Category Archives: Media

The long road to recovery from traumatic brain injury

New documentary on snowboarder Charlie Elmore’s recovery from traumatic brain injury resonated with me strongly, for a number of reasons.

Nearly 19 years ago I was in a car accident in which one of my friends suffered a brain injury that left her in a coma. Unlike my friend, I still remember the moments after the crash vividly. Miraculously no one else was seriously hurt, but J, who’d been sitting in the middle of that backseat, had been thrown to one side and was unconscious. There had been no impact and were no visible signs of injury, but her brain had been shaken enough to cause severe brain injury that would change her life forever.

Charlie Elmore snowboarder

Snowboarder Charlie Elmore

For many years that accident made me a very nervous passenger and fastidious about wearing seatbelts (although I must point out that my friend was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident) but my caution did not necessarily carry over to the ski slopes.

As a snowboarder, I’ve taken many a tumble, hitting my head on countless occasions. It’s a horrible feeling. Not so much the pain, but rather the dull thud, and realisation that it could have been so much worse. Hearing that thud means that, on that occasion, you are one of the lucky ones, but it always makes you take stock and reflect on the fragility of your brain.

When Charlie Elmore hit her head while riding the Penken Park in Mayrhofen, she knew nothing about it until she woke up in hospital ten days later, and even then, had no recollection of the incident.

Charlie Elmore snowboarder

Charlie in the park before the accident

BBC Three’s excellent documentary “Me and My New Brain” charts Charlie’s journey through rehabilitation and beyond, as she tries to rebuild her life. While, four years later, she appears to have fully recovered, the documentary focuses on the more subtle psychological effects that can endure after such trauma to the brain, and which often go unaddressed or even unnoticed.

Incredibly Charlie was back on her snowboard after just a year, determined to resume her career as a snowboard instructor in Verbier. However, she soon discovered that, despite her remarkable progress, she still had a long battle ahead. After realising that fitting back into her previous life was not going to be as easy as she’s envisioned, Charlie decided to train to be an adaptive snowboard instructor so that she could help others with disabilities to enjoy the ski slopes. However, even that has proven to be a struggle. She also runs the GBOT2018 Campaign to help fund Paralympian and Invictus athletes.

Charlie Elmore rehab

Charlie in rehab

The effects of my friend’s injuries were much more severe than Charlie’s and it was a very long time before she was able to lead any semblance of a normal adult life. However, like Charlie, she’s an extremely determined individual, and against all the odds she eventually returned to university to continue the law degree that she’d only just begun before the accident, with a view to eventually helping others with brain injuries. She’s also an active political campaigner. It took a lot of persistance, but she’s now living a relatively normal, independent life. However, like so many other people who’ve suffered from traumatic brain injury, the obstacles that I’ve seen her overcome will only have been the tip of the iceberg.

For me, one of the most poignant moments in the documentary is when Charlie talks of a lack of ongoing support, and how, despite receiving messages, cards and visits from over 200 friends at the time of her accident, she could now count on two hands the number of friends who continue to offer support four years down the line. Her revelation sent a pang of remorse through me, as I know that I probably haven’t offered my friend enough in the way of continued support over the years.

It’s impossible not to be inspired by people like my friend and Charlie, who’ve not only overcome traumatic brain injuries, but have used their experience to help others. It’s a position no one would want to be in themselves, but you can only hope that you would be as strong and altruistic, but the brain is such a complicated thing that anything could happen.

Charlie Elmore adaptive snowboard coach

Charlie training to be an adaptive snowboard coach

The fact that I could just as easily have come off worse in that car accident, or in any of my many snowboarding and mountain biking crashes, is not something I reflect on often. If I did, maybe I would have been more sensitive to the need for ongoing support and understanding for people who’ve suffered traumatic brain injuries. It’s undoubtedly one of the documentary’s overriding messages, and if it makes as much of an impact on everyone else watching it as it did me, it will hopefully go some way towards helping those recovering from TBI to reintegrate more easily into society.

As a snowboarder and mountain biker, another message I took away from it was the importance of wearing a helmet. The fear of it happening to me is not enough to stop me doing the things I love, but I always do what I can to minimise the risk of injury by wearing a helmet. After all, as the consultant who treated Charlie in intensive care told her, it was the helmet she was wearing that saved her life.

The BBC Three documentary “Me and My New Brain” is available to watch on iPlayer and is well worth a watch.

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Sexist Snowboards

Using sex, and more specifically, the female form, to sell products is one of the oldest marketing tricks in the book, but you’d think in these times of supposed equality and respect for women, that it might have dwindled somewhat. But not in snowboarding it would appear.

sexist snowboards It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise given the way that women tend to be portrayed in the snowboarding media – predominantly as eye candy – but I’m always amazed at the number of new boards that emerge each year sporting graphics that quite blatantly objectify women.

What’s even more surprising is that it’s totally at odds with apparent efforts by the snowboarding media and certain brands over the past few years to recognise, represent and cater to the industry’s female contingent better.These companies seem to reach out to women with one hand, offering female specific products, media channels, and even the odd female team rider, and then slap them in the face with the other, with sexist advertising and degrading graphics on their boards.

Here are some of the worst culprits…

Sims Fader 2003

Sims Fader 2003

Back in the dark ages of 2003 Sims managed to get away with putting a topless image of porn star Jenna Jameson on their Fader snowboard, along with a series of other glamour models posing seductively. Classy eh?

Burton Love 2009

Burton Love snowboard 2009Six years later Burton featured Playboy centrefolds on its, equally tacky, Love series. While they stopped short of showing any full on boob-age, they were still the kind of images that belong on the top shelf rather than the top sheet of a snowboard. Needless to say the boards didn’t go down very well (not like that) and there were protests to have them banned.

Burton Custom Restricted 2014 

Burton Custom Restricted 2014Undeterred by the offence caused by the Love series five years previously, Burton decided to roll out the scantily clad ladies again for the 2014 restricted version of their ever-popular Burton Custom, which featured blurred images of swimwear models posing seductively on the beach. Admittedly not quite as risqué, but still pretty disrespectful nonetheless.

They must have decided that female objectification had become more acceptable in our increasingly liberal and “progressive” society, or perhaps they’d just run out of ideas? As Burton is hardly renowned for its creative graphics, let’s assume it’s the latter.

The fact that the boards were only available in certain shops just made them seem all the more seedy, as if they were some kind of illicit porn or sex toy. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the blurred design looks like it’s being viewed through the opaque plastic cover of a top shelf magazine?

Rome Artifact 2009

Rome Artifact 2009

It may not picture the slightest trace of naked female flesh but the 2009 Rome Artifact manages to be even more offensive than the ones that do with its neon light strip club graphics and “LIVE NUDE GIRLS” or “BENT OVER BABES” emblazoned on the base. Seriously? 

Reprobate Tap Her 

Reprobate Tap Her

I had to do a double take when I saw this board in the window of a snowboard shop in Morzine. Not so much because of the graphic, as it’s hardly unusual to see a semi clad woman gracing the topsheet of a snowboard, but more because of the name. Personally, as a woman, I find the expression “I’m going to tap her” pretty offensive, but given the brand name, I guess that’s their objective. Fortunately their puerile attempt to appeal to snowboarding’s laddish contingent appeared to fail, as I’ve never seen or heard of them since.

Lib Tech Jamie Lynn Phoenix

Lib Tech Phoenix Jamie Lynn series

I have to confess that I feel a little conflicted with this one, as I actually really like the graphics on the Jamie Lynn series of Lib Tech boards. The images are more abstract and arty than the gratuitous lads mag style “artwork” seen on some other boards and I think they can legitimately be considered works of art as opposed to mindless sexism.

Lib Tech Deflower 2014/15

Lib Tech Deflower 2014/15

Jamie Lynn has a real thing for the voluptuous blue nude, and here she is again on his 2014/15 signature board, except this time with no head, super-sized nipples and a flower not quite covering her lady bits. I’m sure Germaine Greer would have a lot to say about this image, and the fact that it’s called the Deflower makes it hard to refute any allegations of sexism. As I said before, I like Jamie Lynn and his designs for Lib Tech, but I think I’d probably have to side with Germaine on this one.

Bataleon Camel Toe 2013/14 (limited edition)

Bataleon Camel Toe 2013/14

Well done Bataleon, we see what you did there. You’ve got to admire their audacity, but the graphics on this board are wrong on so many levels. It’s obviously tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn’t stop it being pretty degrading to women, and er, transgenders.

Yes Great Boobs

Yes Great Boobs

Yes managed to justify decorating this snowboard with nothing but, pretty fake looking, tits by donating the proceeds to help breast cancer survivors “experience the life-changing effects of snowboarding through Retreat Yourself camps in Colorado”. While I commend cause, it seems like a pretty tasteless way of going about it.

Gnu Pickle Stallion 13/14

Gnu Pickle Stallion 2013/14A couple of years ago Gnu eventually hit back at all this flagrant sexism on behalf of the ladies with the delightfully tongue-in-cheek Pickle Stallion that features naked male models in ludicrous poses, on skis no less. Their modesty is protected by pixelated strips, along with their faces, which are obviously of no interest to us girls when there’s a naked torso on display.

It’s a great parody that manages to subvert the notion of sexual objectification and ridicule the offenders. The strategically positioned banana logo is a particularly nice touch.

Lobster Jib Board STD

Lobster Jib Board STD 2011/12

The Helgasons are hardly renowned for being saintly and subtle so it’s no surprise that their range of Lobster snowboards feature some pretty controversial graphics. However, last year’s special edition Jib Board STD was offensive even by their standards. Apparently the board carried a safe sex message to the kids that “STDs will fuck you up”, but that wasn’t enough to prevent it from being banned in several shops. I’m not sure it’s been proven that you can catch genital teeth from sleeping around…

Union Danny Kass bindings – 12/13

Union Danny Kass bindings 2012/13Snowboards aren’t the only culprits. Boobs have even made it onto bindings thanks to Union and Danny Kass. At least the modesty of one of the pair, of bindings, is protected by a little T-shirt, although, as it bears the logo “We Make Party” I’m not sure whether that makes it any less chauvinistic…

Flux RK Visuals bindings 2015/16

Flux RK Visual bindings 2015/16

And it looks like Flux have gone one step further by featuring a close up of a woman’s crotch and thighs on their RK Visual bindings for next season. Awesome.

DC Ply 2012/13, Nitro Addict 2014/15, Capita DOA (most of them), Salomon Man’s Board (all of them) … The list of sexist snowboards goes on and on…

sexist snowboards

However, none are as bad as the Anti Hero Allen Before & After skateboard deck…

Anti Hero Allen Before & After skateboard deck

I guess they do say that snowboarding borrows a lot from skateboarding. Perhaps sexist graphics are just another example?

I’m not a raving feminist or feel personally affronted by any of these designs, (ok, maybe some) but what does make me uncomfortable is the fact that they are representative of this male dominated industry and the issues associated with that. How will women ever attain equal recognition in snowboarding, be that with prize money, funding or sponsorship, when we’re still being presented as nothing more than boobs on boards.

At the end of the day, the market is driven by consumers, and these kind of graphics wouldn’t continue to emerge year after year if people weren’t buying them. So come on guys, show us some respect. Female shredders want to be taken seriously as riders, and not as eye candy to decorate your snowboards and the pages of magazines. There are loads of rad graphics out there that display a lot more depth and imagination, so why not leave the pictures of boobs and bums on the bedroom walls of teenage boys and get yourself a grown up snowboard. And besides, if you want to impress a girl on the slopes, riding around with sexist images on your snowboard is probably the worst way to go about it.

What do you think of these boards, and the representation of women in snowboarding generally?

 

Higher Calling

UK premiere of Higher, the final installment of Jeremy Jones’s backcountry trilogy.

Looking around at the grand pulpit, rows of pews, and ornate stone features of London’s Union Chapel it seemed fitting that we were here to see the god of backcountry snowboarding. This divine setting played host to the UK premiere of Higher, the final part of Jeremy Jones’ epic trilogy, and the great man was there in person for us to worship.

WP_20141028_025Unsurprisingly the event was a sell out and when we rocked up ten minutes after the doors opened, there was already a massive queue running right the way along the street. We headed up to the balcony and chose a pew that was ideally situated to take in the beautiful surroundings and get a perfect view of the big screen and spot in front of the pulpit where His High(er)ness would be speaking.

Jez, as I feel I can call him that now that we’ve ‘met’, introduced the film and made an instant connection with the audience by reminding us that he too came from somewhere low and flat before climbing, quite literally, higher.

The film begins by touching on Jones’s upbringing on Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the early 80s and his progression from professional slalom racer to ten-time ‘Big Mountain Rider of the Year’.

jeremy_drops_in_HigherJeremy Jones isn’t a man who does things by halves. Like the previous two films in the trilogy, Deeper and Further, Higher follows him as he seeks out new and ever more challenging locations in which to test his riding skills and endurance. As the title of the film suggests, the focus of this installment is his assault on a series of previously uncharted vertiginous peaks.

Higher focuses on three separate expeditions, to Grand Teton in Wyoming, Alaska and the Himalayas, and follows Jones and his carefully selected riding partners (Bryan Iguchi, Ryland Bell and Luca Pandolfi) as they experience everything from the ultimate highs to most crushing lows in remote parts of some of the most inhospitable mountain ranges on the planet.

Not one for heli drops, Jones is a true mountaineer for whom a big part of the challenge is accessing his chosen lines under his own steam, even if that means being stuck for days in massive storms with nothing but a tent for shelter, which it invariably does.

over_the_edge_HigherThey target seriously impressive terrain with near vertical spine walls that look impossible to climb, let alone ride. At one point we see Jones and Pandolfi scale a 2,000ft near-vertical face, one energy sapping step after another, only for the weather to close in as they reach the top and thwart their descent. Over the course of the film it becomes apparent that these type of set backs are commonplace, and that for every few minutes of exhilarating descent, there are invariably hours, days or even weeks spent at the mercy of mother nature at her most brutal.

The film culminates with Jones embarking on his biggest challenge yet when he heads to Nepal to take on the Shangri La spines in the Himalayas – the biggest he’s ever seen. After weeks of preparation involving acclimatisation, trial ascents and descents, he finally attempts the line he’s been aiming for. Conditions are sketchy, to say the least, and he describes it as: “the hardest thing I’ve ever done”. It may not have turned out to be the dream line that he’d hoped for but in getting down that spine on the Shangri La, he certainly fulfilled his brief. After all, short of riding down Everest, you can’t really get much ‘higher’ than that.

Higher isn’t your average snowboarding movie. At 1 hour 40 minutes long, it’s a feature length documentary on the incredible feats of a true backcountry snowboarder and mountaineer. Unlike many freeride snowboarding films, which edit together footage of perfect descents, deep powder, backcountry kickers and pillow lines, this is a realistic, warts and all account of backcountry riding in its rawest form. Jeremy epitomses the notion of “earning your turns” and the ascents he takes on are equally as impressive as the descents.

Although there’s inevitably a certain amount of aerial footage, much of the action jeremy_climbs_ridge_in_ak_Higheris filmed using head cams, which make you feel like you’re there with them on every precarious ridge and heart stopping turn. Almost.

There’s also a refreshing absence of lingering shots of logos on boots or boards, or energy drinks being consumed. This is not a vehicle to promote Jones’ range of snowboards, or at least not directly. We know they’re riding Jones boards but other than the odd uncontrived glimpse of the logo, you wouldn’t know. There are obviously nods to his handful of sponsors but these are at least subtle.

The film by no means glamourises Jones’s adventures and doesn’t necessarily leave you longing to get yourself a splitboard and transceiver and hit the backcountry. Instead I was left reflecting on the hostile nature of the mountains, and the skill and expertise required to tackle them – something that was confounded further still by the end credits which dedicate the film to several of Jones’s close friends and mentors who’ve lost their lives in this perilous jeremy_climbs_in_nepal_Higherplayground. And although I’m not a particularly religious person, our situation in this place of prayer and worship made it seem all the more poignant.

I obviously wasn’t alone as the subject was raised in the Q&A session after the film, where Jones spoke of how hard he’s been hit by the deaths of his friends and heroes. He also touched on the inner conflict he now faces as a dad, continuing to put himself in potentially life threatening situations and risking leaving his kids without a father. It’s certainly not something that he takes lightly and acknowledges that “taking stupid risks is definitely irresponsible”. Ultimately though, he just can’t imagine living his life in any other way and feels it’s important for his kids to “see people living life and drinking life up as much as possible”.

Amen to that.

Higher is available to download on iTunes now.

Have you seen the film? What did you think?

Nike Snowboarding: Never Not

On Thursday night I was lucky enough to attend the London premiere of Nike Snowboarding’s eagerly awaited, first full length snowboarding film, Never Not.

Never Not popcornI’d been in two minds about whether to make the journey down from Edinburgh for what would have to be a brief 24 hour trip, but as I’m a sucker for a media event and managed to get a cheap plane ticket, I couldn’t resist.

Nike had been kind enough to offer me a pair of VIP tickets so Dan and I headed along to the Soho Curzon Picture House for pre-movie drinks and canapés with a small gathering of usual suspects from the UK snowboard industry and stars of the show: Gigi Rüff, Ethan Morgan and Jamie Nicholls.

IMG_3989As Nike had released Part 1 online for a 24 hour period a couple of days previously, closely followed by Part 2 on iTunes, I’d already seen both films, several times, but this just made me even more excited about seeing it on the big screen. My excitement was warranted, as the film that had wowed me on the small screen of my laptop reached new levels of epicness on the big screen.

First up we were treated to Part 2, which was introduced by Ethan Morgan as being a film about what it is the be a snowboarder, rather than merely a behind the scenes documentary. In many ways Part 2 is a more powerful film than the high-octane show reel that is Part 1. It focuses on the highs and lows experienced by very different riders as they strive to achieve the ultimate run, shot, or simply sense of stoke. The film has four sections: Adaptation, Ambition, Exploration and Celebration, which focus on street riding, competitions, freeriding, and what it all means to the riders, respectively.

Gigi Ruf Never NotIt also offers an insight into the rider’s personalities, backgrounds and varying motivations. However, whether raised on urban rails or deep in the mountains, whether they thrive on competition or prefer the challenge of choosing their own spots to ride, they all share the same passion and determination to push themselves to their absolute limits in order to nail the trick, in spite of countless slams, broken boards and bones.

After a short interval to grab another drink and some popcorn, we headed back in for the main feature, which was preceded by the first showing of Jamie Nicholls’ awesome 12/13 online part, which received a rapturous applause from the audience. Although Jamie doesn’t have a part in Never Not, he’s a highly esteemed member of the Nike Snowboarding team, and this technically brilliant edit demonstrates exactly why.

Sage Kotensburg - Never NotNever Not Part 1 is 32 minutes of beautifully filmed, jaw dropping action, which leaves you longing for your next powder day, and the ability to be able to ride just a fraction as well as these guys. The film manages to strike the perfect balance between epic free riding and awe-inspiring street riding, set in locations as diverse as the peaks of Alaska and the streets of Moscow.

The freeride parts come courtesy of Manuel Diaz, Nicolas Müller, Austin Smith and Gigi Rüf, with highlights including Nicolas Müller bouncing through powder stashes on his “daily commute”, Gigi gliding down near-vertical precipices with the grace of an eagle, and the heart stopping moment when Manuel Diaz rides out an avalanche.

Halldor Never NotJed Anderson, Ethan Morgan, Sage Kotensburg, Justin Bennee and Jess Kimura take street riding to another level with an array of tricks so good that the soundtrack to their sections were accompanied by endless whoops and gasps from the audience. Jed Anderson provides one of the most consistently good parts, making light work of some sweet urban spots in his hometown of Calgary, but it’s Halldor Helgason who steals the show with one crazy stunt after another, all culminating in THAT backflip.

But it’s not all rails and wall rides for the “street riders” as we see Halldor, Jed and Ethan looking just as at home throwing massive airs off backcountry kickers, disproving that old adage that you can take the boy out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the boy.

NeverNot_NikeTrailerThe riding is accompanied by a sublime soundtrack of largely classic tunes from the likes of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Elliot Smith, with the odd hip hop track thrown in, with great effect.

It’s hard to fault a film that showcases such an overwhelmingly high standard of riding throughout, and my only criticism would be that it is perhaps a little disjointed at times. That and the relentless gratuitous boot-fastening shots, which is disappointing from Nike, who are usually a lot more subtle about crowbarring their logo into every shot. But, if the whole is equal to the sum of its parts, with parts this good, the film cannot be deemed to be anything short of awesome.

Me and GigiAs we reflected on the film’s stand out moments over a few drinks at the after party it became apparent that there were way too many to list, all of which are just as impressive after several viewings, if not even more so.

Almost exactly 24 hours after I’d touched down at Stansted Airport we were setting off on what would turn out be an 11 hour drive back up north. Was it worth the trip? Absolutely.

Massive thanks to Nike Snowboarding for not only producing an incredible snowboarding movie, but for inviting me along to celebrate its launch in style.

Never Not Parts 1 and 2 are now available to download from iTunes.

Over to you…

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Nike Snowboarding Never Not, Part 1 – official teaser

Never NotOh yes! Nike Snowboarding has just dropped the official teaser for its movie Never Not, Part 1, and it looks AWESOME!

We were expecting big things from Nike, who are always ahead of the game when it comes to producing innovative and exciting snowboarding content, and this looks like it’s definitely not going to disappoint!

The full film will be released on iTunes on 16th September and includes a free download for Part 2, which is a behind the scenes documentary.

Nike Never Not screen shotThere’s also going to be a big screen premiere in London on 19th September, which I’ll be doing my absolute best to get to. Can’t wait to see it in full!

What do you think? Share your thoughts below…

Teaser season

I’ve been lucky enough to go to a few snowboarding movie premieres recently, and this year’s offerings are pretty damn good.

Among the best have been Absinthe Films’ Resonance, DC’s Must Be Nice and local boys, The Grindhouse’s second full length film, Scare Money.

There are still more that are yet to drop, and the teasers doing the rounds are awesome. Personally, I can’t wait to see Lipstick Productions’ follow up to 5 More Minutes, Please?!, Eurotic, which is still touring the premiere. So, get ordering/downloading: it’s a sure fire way to get you stoked for the winter!

 

Read my review of The Grindhouse’s Scare Money, for Snowboarding Deals UK, here.

Have you managed to catch any of them yet? What’s your favourite?

The Nike Chosen Sessions: a marketing triumph

Snowboarding is constantly evolving. Be it the equipment, the tricks or the arenas in which the tricks are performed, it’s a sport that can never be accused of being dull.

Last week Nike Snowboarding unveiled a revolutionary new terrain park in Silvretta Montafon for the latest Nike Chosen Sessions. A group of 12 European amateur riders, selected from a round of national competitions, plus a panel of Nike sponsored pros (including Jamie Nicholls, Danny Kass and Halldor Helgason) , travelled to the Austrian resort to hit up the epic park which had been specially built for the occasion.

Among its many unique features were a skate inspired bowl, a scaffolding feature and a series of massive kickers arranged around a 70m Nike swoosh.

The ams competed in three different sessions: Best Line, The Bowl and Big Air, and the public were then invited vote for the best. UK rider Andy Nudds narrowly missed out on getting through to the final round where the top three ams (as voted by the public) were judged by the panel of pros to decide who would be ‘chosen’. The winner was eventually announced as Swiss rider, Markus Mathis who will now spend the next year living the life of a Nike pro rider.

Running alongside the best am competition was another for the best film crew. The winner of this is still to be announced, but there is some pretty awesome footage of the event out there.

As always, the Nike marketing machine was cranked up to full. Not only has the event generated a massive amount of publicity, but they’ve also acquired themselves a new team member, and a wealth of sweet, swoosh-ridden, promo material. Good work Nike!

What did you think of the Nike Chosen Sessions? Post a comment below to share your views…