For the second year in a row, the Burton Rail Days brought everything we’d hoped for and more, with 18 of the top urban rail riders competing at Tokyo for the all important first prize and a whopping $15,000.
Despite the heavy downpour of rain, this didn’t detract from the level of technically insane runs this year’s riders were performing and the sheer amount of spectators who had gathered in their thousands. As this year’s event attracted an estimated 3,000 people, it was hands down the largest crowd recorded at that venue. Tokyo was in for a real treat.
After taking first place last year, Britain’s Jamie Nicholls was going for it again and after a 45 minute jam session, the judges whittled it down to just eight riders who battled it out head-to-head. Coming first in the qualifiers for the final, it looked as if there was going to be another win for the Brit. However, it was USA’s Forest Bailey who took first place pulling out a sweet cab 360 to switch nosepress on the down rail, with a 50-50 on the closeout rail, transferring to a lipslide on the down rail.
Nichols nailed his 2nd and 3rd runs with a closeout 50-50 to frontside 270 transfer to the down rail. On another day, this would have been enough to take first place but on the day, the judges narrowly gave the top podium to Bailey. Although it wasn’t first, I know Jamie was happy with second place and the $8,000 prize.
After the event, Nichols spoke to The Sporting Week.
When I was younger, I wanted to learn how to snowboard but my feet weren’t big enough for the boots, so I actually learnt to ski first. How old were you when you had your first lesson and what do you remember about it?
This was ages ago now, actually 12 years! I was seven years old when I had my first lesson and remember those days really well. Those are some of the best memories I have to be honest. In fact I remember that feeling when I did my first grab, it was an Indy.
What made you want to get into snowboarding?
Well I just wanted to do something different and I always saw it on TV and really wanted to give it ago. So one day on the way back from the shops we drove past the Halifax Ski and Snowboard Centre which is around five minutes from my house and watched everyone snowboarding on there for a bit. I said I really want to try this to my parents so they booked me a lesson and it went from there.
At a young age you were pulling somersaults off the big kickers, were you really brave or mad? Were you ever scared and do you still get nervous?
Haha that’s funny. I still do get nervous for sure, especially when I am trying something new or right before a contest but I am normally good at controlling nerves.
Dendex, Snowflex, or the real stuff?
The real stuff! Haha but I do still love to go back to my roots and ride dry slope.
You’ve obviously come a long way from the lessons at Halifax slope, do you still enjoy it as much or has it become a job?
I know it’s my job now but I still love it! It will never become serious-serious! Because snowboarding is meant to be fun even if it is your job.
You get to travel all over the world now, but what’s the best resort you’ve been to and why?
I would say Mayrhofen is my favourite place to ride as I live there in the winter. It has an amazing park and great terrain. In fact all over the Zillertal Valley there is amazing terrain.
Your success is mainly from the Park but do you enjoy riding mountains?
I love to just ride sometimes, especially just the piste and getting creative. It’s actually really good for your control just to ride the piste.
Do you have a playlist that you ride to? If so, what’s your favourite song from it?
The Black Keys –Gold on the Ceiling. That’s my favourite song at the moment.
It’s fantastic to see you and other British riders doing so well on the International scene, what’s the next milestone you want to achieve?
I know, it’s so good to see people from a country with no mountains getting good results in big international comps. So cool! But I’m not sure really, I just take things as it comes to be honest.
If it wasn’t for the fact that there is a dry slope virtually on your doorstep, do you think you would still have been as hooked on snowboarding?
I really think if I hadn’t had Halifax slope so close to me I wouldn’t be where I am today but who knows. It’s hard to say really.
If you had to sell snowboarding in one sentence, what would you say?
Snowboarding is the best sport in the world and everyone should give it a go. Never give up too.