Words: Pat Bridges
Among a certain exclusive and sentimental sect of snowboarding fandom, the World Quarterpipe Championships holds a raw, hazy, mischievous mystique. Originally conceived as an anti-contest, a counterpoint to the saccharine competitive scene that was metastasizing in the wake of Olympic and X Games hype, the story of the World Quarters itself is a metaphor for what makes QP events as a whole so deified.
At its base level a quarterpipe entails a single rider hitting a single wall in order to execute a single trick. This seems pretty straightforward, yet the constitution required to hold the line as you point it at a formidable two-and-a-half story wall of icy doom can rival even the most puckering fifty-foot cliff or forty-stair, quad-kink closeout. Yet unlike an exaggerated drop or ender worthy jib, the outcome of any quarterpipe air is seemingly infinite. The calculus for QP progression is very linear. Hiking further, riding faster, taking less speed checks results in more airtime. Ultimately the best quarterpipe contenders teeter on edge of disaster. One miscalculation ends in either getting pitched in, decking out, doing the kickin’ chicken twenty-feet above the lip or g-ing out on the transition. During its original incarnation, the World Quarters itself pushed the limits, teetering on that same edge of disaster. No rules, questionable features, and a healthy dose of liquid courage resulted in a menagerie of mayhem. Then there was the gauntlet, which added plenty of verbal insults and, at times, debris hurling injury to an already intimidating discipline.
More than a decade has passed since the last World Quarterpipe Championships went down in Vermont. In that time, these types of events as a whole have atrophied with Bode Merrill’s Quarterpipe Classic and Max Warbington’s Quarterpipe Campout holding it down for the faithful. With the World Quarters, Slush is aspiring to bring it back to the post-Y2K glory days of stadium QP spectacles, where multistory behemoths lay in wait for the willing and triple overhead airs were the norm. While style is subjective and spin to win multi-cork slopestyle and halfpipe runs inconceivable to the average onlooker, there is something universally appreciated in the visceral awe of seeing some hungry, hellbent contender send it high into the sky.
Like a phoenix rising from the proverbial flames of a mid-runway bonfire, on Friday April 30, 2021, the World Quarters presented by Dakine rose again amidst the high alpine of Squaw Valley, California. Since QP comps are so rarified, they present somewhat of a level playing field for competitors, which is why the invited riders for 2021 represented a cross section of contest stalwarts, film icons, rookies, veterans, jibbers, jumpers and freeriders. The event featured two full days of warmups preceding the finals, and equal prize money for both men and women—$5k apiece, winner take all—drawing an esteemed field on both sides of the card.
The eclectic turnout of contenders was as diverse as it was distinguished, including past Freeride World Tour Champions Nils Mindnich and Sammy Luebke, 2020 MS Superpark Standout Nora Beck, Olympic Slopestyle and Big Air medalists Red Gerard, Jamie Anderson and Kyle Mack, Video Part of the Year recipient Jill Perkins, perennial halfpipe champions Danny Davis and Maddie Mastro, Rookie of the Year winner Denver Orr, and several dozen equally accomplished colleagues.
The list of highlights from the daylong finals jam is too vast to mention here, and likely to be incomplete, but that is what video is for. Nonetheless, no recap of the 2021 World Quarterpipe Championships presented by Dakine would be complete without mentioning Kyle Mack’s frontside assault on the stratosphere, Max Warbington’s switchstance and one-foot dissection of the setup, Nora Beck’s amplitude, Ben and Gabe Ferguson’s grab bag of multi-grab moves, Forest Bailey boosting backside, Jill Perkins’ stylish overhead backside airs and cripplers, Keir Dillon and Russel Winfield displaying their “Still Got It” worthy skills, Jamie Anderson boosting backside airs and mctwists with ease, Benji Farrow’s consistent sends, Ryan Wachendorfer’s double backside rodeo prowess, Nik Baden’s textbook alley-oops and pop tart switch airs to regular and Hans and Nils Mindnich technically spinning and grabbing every which way well overhead.
Of course, there are the actual winners to acknowledge. Earning a year supply of Liquid Death Mountain Water for achieving the “Liquid Courage” highest air was Nik Baden, who in turn bestowed the award onto Kyle Mack, who consistently went several feet higher than the rest of the field, albeit not during the finals. Nik’s highest air in the finals peaked at 17 feet, while Kyle was eclipsing 19 feet the previous two days! For the ladies, San Clemente’s Hailey Langland routinely mixed up her moves for each drop, with alley-oops and airs to fakie being the notable tricks until late in the finals when she stomped a perfect andrecht on the Liquid Death tombstone, earning the biggest cheers of the event and $5k.
Fellow Socal shred Brandon Davis never disappointed over the three days, but really turned it up for the finals with 16 foot backside airs, double overhead mctwists, mctwists to fakie, backside 360s and incomprehensible mctwist alley-oop 360 rewinds that are still being deciphered for assessment. While there were plenty of riders who could have won, no one who witnessed Brandon’s no-holds-barred approach to the quarter could deny that he ultimately was most deserving of the $5k winner-take-all purse. Now Hailey and Brandon join Bode Merrill, Scotty Lago, Jeff Billo, Sean Durst, Kevin Casillo, Gue Deschennes and Shane Flood as World Quarterpipe Champions!
With the success of the 2021 World Quarterpipe Championships presented by Dakine at Squaw Valley, there is every indicator that this is just the beginning of this next chapter for the event. Special thanks are due to the riders and media who turned out to support the show, the events, marketing and terrain park staff at Squaw Valley and the sponsors of the event, including Dakine, 10 Barrel Brewing Company, Liquid Death Mountain Water, the Ikon Pass, Ikanik Farms and GoPro.