Splitboarding with The Rider Social

After hooking up for a few days every January for the last few years I finally managed to take part in a whole splitboard week. The timing was just right – the week after winter deadlines – just when you want a holiday and opportunity to relax and clear your mind. I was a little worried about my fitness in the run up to this as the combination of winter festivities followed by trade shows and a busy selling period make it hard to get into great shape. I have been getting on a turbo trainer a bit though.

Having spent some time recently at altitude and on a snowboard was a great help. The first day on the hill was good to get used to the heavier board set up and heavier backpack. The alps had warmed up a lot too. All good though and it was enjoyable getting out riding again. A little refresher on avalanche training, some nice spring snow, a little hike and all in all a great first day.

Monday we rode solid boards and explored some new areas in the PDS I have not seen before. A bit of bootpacking to access some fun bits. A bit of bushwhacking where the snow has disappeared but we found some good sections. I got to try a set of NOW bindings which were very impressive – really responsive.

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Tuesday was back on the splits and getting into some longer walks. We scored some great views (see above) and nice runs like this:

Tuesday being St Patricks we headed out for a couple beers and that went as well as it always does.

Wednesday was day off – so after a very slow start, and thanks to a pick up from Rich we went for something completely different – a day of park and pipe and cruising pistes. A nice change – certainly not my forte but fun eitherway. Nice to meet up with friends living in the PDS area. Not the “rest” we maybe should have had.

Thursday was a big day. We started riding round Chatel waiting for the snow to soften a bit and did some technical bits (horrible icey traverse) and a little bootpacking (see below).

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In the afternoon our high mountain guide Paulo guided us down the back of Avoriaz to the Lac de Mines d’Or. The last section was pretty technical riding with narrow tracks of snow often with not enough room to scrub speed. Pretty fun to navigate. After a lunch stop we started splitting. The pace set by the guide seemed painfully slow to start but actually it worked out really well and allowed us to walk for hours without feeling too tired.

My lack of skiing ability was very obvious whenever we had to go down little slopes as we navigated the final section to the Refuge de Bostan where we stayed overnight. The guardian of the refuge prepared fondue which tasted amazing (maybe due to how hungry I was) and as I had hoped served up some local digestifs afterwards.

I set the gopro up for a little sunset timelapse from the balcony.

Friday morning we set off early to reach the Tete de Bostan. Some icey sections were very tricky to climb but after a few hours on splits we reached the ridge and from this point started bootpacking the final section. The view back down the valley from the ridge:

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By half eleven we reached the summit! The tradional team photos were taken:

A photo posted by @darkrock on

We chose to wait on the summit and enjoy the view whilst the snow softened. Then we had to navigate the descent which had a mixture of nice spring snow and much more technical sections. Lunch never tasted so good after that. Fun times – can’t wait to do more!

Thanks for Paul and Fi at The Rider Social for making it happen. If you are looking to give splitboarding a go give them a call!

Ozone Snow Kite Masters 2015

Last week was so good! We did the long drive in good time and managed to avoid any major hiccups or delays and the weather only got tricky right at the end. We arrived in time for breakfast Tuesday morning and within minutes familiar faces started showing up. The visibility was not amazing and the wind was strong but we were excited so went out for our first snowkite session. Bernina Pass is an amazing snowkite spot. I knew I had to come back as soon as we left last year!
DCIM100GOPROGOPR1094.
The session didnt go on for too long – a couple of hours or so. The 6m Access was great! The 9m Frenzy was fun too. Not sleeping and the harsh conditions were taking their toll. That afternoon the group grew as those who flied in arrived.

Wednesday was meeting day for me so no riding. A shame considering it was bluebird with a nice breeze blowing in the best direction. Life is unfortunately not all about play. The meeting was good and productive which takes the edge off the fact we missed a great day.

Thursday was another beautiful day – we headed down to Silvaplana for the first day of racing. The wind was light making it more of a sun bathing day however we got to test some kites and chat which was fun. Early afternoon a little thermal breeze built up and we got to cruise around the frozen lake and do some little jumps.

Dinner was getting busier every night! Still pretty tired I headed out for a few beers that evening and some intense table football but left before the full contact musical chairs.

Friday we woke up to bad visibility, fresh snow and little wind so decided it was a snowboarding day at Diavolezza. The lift pass price was steep thanks to the recent change in currency valuations but the resort near empty and the snow excellent. We split into a couple groups so those of us who wanted to go find some fresh tracks could. A great day. Video below:

Saturday was day two of racing and back down to Silvaplana. Yet another glorious day of chatting whilst waiting for wind and half wishing we had gone snowboarding. The wind came a little later this time but the racers were ready and made the most of it. It was pretty epic watching racing from the start line – something I had never done before. Once racing was over I joined the rest of the crew for a quick session.

Prize giving after dinner went down well – some of the best prizes I have seen in a while including everything from Ozone goodies to snowboards and with cash prizes too. There were some very happy people that night. I won Jeremy Jones ultimate splitboard backpack which I was very happy with. Should come in handy very soon!

Sunday was quieter with alot of people leaving. Weather was not up to much but after we heard there was wind down in Silvaplana we headed back down there. It was probably the best session I had in the end and we got some cool shots! Was really enjoying the new Frenzy. We headed back early afternoon as half the group had to leave.

Typically we woke up Monday to a load of fresh snow – ideal when you are about to drive over a couple of mountain passes. We packed – said our goodbyes and set off on a pretty intense first two hours. The snowtyres and ABS were working overtime. I was seconds away from pulling over and getting the chains out a few times but we managed to keep trucking.

After that is was the same old cruise back wishing we were still in the mountains.

Roadtrippin

For a change we drove back during mostly daylight hours so you could actually see something – this is a bit of a luxury. 14 hours sat in a van gives plenty of photo opportunities as well as time to learn more about your camera and practice certain effects. Here are some shots from the drive back across France.

First Snowboard trip of the year

The snowboard season is underway now (business and personal) and I am back from my first trip. The trip starts with a long old drive (made longer by channel crossing delays) and a few days of work showing the new 15/16 NS range to the trade in La Clusaz. We were greeted with fresh snow which is always a bonus!
Fresh snow in La Clusaz

This event gets better for us every season with more interest and better relations with the industry. The first day was cold! -11 first thing and never got above -8. Luckily the snow was great and a fresh load of thermals for xmas kept me warm. It is always a lot of fun being in the mountains and dealing with the elements. This is my office for a few days.
Never Summer Demo Boards

15/16 Never Summer FunslingerTesting new boards is an important part of this and I was keen to get on the new Funslinger. I couldnt quite get my head around this one when we first released it but having tried it I have to say I am impressed. That board is just pure fun! The flex is soft and playful but still capable of ripping the whole mountain. The asymmetrical sidecut is hard to “feel” as such – especially when all the rocker camber boards carve so well they feel like they are on rails. The ripsaw profile (twice the amount of camber as standard rocker camber) was incredible on this board! Amazing grip even on icey pistes – this is a board worth trying!

Got to hook up with NS team riders Sascha and Andre before the weekends first round of the Freeride World Tour and go for a quick run. Always good to meet up with riders! Sascha went on to finish second in Chamonix – amazing!

After we were done in La Clusaz we made a quick get away and cruised over to Chatel to see more friends. Paul and Fi at The Rider Social, Rich and Sue doing a season, Matt Brind also doing a season. There is nothing better than charging around the mountain hitting all your favourite spots and lapping the best bits.
Snowboarding on top of the world

Looking forward to getting back out to the mountains next month!
chatel apartment view

Winter Kitesurfing 2014

This winter has been one of the best on record for UK kitesurfing as far as I am concerned! Solid winds letting have been letting us use our smaller kites and constant swells hitting the coast creating some good waves and a lot of good enough waves. The most noticeable characteristic of the winter so far has been how mild it has been – rarely much below 10 degrees C. This is a lot warmer than recent years. Only the last few days of the year have been truly cold. Early 2015 will probably be dramatically colder than what we have had so far.

I have been doing my best to get in as many sessions as possible during this time of year which is busy at work and lacks the idyllic warm sunny vibe induced by summer beach days. There is something invigorating about getting out there in the winter and after a couple of sessions you soon get used to the restrictive nature of 5mm of neoprene vs a summer suit.

Here are some GoPro shots from a couple of angles – still working out how to get things right in terms of getting everything in shot and reducing drops on the lens!

Next up it is time to hit the mountains and find our snow feet again!

Night riding

The last few weeks have been bad for wind – it is getting frustrating. After talking about it alot last winter and never actually doing anything about it I finally got some mountain bike lights and last weekend put them to the test. Overall – riding with lights is not as hard as you would think – it does make things a bit harder though. The first ride was along the Verderers trail which I know pretty well. Doing it in the dark made it a lot more fun though. The combination of a powerful front light mounted on the handlebars then a secondary light mounted on the helmet meant that shadows were less of an issue and visibility was pretty good.

I am gonna recommend all my mountain bike friends get lights this winter – I just got cheap chinese ones and they work great. Who knows how long they will last but so far they are well worth the money.

Here is a quick gopro edit I put together

Egypt with Flysurfer

Egypt felt alien from the get go. The second I got off the plane the heat hit me but I was expecting that. As soon as I entered the terminal I was immediately taken aback by the horde of taxi and transfer drivers waiting for us before we had even cleared passport control. The hall felt vibrant and energetic but also chaotic. I should have done more (some!) research but had to pay for a visa there and then. The guys were taking in money faster than they knew what to do with it and were literally chucking it under their work space. Only one stand took card though.

I was relieved to see the taxi driver holding a sign with my name on it. I relaxed straight away. We walked over to his van which was just how I imagined an Egyptian taxi. We set off and I’m glad I was not driving. It was like Mario Kart. Lane discipline is non existent. There were donkeys with carts on the dual carriageway. Horns beeping constantly. Kind of fun in a scary way as a passenger.

I had no idea where we were going. He could have taken me anywhere. It was very nice to see some familiar faces and sip a cool beer once I made the resort. Having woken up early and been on the plane for hours then losing two hours to a time difference made my day feel even more odd. A couple extra beers and a good burger helped matters.

Day one started off with me getting locked in the apartment. Not great. By the time breakfast was done the wind was blowing. We rushed through a quick presentation then hit the water. It was fun to ride flat warm eater and test some gear. I have been working on my surfboard riding a lot this year so a twin tip was a nice change.

After a late lunch the wind had died right down so i figured I would live the dream and do some work on my laptop in the beach front bar whilst sipping a cold beer. It was a nice way to work. I took a few shots then we had another quick presentation before dinner followed by sipping beers and getting attacked by moquitos till late. All in all a good day – shame I cant share most of the shots!

Flysurfer Test Centre

Day two we get lucky again and it blows all day. I hit the water testing a couple kites and boards. We rode till lunch then went off to eat. After lunch we chatted, talked shop then did a couple of workshops on the new models. This is where we learn about the direction the brand is headed in and where they want to go. I put together a quick edit of footage I remembered to film this day.

A shower revealed I have been bitten hundreds of times and now itch like crazy. Another failure in my planning process. Bug spray is a must. I think 500 bites is a conservative estimate.

Day three is a bit light on wind – still possible to ride but meetings got in the way of it. By the time those were done the wind had died. I worked on some media and we did some more workshops. Time spent with designers like this is invaluable. A late presentation (after dark with the lights on) allowed the moquitos to savage me some more.

After dinner FS invited us to the beach for drinks which somehow escalated to a dodgy nightclub with every “feature” going including but not limited to a revolving dance floor (everyone loved that), foam canons, cage dancers and a very random midnight dance show. Good times.

Day four was time to get the hell out of Egypt. A big lie in was much needed after a very late finish. By the time I got up there were only a few hours left until the transfer to the airport. A bite to eat, some packing and a meeting and off I went. The drive to Hurghada airport revealed the whole area to be little more than a building site. The drive was not as wild as the first one, but I did see a car going the wrong way up a dual carriageway.

I cant say I am desperate to go back to Egypt – but a good time was had.