Chris Booth. Image:: Ben Hansen
Rip Curl FreeRide Pro | Tess Cook
Is there anything more crucial to the formula for a successful snow event than good weather? With the picture perfect blue skies Mother Nature laid out in Thredbo on Tuesday the first day of the Rip Curl FreeRide Pro was nothing short of spectacular.
I’m certainly not the only one in Thredbo sporting a goggle tan right now, thanks to the hours spent scrambling about in the sun watching the guys and girls do crazy things with the natural terrain on the Bluff, and I certainly don’t regret it; the day was epic.
The Rip Curl FreeRide Pro is unlike any other event in Australia, a bit like a scaled down version of a big mountain comp, but with some features thrown in for extra excitement, it offers the competitors a stretch of terrain and asks them to do what they like with it. There’s a couple of kickers strategically placed about, plenty of natural rocks to jump off and many opportunities for the competitors to showcase their skills.
Which basically makes for some amazing viewing. Most of the field yesterday opted to come out of the start – a rocky perch that some, like Anna Segal, used to launch into a spin – and straight into a huge air off the first kicker, there were some crazy stunts happening and plenty of crashes. Anyone aiming right off the kicker came to blows with a windlip to the side of the landing – like a snowy wall of death it sucked unsuspecting skiers and boarders in, turning many a perfectly executed flip into a perfectly executed drop and roll. Actually, there were some spectacular recoveries; triple-somersault-straight-to-standing style that barely had the rider break stride.
First place open men’s ski qualifier Watkin McLennan. Image:: Ben Hansen
Watkin McLennan, Zoe Jaboor and the Segal sisters – Nat and Anna – have brought a crew of their Team Buller Riders (TBR) kids up from Victoria and it was great to see the Camaraderie in their group – TBR is the freeride and freestyle training program in Mt Buller and the guys were all so supportive of each other, which is great to see in an individual sport.
The TBR boys, Anna said after the event, have always been great to the girls in Buller wanting to get into freeride, which may be why the women’s open ski was a Victorian whitewash with Anna, Nat and Zoe joined by fellow Buller-ite and Olympic ski cross athlete Katya Crema as the four finalists.
The excitement is far from over, with the finals to be held on Wednesday – eight competitors each from the men’s snowboard and ski and four each from the women’s snowboard and ski will again take to the Bluff to show off their talents – then on Wednesday night there’s the Rip Curl Throwdown. Thredbo’s terrain park genius Charles Beckinsale has created an artwork of a throwdown site at the base of the hill which promises to play host to some incredible park feats.