Words by Skye Darden

Photos by Jaime Lahoz

“Just 30 more minutes, Spanish-style,” said Luka Melloni with a sinister grin, our Spanish guide and one of the PhilPark riders/organizers. “Dude! That was 30 minutes ago and we still aren't there,” quipped McRae Williams, who like myself and Dale Talkington, were anxious to get to Vallnord, a small resort in the tiny commonwealth known as Andorra. But that is Spanish-style, easy style, with no bother about time and the sense to hurry to do anything. If you ever visit Spain, you will immediately understand this way of thinking. We were here to join some of the best of the new and upcoming talent from the freeski world, along with Spain and Andorra's finest shredders in a very memorable week at the first annual Pata Negra event.

ASP Shapers Oziou and Sergi and their crew really killed it with an amazing slopestyle course, despite one of the worst seasons in the last 60 years in Europe!

The term “pata negra” comes from the Spanish region of Catalonia and refers to the dried meat of a bull eaten as a delicacy. It is very special to Catalonians and a proud title for the event. Throughout the whole week, so many people worked hard to bring this very special event to life. And believe me, they were rewarded for their efforts, as the riders absolutely teed off in what was in my mind, one of the best competitions of the season. I continuously saw riders slapping high fives with the shapers out of respect for their work. Sure there were language barriers, but the word “sick!” was known by all and was the most heard phrase throughout the week.

Some of the riders stoked and ready to drop in...

The slope course consisted of a gap to cannon box, then an 18-meter kicker with more Wu Tang than E-Dollo's playlist, to a true seven-meter step up, and was capped off with a triple jib feature, consisting of a cannon rail, an eight-meter flat rail and a wooden bonk feature. The course was very quick and required the riders to be on point and stomp each trick in order to get the speed right for the next jump/rail. Once the riders got it dialed, it was on...

Dale Talkington shredding the top feature.

Since the vibe was so special, especially since the sun decided to shine on us all week, as the head judge I thought it would be cool to develop a combination of a judge/rider-judged format to determine the outcome. So we decided to have the qualifiers (which included 17 riders) judged by a crew of four scoring judges to determine the top eight. After we established the top eight, it would go into a knockout format, judged by the remaining nine riders who didn't make it to the knockout round.

Explaining the knockout format and the way that the riders will judge it.

After the top eight were selected, they would each be given the name “phil”, or “park”, named after the event's organizing sponsor, and were seeded 1st vs 8th, 2nd vs 7th, and so on. The level of riding was amazing from everyone during the qualifiers, but the top eight (from eighth to first) were as follows: Andreas Bacher from Italy, fellow Italian Raffi Cusini, the two Swedes, Simon Ericson and Niklas Eriksson, Canadian Rob Heule, the only Spanish rider, Luka Melloni, and the two Americans, Dale Talkington and McRae Williams.

Rob Heule sending it in his Calgary Flames jersey.

The seeding went perfectly as each round went to the third and deciding run to decide which placement each riders finished in. Standing next to the guys judging, I overheard them talking about how difficult it was to judge, which as a judge myself was something I wanted them to see. In the end, it came down to Rob Heule in the fourth place spot, and Andreas Bacher in third...

Rob “truckin” his way into the 4th place spot.

Niklas shredding the step-up with a late 180. Niklas stayed a bit longer after the comp to film his JOI entry that had more dubs then the European X Games finals!

The last two spots went to the Americans. In second with a run consisting of a switch 2 on, blind 4 out, to a steezy switch 10 blunt, switch unnatural 9 mute and a cork 810 off the up rail was Dale Talkington.

McRae absolutely slayed this jump all week, but managed to knock his knees twice with his head, which resulted in repeated trips to the patrol office and some stitches as a souvenir of his efforts...

And in first place, after nearly cutting his tongue off in training, was McRae Williams, who showed the heart of lion and won by posting a run that consisted of a misty 4 of the cannon box, a switch dub cork 9, to right side rodeo 9 mute and a switch on, right 6 off the up rail. He is now officially the inaugural champion at the first ever Pata Negra event.

McRae showing the ladies his new tongue trick called, “How to sew your tongue together using no hands.”

Dale, McRae and Andreas showing off their new bling. At least it’s nice and easy to travel back home with.

I would like to take the time to thank all of the guys and gals that made this special event happen. Especially Jaime and everyone at the resort of Vallnord; Javi, Jaime P. and the crew at PhilPark; the ASP shape team, and a true heart felt shout has to go to Luka Melloni. Not only was he our tour guide and housed us in Barcelona (thanks Gracila!), but he was an organizer from PhilPark, and rode the event with a dislocated pinky which altered his style all week with some of the steeziest no pole riding I have ever seen! He also got the hottest chica at the party that night, a private party hosted by Monster that featured a performance by Cali P. Now that is what Pata Negra is all about...

Luka slaying the whole week and learning new grabs with his opposite hand. So damn steezy...