(Please enjoy these pictures through the years of my competing by the way!)
I have competed in freestyle snowboarding events since I was 10. just a year after I took my first lessons I was onto the stage of competing. My parents have always been the reason behind my competitiveness since I came onto the scene I am so competitive and I have so much drive to succeed in things. I know that going into your first competitions can be super intimidating. But I promise when you start you will fall In love just like I did.
Firstly you need to find which discipline you want to get into. There are 4 kinds of snowboard competition freestyle events like big air and Slopestyle or others like boardercross and halfpipe. If you live in the UK as I do there’s definitely no halfpipes here so its a less likely option for you unless you are willing to move or travel a lot to train. There are however lots of freestyle facilities available to us. Most domes and snowsports facilities have designated evenings on which you can go and all of their freestyle equipment is out for you to use. Some places also offer boardercross training but you would have to look into this more as it is not that common.
I chose freestyle when I was younger as it was easily accessible and I naturally seemed to be drawn to the freestyle side of things. This post is written from my personal experiences so is focused on freestyle but can be applied elsewhere. As soon as I finished my lessons learning how to snowboard I pretty much went straight into freestyle. I joined a kids club at my local dome called the breakfast club which introduced me into freestyle. So this would be my step one. Find yourself a club or take lessons to introduce you into freestyle most facilities have freestyle nights and have freestyle coaches available for you to use. You can also go to outside companies after I joined breakfast club a lot of my friends were going to more training sessions with outsider camps which I quickly joined onto as I got better. Definition freestyle camps were my first sponsor and I have worked with them for years and now sometimes take lessons for them which is really cool.
Once you have been introduced into freestyle it’s basically just confidence building you have to keep going back to sessions to build your trick list and your knowledge.
Freestyle isn’t just for kids! you can get involved at any age and still be rad at it! I know so many older shredders who are truly badass at what they do!
My teaching list for beginners is to start on the flat actually we would go over lots of ‘flatland’ tricks such as ollies, pops, nollies, spins and all sorts this gives you more edge control and prepares you for later on. Your flat land tricks are where everything else grows from. You also want to be super confident in riding switch. If you learn to spin a 180 for example at some point you’re going to be going the opposite way than you are used to so just make sure you are comfortable and confident in riding that way all the way down the slope.
Your first features would probably be boxes starting with 50-50s which is just going straight over. I teach them to do this on different shapes of boxes some are flat some are curved some are round pipes etc. This allows you to feel what it’s like to be on a variety of different surfaces and so you know how to adapt your riding to suit the shape of the feature. Next up would be tail presses and nose presses so you can begin shifting your weight backwards and forwards over your nose and tail this is your first proper trick! (yay!) it helps you find your balance point and helps you to gain confidence with movement over your board. Finally, I would usually teach people how to boardslide so starting to go sideways on the boxes. This tends to be where a lot of the falls start happening because without the right technique being taught it can go wrong (but I guess that’s the same for everything in snowboarding) I’m not going to go into a full lesson right now on how to do everything but this is the list of basics.
After boxes I would move onto jumps or kickers is the proper snowboarding term. Similarly with the boxes from before I would start with teaching people to pop (with the correct techniques) and just going straight over. You are going to be leaving the ground now so it’s a little intimidating. But with proper support and help its something you can quickly get used to. Next would be a variety of grabs you can do in the air continuing onto spins.
Every trick that you learn in freestyle is a stepping stone that will help you later on in your journey so you want to make sure you are getting every single trick in your bag before moving on else it can cause problems sooner than you would want. You want to walk before you run so be sure to complete every step before you move on. For example, make sure you are comfortable and confident doing 180s before moving on to 360s.
There is not really a correct time to start competing its more about your confidence. So once you feel like you have a solid array of tricks and are confident hitting a variety of features it is probably time. You want to make sure you are able to hit lots of different features as not every contest you go to will have the box you like or one size jump there is likely to be a wide variety for all different levels from beginner to advanced.
Something you want to make sure you are able to do is be able to come up with lines down the course so if there is a box and then a jump you want to be able to hit the box and then the jump so you aren’t wasting runs. Also if you come off a feature switch (or backwards) you have to be able to ride into the next feature that direction so this is where your switch riding comes in handy! Judges will take points away from your score if you “revert” or change direction from riding switch to normal or normal to switch! Come up with some combinations of tricks you can string together in a run (particularly if you do slopestyle events).
Although your first contest will obviously be the scariest, it’s the same as going over a box or a jump for the first time. It gets easier the more you do it. I always travelled everywhere with my dad. We spent sooooo much time in the car together travelling all over Europe taking me to different contests every weekend. Definitely go with someone you know as its an intimidating environment at first but once you realise everyone is super friendly and welcoming you’ll love it!
There are so many competitions around the UK that you can go to I would look at any sort of jam session will do perfectly, to be honest, this helps you feel the vibe of competition atmosphere and doesn’t put too much pressure on you PLUS at most jam sessions they throw out free prizes for doing great tricks so make sure you’re pulling every trick you can do! The atmosphere at competitions changes with the seriousness Jam sessions and small contests such as Farmer’s jam, Air attack, and K jam are all very chilled out contests everyone there is looking to enjoy themselves and just have a good time!
As you get more serious events such as the English championships, Scottish championships, and the Brits both indoors and on-mountain, these tend to be a little more serious they are much more formatted like a proper competition and a lot of higher-level athletes go here to defend or win titles. However, this is skiing and snowboarding at the end of the day and everyone wants to have fun at the same time. Like I said before, go with a friend or a group of people who are at a similar level as you or who have experience and know-how these things go but at the same time BE SOCIAL! Everyone at these events is super friendly and welcoming and if you have questions don’t be afraid to ask the organizers or other competitors. The UK snow scene is basically one massive family and when you travel around for contests more and more you meet people from all over the country so you can have shred buddies no matter where in the country you are!
Once you start going regularly to contests and start getting on the podium more often you can even get noticed by sponsors! Make sure you are constantly promoting online your wins and what brands you are using and promote brands that you find which you love! Eventually, you can pick up sponsors who will help you out!
The biggest piece of advice I can give you is just to have fun! That’s what snowboarding is about! Don’t worry about where you finish or winning or getting sponsors it’s all about gaining experience and making friends and being a better snowboarder! You will learn so so much from competing from ideas of tricks.
You will never know your full potential until you take that first step so get out on your board as much as possible enjoy it and once you feel ready just take a leap! It’s not about winning it’s about taking part as cringey as that is. You will gain experience, friends and free stuff along the way!
What is your favourite thing about snowboarding? Comment below!