OG Awareness Week At Supernatural

“Just a bunch of old guys about to do some ugly freestyle,” says Andy Hetzel as we strap in for a run post-Supernatural at Baldface Lodge. Along with Jamie Lynn, Bryan Iguchi, Temple Cummins, Shin Campos, Tom Burt, J.P. Martin and marketing men Nate Nash and Frankie from Contour, we roll off the edge of the cat track, traverse hard right 200 metres, and drop fall line. The run is full of little poppers, and if you line it up right, you can bounce from one air to the other next. A pow field full of airtime assholes indeed. Hetzel and Guch charge, blasting off everything. I follow. It’s hard to choose between watching them ride and getting mine. We stop when a creek bed comes up fast and the three of us realize we missed the traverse back to the pickup for the cat. Panting, grinning, we hike up and cut over to the rest of the group. From the looks on everyone’s face, each of us could have just won the contest the day before.

The group — with the exception of Jamie who was there to help the course-build crew and do art — was convened to judge Supernatural. The idea was get riders, judges, and media together to ride pow for a few days before the contest started and remember why we all love to shred. But, in what was an incredibly unlikely scenario given the high number of gray days in the Kootenays, Supernatural took place under bluebird skies at the start of the contest window. With a week of cat time still booked, everyone was encouraged to stick around to take advantage of film-and-photo-free pow days.

Such a gathering of legends is a rare occurrence. It’s even more rare to have a progressive event like Supernatural that allows them to put their knowledge to good use. With the unique nature of the course and a contest format that scored the riding between the tricks as well as the tricks themselves, the judges’ years of freestyle and freeriding experience was key to fairly marking the runs. And imagine what it’s like for backcountry newcomers Mark McMorris and Sage Kotsenburg to get advice from Terje “Uncle T” Haakonsen, who was riding in the event, before dropping in for their line.

Photo: Christian Pondella

The absence of veterans actively playing a role is one of the reasons why snowboarding often criticizes itself for not honouring its greats as much as surfing or skateboarding does. Even mainstream sports know there’s value in veterans. Baseball, basketball, and football find roles for many of their post-pro-career stars as coaches, announcers, and mentors. Maybe it’s due to the relative short time snowboarding’s been around — close to 30 years since we got the first boards with bindings. Since then it seems like it’s always been a race for the new-new. For most of snowboarding’s history, if a rider wasn’t progressing or pushing the sport season to season they were often dropped. And fast. Big names that had banger video parts, commanded multiple pages of ad space, and had covers one year could fall into obscurity in the course of a season.

Looking at the crew standing in a circle, frothing about how sweet their run was, it feels like a shift towards a snowboard world where legends are not only valued but use their knowledge to help better the sport. As we stand there, waiting for the cat, joking about sore backs and aching knees, we try to guess at the combined years of pro experience in the group. Our best estimate: close to 135. Regardless of age, everyone here is clearly stoked just to be involved still and it’s apparent that snowboarding is much more than something kids do.

A quick run down of what those in the cat crew are up:

Tom is active as the head judge for The North Face Masters and has a pro model for Winterstick (he started skiing in 1968 which means he’s somewhere in his mid-40s).

Photo: Christian Pondella

Heztel also judges for TNF Masters as does Temple, who still rides for Gnu.

Photo: Christian Pondella

“The Guch” coaches at Jackson Hole’s TGR Fall Line Camp, guides at EpicQuest’s Alaska Heli Adventures, and leads Volcom’s Backcountry Awareness Tour.

Photo: Christian Pondella

While not a certified guide, if you want your backcountry or foreign destination trip to go smoothly your can hire Shin Campos to put it all together for you. Remember George Clooney as a fixer in Michael Clayton? Yeah, Shin’s kind of like that. He also helps run Whistler Creek Productions.

Ex ’90s K2 pro J.P. Martin drives cat, builds park jumps, and guides backcountry tours in Nagano, Japan.

And, of course, Jamie still holds down pro models with Lib, Vans, and Dragon (he also rides for Volcom).

Maybe ex-pros’ return to relevance has something to do with an aging snowboard demographic. A lot of us who started riding in the early ’90s are still getting our shred on and it’s inspiring to know the riders we looked up to when we were kids are still down. Some credit’s also got to be given to Vice’s Powder and Rails  videos for their effect on the younger generation awareness of the OGs. As up and coming Canadian shred Scot Brown said of the series, “I love finding out about all that old stuff.”

Looking around the cat, on the ride back up for another run, it’s clear that these guys have a lot to give to snowboarding still. And we’d be fools not to continue to welcome them. If things continue this way, give it a couple more years and maybe we can finally cut out the snowboarding-doesn’t-care-about-its-roots shit.

Gerhard Gross

About Gerhard Gross

Canuck in SoCal. Word nerd. Likes trees and snow.