A couple of weeks ago three very exciting things happened. I met an Olympian for the first time since I was a kid, I got to snowboard indoors for the first time, and I attended the Go Race Go Freestyle launch. The new initiative by Snowsport England follows on from last years successful Go Ski Go Board, which to date has seen 14,000 people try the sports. I will get onto a review of Go Race Go Freestyle shortly but first lets talk about British Olympic freestyle skier Katie Summerhayes.
Meeting Katie Summerhayes
Katie Summerhayes competed in Sochi 2014 in the Ski Slopestyle, reaching the final and finishing an impressive seventh. She was hoping to medal but at just 18 years old great things are expected of her in the coming years. I was fortunate not just to meet her, but to share the slope with Katie – I even followed her over a kicker.
The last Olympian I met in was the 400m hurdler Kriss Akabusi – about 30 years ago. Nearly four decades separate their age and Katie’s sport was not even invented when Kris competed, however Katie’s sheer enthusiasm and obvious drive to succeed in something she loves in a weird way reminded me of Kriss Akabusi. In today’s more formulaic society, where performance often precedes personality, it is great to meet Katie who clearly loves what she does.
Katie Summerhayes along with Darcie Mead, Zoe Gillings and a raft of other British winter sport athletes are supporting the Go Race Go Freestyle initiative. They will be attending events and providing inspiration as role models for the next generation of Olympians. When I asked Katie about her involvement she said, ‘Go Ski Go Board made a massive difference as 14,000 people got the chance to ski last winter who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity.’
Review of Go Race Go Freestyle
The concept of Go Race Go Freestyle is simply to get people who already ski or snowboard to try racing or freestyle. There are hour long taster sessions, multi day courses and drop-in sessions planned this winter at snow centres and dry ski slopes all over England. You can find out where your nearest even it by visiting www.goskigoboard.org.uk.
As a self taught snowboarder who has never ridden indoors, I was excited to be getting some tuition and experiencing the Hemel Hemstead snow centre for the first time. It was slightly surreal arriving in shorts and carrying my snowboard indoors, but the sight of real snow soon had me excited to be strapping my board on for the first time in five months.
After a couple of loosener runs we joined the Go Freestyle group and sat above a box and a decent sized kicker. To start we were told to just hit the kicker to get a feel for it, we did this a few times. After each jump we were giving a little helpful feedback for straight airs, in particular when to pop the ollie to achieve maximum air.
From here we introduced grabs, I ‘perfected’ a Lien grab and had a failed attempt at a Chicken Salad grab. Finally we moved onto 180s, I landed a small frontside 180 and two bigger backside 180s. Although they are all tricks I can already land, they are not something I would normally attempt within an hour of strapping on a snowboard for the fist time in months, they are also not tricks I normally do in the Park as I don’t spend enough time in them. The tips given by the instructor helped build my confidence, plus hitting the same kicker 20 times in an hour certainly helped.
The aforementioned box was slightly daunting (not for Katie who was killing it!) as it was at quite steep angle, and I have never been one for rails or boxes. Still a couple of tips from the instructor saw me 50/50ing the box a couple of times at the end of the session.
If I had been there longer I am sure I would have been attempting 360s off the kicker and board slides or presses on the box but we moved onto Go Race after an hour. Although the course was set up for ski racing, and the instructor said snowboarders would find the turns too tight, I easily rode it at pace. I found it very enjoyable negotiating the tight turns, it was not dissimilar to riding through trees -something I have lot of experience at – and race training would certainly give you a similar skill set.
A couple of tips the instructor gave will hopefully give me the edge when I next hit the boardercross. The first was to start your turn out wide and finish tight. The second was to complete the turn at the point of the marker as it helps you carry more speed. I am sure if the race training was on a boardercross circuit I would love it but I found the course a little too easy. However intermediate snowboarders would find it very useful as the skills you learn will significantly improve your riding – whether you race or not.
To Go Race or Go Freestyle, that is the question
To conclude my review of Go Race Go Freestyle I would say that although I enjoyed both it was the freestyle element that was more up my street. In one hour of tuition I was doing tricks it normally takes me a few days worth of riding to build up to and the Go Freestyle session has given me the confidence to start trying my tricks in the park.
I could never see the point of visiting a snow centre in the UK, as a (self-proclaimed) expert snowboarder how could I progress my riding on a 100m long slope full of beginners? The answer is to join a Go Freestyle session, I liked it so much that I am heading back to the Hemel Hemsted Snow Centre next week to get more practice in ahead of next season.
Find out more about Go Ski Go Board and Go Race Go Freestyle by visiting their site: www.goskigoboard.org.uk