While the rest of the country grumbles about the winter cold and pulls on yet another sweater, a cadre of committed men and women are rubbing their hands together in glee … and not with the intention of warming them up either!
South African snowboarders countrywide are preparing for the imminent Quiksnow Slopestyle contest happening at Afriski on 3 August in the heart of Lesotho’s Maluti Mountains – a mere six-hour drive from Johannesburg or Durban.
A flurry of recent cold snaps has resulted in what most agree has been the best snowfall in the last decade, boding well for the upcoming contest when SA will crown new Men’s and Women’s champions. This is augmented by Afriski recently doubling their snowmaking capabilities.
Headline sponsor Quiksilver plans on giving local boardriders a contest to rival anything on offer from more illustrious destinations in Europe and North America. “We are very excited to be involved with Quiksnow for the 8th year, the riders always look forward to this event,” said Quiksilver Marketing Manager Dane Patterson. “The bar rises higher and higher every year. Let’s hope the conditions are favourable.”
Quiksnow follows a global trend focusing on Slopestyle, an intense spectator oriented format which tests riders’ prowess in all aspects of snowboarding. Competitors perform several runs on a course made up of kickers, jumps, rails and obstacles, showcasing their skills in a series of flips, spins and grinds. Afriski have almost doubled the size of the course from last year, which is sure to result in even more action from the competitors.
“I’ve been lucky enough to spend almost four months training overseas this year and have spent the past month training at Afriski,” said defending South African Men’s Champion Luke Dutton (16). “I have a few new tricks in the bag and am ready to defend my SA title.”
An announcement made in Durban this time last year by IOC President Jacques Rogge officially included Slopestyle in the 2014 Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi, Russia. It’s not impossible to imagine that we could one day see South Africans representing the nation in this sport.
While multiple South African snowboard champions and siblings Marta (Cape Town, Durban) and Marcin Jekot (Durban, Umdloti) have competed at an international level, our first Olympians on snowboards are most likely Luke Dutton (Durban) and Dean van Gruenen (Johannesburg). Last year they followed up impressive performances at Quiksnow 2011 with extensive riding and competing in Europe including the World Junior Snowboard champs in LaMolina, Spain in March 2012. They also benefited from coaching by Iztok Summatic (Maribor, Slovenia), a 2014 Olympic Slopestyle judge. Summatic will be heading up the judging at Quiksnow, sharing his expertise with riders and officials alike and bringing local talent in line with international standards.
While Quiksnow crowns a South African champion, the contest itself is open to everyone and has seen increasing interest from international pros looking to experience something different. Competitors in attendance include defending Quiksnow 2011 champion Jojo Krivec from Slovenia. Joining him will be US riders Stevie Bell, Nick Visconti and Scottie Stevens.
The course has been lovingly tended and shaped by a team of Park engineers devoted to delivering a world class experience lead by Rueben Storbeck (Pretoria), an experienced and well travelled snowboarder (and no mean competitor in his own right).
The event begins Friday 3 August with qualifiers and will conclude on Saturday with prize giving and a closing party.Tags: Afriski, contest, Iztok Summatic, Jojo Krivec, Lesotho, Luke Dutton, Maluti Mountains, Nick Visconti, Quicksilver, Quiksnow Slopetyle, Rueben Storbeck, Scottie Stevens, snowboarders, South Africa, Stevie Bell, Winter Olympics