(Unless It’s Now And Just For a Moment)
Don’t Ever Look Back: Tall-Guy Style
By Robjn Taylor
There was a time when snowboarding, in all its glory, looked favourably upon those of modest stature. It was the turn of the century, and all the best pros (Devun Walsh, Peter Line, David Benedek etc.) ranged from chickenhawk to kind-of-shortish. Travis Parker and Bjorn Leines seemed to be the tallest snowboarders on the planet, and they were both 5’10.
Then, bless his heart, there was Chris Engelsman. Excellent snowboarder, master of all the tricks. In normal life, his height of 6’2 would elicit nothing more than the occasional shrug, “I suppose he’s tall.”
But strapped onto a snowboard, oh man, he looked like a genuine freak of nature. His arms and his legs seemed eternal, bending crazily, and to no one’s will but their own. Wait. Or was this all some type of illusion, created by the 4:3 aspect ratio of our televisions? Was it simply, as most people thought, his choice of pants?
Regardless, I suspected that Engelsman was living proof that, just maybe, snowboarding wasn’t meant for tall people. Even though it was mind-blowingly fun, I had to admit, being 6’0, I often felt like how Engelsman looked. The struggle was real.
Then one day in 2003, this happened: The fog clears. I’m on the Catskinner chair on Blackcomb (the greatest of all the world’s mountains), and I see a random guy riding below, toward the park’s Mordor of jib features: the down-flat-down bar. He’s trying to hide his height in a puffy jacket but I can tell, what we have here, is one lanky dude. I’m curious to see what happens because this rail has a really aggressive kink, a merciless blackhole of style that sucks all of your board control and gangster-vibes into its swirling wrath.
So this rider goes to hop up onto the rail, his head so far away from the ground, and boom! Front board. He slides right through that kink so smooth, no drama. Like he’s falling asleep! How the—? What does this mean? He’s so tall and my brain hurts.
Maybe I’m jumping the gun. I mean, he’s not finished the rail yet and there’s still time to blow it. But you know what, I don’t care if he does. What I’ve already seen is worth a thousand outbursts, so I go to yell my uninvited approval, when suddenly, he pretzels off the end of the fucking rail! Perfect 270, lands, no scooches or weird arm twists—nothing. I black out.
The storybook ending here is that this was the first time I had ever seen Chris Engelsman ride in person.
Except this isn’t a storybook. Sorry, Chris. That rider was actually Simon Chamberlain. His brand of sleepy style went on to hijack the entire snowboarding world over the course of the next few years. Suddenly tall boarders saw what was possible, and they emerged now, fearless from amongst the shadows of the circus sideshows they’d been shackled in: Mikey Rencz, Scotty Lago, Mark Sollors, Andrew Geeves, Eman Anderson, Rusty Ockenden, all over six feet, and all commanding their stretched-out frame with great agility and pride.
By 2008, when 6’2 Mikkel Bang appeared, post-growth spurt, and started switch back twelving all over the place, it was official—we were living in The Golden Age of Tall Guy Style.
Today, the list of towering boarders, like the riders on it, continues to lengthen: Frank April, Bode Merrill, Darcy Sharpe.
Of course, history is a matter of perspective. Somewhere, some seven-foot tall snowboarder is shedding a single tear, and preparing himself/herself to rearrange our dumbass opinions all over again. I look forward to it.
*Don’t look down here. There are no footnotes for this article.