The Never-Ending Spin Cycle of Contest Riding with Stale Sandbech

Instagram has a lot to say about all the spinning going on right now, but the only people we should actually be listening to are the riders that are attached to the boards rotating into numbers our forefathers were familiar with on calendars. Is style important? Of course it is. But for riders that depend on results for their livelihood, can you blame them for trying to win? The fact of the matter is, this is where we are currently at with judging. Why do they do it? How do they do it? Are they stoked on it? We asked Stale Sandbech on all the above. – Clavin 

Stale Sandbech Warming up for big air. p: Clavin

Where are you right now? 
In Stubai. I just arrived at the hotel. Going to snowboard for a week at this training camp. You could call it spin-to-win camp because that is just where it is at right now. The weather is looking so-so but hopefully it dumps, we get fresh snow, and then it gets sunny and conditions turn into the best.

You were in Saas Fee for awhile, right? How was seeing the 1800s and all of that go down? 
Yeah, I was there for a little bit. I was riding myself and you see some of it in person, but then you see ALL of it on Instagram later on haha. 

What was the biggest spin you went for there?
I think I did a 12. I kept it low. I was kind of away from snowboarding for a while. My ankle and stuff had to heal up after last season so kind of just started a little slow then reached 1260 so far, so gotta step it up, man!

Do you have anything planned for this week coming up?
I don’t know. I feel like my cap is at 16. That’s what I’ve reached prior and also I don’t see the point of me pushing and trying to learn 18. I’d rather try and, for example, do a different axis like the one I did in Real Snow. If I can get that into the contest or something else, that will give me more joy but also stand out differently. The obvious way of progression is adding a rotation or an extra flip, which is also what I would be doing but maybe to an axis or something if I can do it. Those are kind of what I try to think of in my head.

If you spin so many times off axis, how do you actually get back on axis?
That’s the problem! You get a little bit more dizzy in the air. Finding the way back down to your feet gets a little trickier, but at the same time, your body is so used to doing it that you normally come down on your feet… but your head doesn’t really know where you are still even though you landed.

That sounds terrifying. 
That’s why I’d like to try some different stuff. I obviously have to do some of these spins, too. In the last couple weeks we’ve seen that the bar has been raised even to where an 18 is normal now. Seeing a 19 isn’t like, Whoa! He did a 19! It’s more like, oh, another one.

Has there been another 1980 landed?
Yeah, there has been two Chinese riders that landed them.

Yuki landed a 1980 like four years ago, right?
Yeah.

Stale Sandbech Gimbal God and Stale testing out the X Games course. p: Clavin

What’s the talk amongst all of you big dogs seeing all this happen in the past few weeks? Is it exciting or?
I don’t know. It is just the time when it was going to happen because we gotta progress somehow if we want to do better. There’s contests coming up. Olympics, people are getting so good now that the only way to push forward is spin more or flip more. Also within all of this, you see people adding flavor to the spins too, you know? I’m not saying that all of these are bad-looking. Most of the time they’re pretty clean. You see now there is certain axis they gain speed in their spin with tweaking the grab. It’s tweaking the shit out of this 19. You can’t really hate, it’s like… respect.

It wasn’t even that big of a jump that people were throwing stuff on.
I think you see different stuff and people finding new techniques and axis. You have a backside spin that is triple cork or quad cork that is going to give you a faster/shorter way of getting to an 18 or something than a completely flat spin. But now you see these people getting into this half cork axis and it’s like a fucking torpedo propeller. They can spin so fast. Like Marcus Kleveland can unlock and gain speed in his rotation while most people would kind of rotate fast and then the further from the spin you got, it got slower. But these guys just press the gas and it goes faster. It’s kind of interesting just seeing how the techniques and axis are unlocking these faster rotations.

You think it will become normal in the big air contests this year? 
Big air contests are kind of scary because either the jump is too small and people are still chucking on a level that is higher than what the jump can give you… which is scary as hell. Or you get a bigger jump and everyone is landing all their tricks but there is still time on the clock so it’s like, what am I doing now? I guess I’ll just hook left and hope for the best… close my eyes! So who knows. 

In the morning, you don’t wake up and think “I want to go try to spin a 1980.”
Hell no. I wake up and think, what can I do cool? I just got to get by these 1800s first. It’s kind of just been going since the triple cork got opened up by Torstein. That was like, oh shit, this is possible. Then everybody started doing it. I mean, that’s what snowboarding is all about, but the young riders nowadays… if they want to stand out or get noticed, they don’t have a choice, unless they’re the sickest kid in the backcountry. To get your face out there, there isn’t room for too many unless you come through the contest scene first. Or be like Ryo and do X Games Knuckle Huck and Big Air but ride the sign on the side. That’s a way to do it, but there’s only one Ryo. I think after YouTube and social media, the progression started going faster because as soon as someone lands another trick, it’s online and then all the other riders in the world can see that this trick is possible. Of course they’re going to go out and try to learn it. That together with the air bag era, honestly, I think we’re kind of out-spinning ourselves.

What do you mean by that?
The progression is going too fast that we’re kind of, in a way, killing contest snowboarding because we’re reaching a point where it’s getting far beyond relatable. Sometimes I even have a hard time seeing if they’re spinning a 14 or an 18. So how about the naked eye? They’re going to be like, what just happened? It’s more like, shit, how can the contest still be about progression but not just spinning past? Maybe if we had a solid tour like a surf tour where every stop was different and it was all about people being the world champion at the end. You would have way more riders all-around and not just people specializing. Then I think we could keep the ball rolling even further. I don’t think contest snowboarding is bad at all, I’m just saying at some point physics comes in and if you spin faster, your eyes will fly out.

Keep an eye out for more from the washing machine that will surely be this contest season. 

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