The first stops of the Gatorade Free Flow Tour kicked off today in Vail, CO and Mountain High, CA. I was on-site in Vail to witness the action, snap some pics, and to bring you a full recap.
Looking Up At The Venue
Sixty-two anxious athletes arrived at registration this morning ready to throw down, and give it their all for a shot at winning an all-expense paid trip to the GFFT Super Finals at Snowbasin, UT.
With a field that was both packed and stacked, there was no time to waste and the competitors made their way up to the park for practice. The conditions were less than ideal, with heavy cloud-cover and flat light on hand to mix things up.
But the show must go on, and the trickery began without a fuss. The weather remained unchanged throughout the qualifying rounds. Two heats of 30+ athletes squared off; it was flips, spins, grabs-and-grinds galore. There were some noteworthy runs from just about the entire field, with some standout runs from the likes of: Tyler Peterson (with big spins and rightside domination), Ben Hau (with a ridiculous double tail grab - see gallery image), John Leonard (boasting some kick-ass rightside manuevers), and many more.
Seventeen-year-old Paul McSparin of Breckenridge reported, "Today was awesome. Everyone skied great, I had an awesome time, and I'm stoked with how the event turned out." Speaking with a handful of the competitors, this was the general concensus at the end of qualies, but unfortaunetly, only 10 athletes could move on to the final round.
Spectators Line The Pipe During Qualies
Grabbing tail off the "elf show box."
After a quick lunch break, the athletes headed back to the top of the course where scores had been posted. As I mentioned above, only 10 would advance into the finals, and the list slowly came together in my mind as the comments darted off into the air - "I made it!", and "I'm in", or "Drats! 0.2 out?!"
As the athletes were readying themselves, the solar deities decided they'd stop by to check things out. With sunshine beaming down, and the temperature rising, moods lifted and the stage was set for an epic showdown.
Once again, the aerial action garnered a great many, "ooo's" and "ahhh's" from the peanut gallery. Everyone was on point, and it showed in the final results which were a tight spread. In the end, it was Mark Nowakiwski (17) of Breckenridge who earned a 3rd place spot. His Cork 9 -- Switch 9 -- Cork 7 combo, combined with some technical mastery on the lower rails was enough for a score of 79.
Landing in the 2nd was Noah Wallace (19) of Spokane, WA. His Switch 5 -- Right Cork 9 -- Switch 9 Mute were oozing with so much style, that the ooze covered up my whole face and I didn't even have a chance to see him slay the rails.
Top honors on the day went to Eagle's own Tanner Coulter. At 16 years of age, Tanner already has the cool-calm-collected mindset of a fierce competitor. Logging a lower score than may have been desirable on his first run, Tanner headed back up to the top to regain composure. Under pressure on run two, he licked the stamp and sent a biggol' Rightside 7, a smooth-spinnin' Rodeo 9, and a massive Switch 10 Blunt-grab to cap it all off. 270's all over the damn place were the icing on the cake. It was later revealed that he'd earned himself a whopping score of 90.
Watch out, they'll scrutinize your every move.
The Jump Line
That's one whale of a tail!
Bright bases make for a nice photo.
Paul McSparin, last run of the day.
And there you have it! The first stop of the tour goes into the books as a great success. If the level of skill today serves as an indicator of what's to come for the future stops of the 2011 Gatorade Free Flow Tour, then we're looking at one heck-of-a Super Final shaping up for Snowbasin. Check back tomorrow as I'll be posting a full report on the Halfpipe competition.
Be sure to check out the video below, as the top three finishers weigh in on the day. Also, don't miss the photo gallery, which contains a few more snapshots from today's rock-show.
1. Tanner Coulter - 90
2. Noah Wallace - 88
3. Mark Nowakiwski - 79
4. Erik Lukkari - 75.25
5. James Machon - 73
6. Cody Potter - 72
7. Benoit Gendron - 69.75
8. Paul McSparin - 68
9. Tyler Peterson - 48.5
10. John Leonard - 33.75
Congrats to the winners!
For more information, log onto www.gatoradefreeflowtour.com.