Mountain Wave 2016 at Hakuba 47 was an end-of-season festival of hand-dug transitions, where style was the focus in a low-consequence and high-fun set up.
Mountain Wave headed into the shade of the trees this year to escape a rapidly melting snowpack. This was a touch of genius on the part of the organisers. Lack of snow made copying last year’s format impossible and instead of just cancelling it, thinking out of the box not only gave them just enough snow to pull off the event, being in the Japanese Birch trees gave it a mellow natural feeling. Snowskate and yuki ita banks winding around an adventure playground also seemed fitting – it’s all just ‘Play’ at the end of the day. Moving into the trees did present one challenge: no cats or mechanical assistance in making the course. The whole thing was hand dug in a very down-to-earth (literally, with the lack of snow) throwback to the early days of snowboarding.
Channeling the spirit of an early pipe comp, the contest to crown the “All Japan Method Champion” went off with event producer and Live Naturally filmer, Yone, turning on his unforgiving MC persona. To be fair only the locals and sponsored riders got heckled hard, although that was over half the field: “If you screw up the grab, we’re going to laugh at you til next year!”
Rome’s young buck Daiki Hara kicked things off, coming perilously close to a year of shame before wrestling his grab in:
Turned down or laid out, methods come in all different flavours. Hokkaido’s Kenji “Andy” Ando was given the nod for the win, boosting this over tweaked effort on next year’s Ride ‘War Pig’ board: As the saying goes, “If a method is boosted in the forest with nobody watching, does it make a noise?” Who knows, as plenty of people saw this booster from Voltage Design rider Satoshi Okamoto take flight:Sho Shiramizu turned up on his alpine board, complete with stonewash denim, and got one of the biggest cheers of the day for his method. He was also kind enough to lend me his board for a few laps and I can confirm it’s not easy to grab and tweak with stance angles that feel like +60/+45! That made me respect this hit (and Damian Sanders) even more:
To get people dropping into the course faster, snaking had been encouraged all day. This snowskater took it to heart and got a cheer for poaching the method comp with this binding-free tweak:
The women weren’t going let the guys have all the style points. When all the back legs had been kicked, Nitro’s Chihiro Wada took the title of Women’s Champ for 2016:
It must have been a close thing, because this method was smoking too:
The mini-shred and banks & bowls thing can look a bit underwhelming at first glance, “Is that it?” but that’s kind of the point; it’s up to you. Gravity isn’t really on your side in a snow bowl, but if you can carve and ollie, methods, 540 slashes, handplants, tail blocks, airs, lip tricks… are all possible. Or just keep it simple and enjoy the ride:
Atsushi Gomyo (Make YUKIITA), Goro Komastu and Tasuku ‘TSK’ Matsuura (Peacemaker Snowskates) oversaw a Yuki Ita course of interconnecting banks flowing around the trees. How cool would it be to pop into the trees and find this everywhere?
Watching them flow around it with their signature rubber-limbed surf style makes you wonder when the last time you did some Yoga was…Yuki ita are handmade, edgeless, bindingless wooden soul surfers. They require a cat-like sense of balance and amplify the sense of achievement from any action. An ollie like this one feels as difficult as hitting a big kicker with bindings.
As if staying upright on a yuki ita isn’t hard enough, Method champ Keiji Ando did a no-grab ollie airwalk on a yuki-ita, as seen on Yonefilm’s instagram here.
Sunday was tail-grab time. “Another grab that is an art form done well, but not done well often enough…” The comp started and that reach to the tail was proving elusive to many – is the tail grab the most neglected of snowboarding styles? The MC was calling out ‘tindy’s and tail fishes. Local Capita hero, Noboro Konno tweaked his way to the tongue-in-cheek “World Tailgrab Champion” title. Keeping it both surfy and rural, Hakuba local style, Noboru Konno took home a Lib longboard… and a giant ‘daikon’ Japanese radish!
Women’s honours went to Sayaka Kato (Ride) who was charging all weekend:
Mountain Wave continued the inclusive vibe off the snow with a beginners’ longboard session and a massive prize giveaway which saw quite a few people walking home with new longboards.
Atsushi Gomyo spreading the yuki ita word and taking it back to the origins, sidewalk surfing on his tiny handmade deck:
A big thanks to Yone and the Mountain Wave diggers crew, the sponsors and Hakuba 47 for throwing such a fun event. Mountain Wave rounded off its festival of sideways sliding in the traditional way …with live music, big smiles and the kind of hangover that comes with spring and no more powder waiting in the morning.