setup includes some of the biggest features ever seen in snowboarding. Everything imaginable is available from quarter pipes, skate-style snakeruns, tree gaps and bonks, channel jumps, hips and transitions in all forms and sizes. More features that you can ride in five days. Mostly way outside your comfort zone.
The wildest features at Superpark work as separators. Only a handful of riders from the 400 invited boarders have the balls to face the largest are-you-fucking-kidding-me-sized take-offs.
The award for the craziest of these goes to the hosting resort, Mammoth. Their jump measures between 110 and 120 feet, depending on the source. That, if you are wondering, is almost 40-meter distance to even reach the knuckle of the landing. Some of the craziest moves of the week are seen on this colossus. Sage Kotsenburg, Ethan Morgan, Sebbe de Buck & Halldor Helgason fly over the tabletop with slow, stylish 3’s and 5’s, while Fridtjof Tischendorf and Tyler Flanagan double the fun with some ridiculously mellow doubles. To one up, Chris Corning spins the slowest BS triple like it is nothing, enjoying the beautiful view of the surrounding Sierra mountains while he’s at it.
The standout of this jump session is seen when señor Craig Gouweloos drops in full speed and sends a huge, slow motion superman front flip over the whole damn thing. I’m claiming it: the biggest front flip in the history of snowboarding. Just an average day at Superpark.
Right next to the Mammoth jump rises a hip that’s not a joke either. The take-off itself stands ten meters tall with a profile that sends the rider straight to the moon. What makes the feature more fun is the ten-meter death gap, that the wishful astronaut candidates are required to clear before deploying their landing gears.
Yuki Kadano, a promising young name from the National Japanese Space Program, soon demonstrates the crowd how one tweaks a method. His colleagues Tomoki Wakita and Garret Warnick step it up with some very intimidating looking bs 450s, making their way close to the end of the landing. Halldor Helgason does a fully tweaked-around crail grab because, well, he can.
How is it to huck one’s body off these things?! Let’s ask someone. The five-day session is done and we are at the after party. Awards are being handed out and the place is stupidly crowded. Finally, a fairly intoxicated Ethan Morgan is reached to make a comment in the after-hours of the afterparty of the afterparty (the first one was quickly shut down after Halldor Helgason ripped out a chandelier that not supposed to be ripped out). Ethan describes the hip to be “ the scariest shit ever”. We can nothing but to take his word on that.
This is Tommi Ollikainen reporting from Superpark. Until next year, folks. Over and out.
Thank you Rodeo, Yuki Threads & Snowboarder mag for making the trip possible.
Thank you Nick Khattar & Mike Dawson for the photos and all the filmers for filming.
You can watch our Snackbreak at Superpark 21 edit below.
Superpark 21 Standout – Halldor Helgason (Iceland)
Super Charger – Brock Crouch (US)
Super Unknown – Fridtjof Tischendorf (Norway)