Three years ago I decided that the Rahlves Banzai was for me. I sketched it into the black book to work around World Cups and other adventures and took flight. These events consist of one day to qualify, and one day of head to head racing with other riders down natural terrain (non-groomed) and natural conditions. Daron Rahlves himself even sets the course. Check out http://www.rahlvesbanzai.com for more info on this competition.
My last competition was three years ago at Alpine where I decided to point an unmanageable mogul field in a final in order to hold on to first place and not allow Chelone Miller who was nipping at my heals to make a pass. At the very bottom I was hung up on a sneaky mogul, caught an edge and was knocked unconscious, also suffering a separated collar bone and a separated ribs. I made it to the bottom, however, I don’t remember how, in second place. Chelone was the champ that day.
I decided to call it quits after that. My other competitions were more valuable to me and the prize money didn’t quite cover the medical bills. It was a bummer, because even though the competitions were high risk, they were the most fun I had ever competed in.
To the present…
After retiring from the US Snowboard Team and taking on school full time, I had a change of heart. I decided to come home in mid February this year to head up to Northern California for some Steelhead fishing. After 8 days on the river it was time for me to get back to Salt Lake City and focus up. But just before leaving Sierraville in rout to SLC I scrolled through my emails. There was a letter from Rahlves Banzai, saying that the four stop tour was moved to the following weekend and would continue each weekend after that. Usually these stops are spread out through out winter and tough to make if you live far away. The prize money had been upgraded as well and after doing the math, I saw that if I won everything, each race, the overall title and the super final, there would be a $17,000 pay out. I immediately sent my professors emails stating that I’d be gone for a month and began training. My favorite competition of all time was back!
Training just meant that I needed to find mogul fields and gnarly terrain to point my board straight down. The first comp at Kirkwood I was pretty out of shape and at over 2 minutes of sending the gnarliest terrain this course took full advantage of my legs. Sylvan Duclos 1st. Mr. Hale 2nd and Bobby Minghini 3rd. The second stop was at Squaw Valley. I felt pretty good here but with a stacked field of riders it was anyones game. Sylvan Duclos 1st. Mr. Hale 2nd and Lucas Dehmlow 3rd. I bean to feel the pressure as that overall title was slipping away.
Stop three was at Alpine. The course was super similar to what it had been when I rode it last and destroyed the body. There was even the same mogul field that tried to take my life.The final heat was gnarly. I got the hole shot, closely followed by the other boys. By turn four as we were dropped into an almost vert face, I was being passed by Sylvan. He screamed by me, throwing slush into my goggles and lengthening his lead. I know from past competitions that once he gets in front he is super hard to pass. I wiped my goggles clean and stepped on the throttle. Just around the corner was the mogul field of awesome. I followed Sylvan over the ridge and watched him throw a couple speed checks down the face. Now was my time to shine. I squared up and teed off. Pointing the face and beginning what could be another disaster. The run was so russ that my eyeballs couldn’t find focus. It was the real deal, point and shoot. Even if I could see, I don’t know if my legs could have reacted quickly enough to make a sudden move if they needed to. I nuked past Sylvan. I managed to hold on to the G’s at the bottom, make the hairpin turn that lead out and strengthen my lead. Sylvan was back on my tail after I made one minor mistake in the flats but I managed to hold him off just enough for a photo finish. The crowd was going crazy, our hearts were pumping not because of the insanity of the race but because we still did not know who had won. Two minutes later, I was crowned champ with a shot at the overall title. Sylvan 2nd and Bobby 3rd
The Final race! My home mountain Sugar Bowl. I had been thinking about this race for the past two weeks. Visualizing the win. There had been no better course in Banzai history than this one. So much great terrain, crazy turns, drops, natural jumps and banzailicious moguls. This would be the race to decide the Overall standing. Sylvan and I were pretty much tied and if I won here, victory was mine. On top of that, Sylvan Bobby and I all crashed the previous day in qualifying putting me in 8th, Sylvan in 9th and Bobby in 11th. Because of this, Sylvan and I were paired up in the first round together and would be battling all the way to finals, if the day allowed it. The day did allow it. We battled back and fourth all the way through finals and when the time came it was once again, Bobby, Lucas, Sylvan and I in the final gate. I pulled out with the hole-shot, and from there on out I never looked back and never got passed. I rode my fastest and when I passed the finish line with hundreds of feet to spare, victory, once again was mine.
The super final was next. The Gate was loaded with all the same guys as the final but included Nate Holland. This was one race to the bottom which would crown the super Final champ and 5k. I pulled out of the gate in 2nd behind Nate. from there on out I was up his tail, trying any maneuver I could to get around him. I was faster I I felt strong but Nate is one hell of a bully on course. So hard to get around. Towards the bottom he put on the breaks and I saw a window. Even though it was not the line I wanted, I took it at a last ditch effort. I passed him. However, I immediately detonated and was passed back. I caught back up, still in second. Once again, gave it everything I had down the last steep mogul field but caught and edge and rag dolled down the mountain, Every time I’d pop upright, I’d see Nate getting closer to the finish line. Victory was Nate’s.
All of my family including cousins and friends were there. It was an awesome way to end the best tour on earth thanks to great organization and incredible competition. I received the legendary Silver Belt belt buckle for the win, the overall trophy and best of all I was humbled to get a trophy awarded to the person who at the end of the tour was sending it like Chelone Miller. Chelone passed away last year just weeks after taking the overall banzai title. This award was called the Chelone Miller “Chilly” ‘Live free & Send It” . I was honored to have lived up to his and my piers standards.