Shaun White's unrivaled Air + Style event descends upon downtown L.A.
The second leg of the international Air+Style Big Air competition, held in the event's homeland of Austria, was interrupted by high winds that eventually ended the competition before the third and final round. The wind in Innsbruck that day was so intense that it swayed the top of the scaffold-based jump while the athletes were still at the top of the jump waiting to compete.
“At first it was windy, but not so bad that we couldn’t ride,” says Sven Thorgen, the leader of the overall Air+Style event through the first two legs. “But eventually it got so bad that we were scared to take the elevator down to the bottom of the jump. We waited for the slightest break in the wind and got down the jump as fast as we could to the launch pad and got down that way.”
Thorgen leads A+S on the strength of his 3rd place finish in Beijing and his 6th place finish in Innsbruck, but the shortened event turned the standings of the three-leg event on its head by the high winds. Multiple Air+Style stops have been significantly affected by weather over the past two seasons. Last year, rain left its mark on the Austrian tour stop as wind did this year, and rain also washed out the second day of Air+Style L.A. Coming into the second iteration of Shaun White’s newly minted L.A. stop this weekend, weather is not nearly as much of a concern. Learning from and building on the lessons from last year’s inaugural event in Pasadena, this year’s event should run a lot smoother.“This is great. I feel like a proud dad right now,” Shaun White says as he watches the event crew repair the damage that a mid-week rain shower did to the 16-story jump. “It’s my baby. This is my vision coming to reality. Pulling it off once before was cool, but to be successful enough to show up said a lot about the fans who come, the athletes who participate and the musicians who perform.”
Given the way the second leg of the event went in Austria, White is hopeful that the jump is able to allow the riders to represent themselves properly. That’s no guarantee on a jump that has to contend with rain showers and heat waves, but White is confident that the jump will perform.
Going into Innsbruck, Max Parrot had won every big air competition he’d entered into this season, including the first A+S stop in Beijing in December. But he finished 10th in Austria, just ahead of defending X Games Slopestyle gold medalist and Big Air silver medalist Mark McMorris. Both typically try to improve throughout a competition by saving their best runs for last, so the Austrian wind’s effect on the competition is especially significant because of where they placed.
“It was weird seeing Max bail out in Innsbruck, he’s been on fire all season long. And for Mark to not be near the top—it was a weird competition,” Thorgen says. “I think that everyone was disappointed to lose that run. A lot of riders are really looking to put it down here in L.A.”
Last year, Shaun White’s inaugural Air+Style Los Angeles competition was held in Pasadena near the Rose Bowl. The event, which is now the third leg of the Austrian-born international competition that will see even more expansion in 2017, was the first attempt to put a big air ramp in the Los Angeles area. The first day of the two-day event started off very well, but ran into problems on Saturday night. Noise complaints subdued and eventually prematurely ended rapper Kendrick Lamar’s live performance, to the audible dissatisfaction of a disenchanted crowd. The following day, rain uncharacteristically descended on Southern California and nearly washed out the skiing portion of the competition.
This weekend, the view of the northern mountains from the top of the jump has been replaced with the Los Angeles skyline. Pasadena predictably was never considered as a location for Air+Style 2016—this downtown L.A. location doesn’t have the noise ordinance restrictions that halted the momentum of last year’s event.
“This is so much more central and represents the city so much more than the last location,” White says. “I’m so proud that we were able to lock up this venue. A lot was learned from the first event, and I think that this event is going to be exactly what the overall Air+Style tour needs it to be.”
The forecast for the weekend is plentiful sun and 80 degree temperatures. According to the event crew, the jump is designed to be able to perform adequately in temperatures as high as 96. The Coliseum is a popular site of sports events or festivals alike; there is a pre-existing infrastructure of bathrooms and alcohol stands—where long lines were another popular gripe in 2015—that will provide a better layout than the Rose Bowl Stadium afforded.
The nascent nature of the inaugural Air+Style L.A. led to multiple issues that had nothing to do with snowboarding. Those issues have been considered and improved on, with the hope for White and the competing snowboarders alike is that the second year runs as smoothly as a vintage Shaun White gold medal run.