Paddy Graham.Words and photos by Tomek Gola /

Squeezed in a subway train, it might be difficult to believe that you're about to see some gnarly skiing. Saturday morning. On the way there, you see a million people with eyes of a different shape and color, get sweaty in the sun, wet from the quasitropical rain and almost killed by those maniacal drivers on the wrong side of the street. Simply put - London.

Andy Bennett.

Head towards Olympia - a huge hall, where London's annual winter trade show, one of the biggest in Europe, is taking place: the Metro Ski and Snowboard Show.For the third year in a row the show has organized a ski competition, The London Ride. The London Ride is the UK location for the RIDE series of freeskiing events, which includes the Verbier Ride and the Saas-Fee Ride.The event gave London a taste of international freeskiing. The riders who showed up on the quarterpipe were Flo Wieser (Völkl), Andy Bennett (Line), Alexis Mouthon (O'Neill), Paddy Graham (Armada), Ben Hawker (Faction), Vivian Gex (Head), Mike Wakefield (Oakley) and Murray Buchan (Nike ACG). The riders had an impressive audience. The crowd at the Metro Ski Show went well beyond 10,000 people and each ski show was watched by hundreds of spectators.In the last two years riders competed on actual snow, whereas this year a huge quarterpipe was built and covered with artificial material called SnowFlex. This gave the Brits, who train mostly on this kind of surface, a big advantage.This is why the final battle was fought by the British riders only. Andy Bennett went for a safer flare in his final run and nailed it with such style, the trick might have looked a little too easy. Maybe this is why he ended up with fourth place. Murray Buchan was going big in his runs. His smooth 720 truckdriver gave him third position. Paddy Graham stood, or rather flew, well beyond most of the other skiers. His perfect mute flares, their amplitude and the quality of execution took him all the way to second place.But without any doubt to the judges and to the spectators, the true champion of the London Ride 2006, right from the beginning, was Mike Wakefield. His impressive flares and d-spins gave him a clear edge over all other riders.The London Ride is a great event that brings skiing closer to a wide metropolitan audience, which otherwise might never find out what stuff those guys on twin tips are capable of. Seeing it in person may fan their interest in skiing, and this works for all of us.

Andy Bennett and a few hundred pink balloons, dropping in.

Mike Wakefield.
Murray Buchan.