words: Mary Walsh
captions: T. Bird
photos: Ryan “Huggy” Hughes. E-Stone, Mike Yoshida, Aaron Blatt, and Mary Walsh
Each spring for the better part of the last decade, SNOWBOARDER Mag has played host to the best up and coming riders under the age of twenty-one for a week-long opportunity to showcase snowboarding’s rising entourage called The Launch. More than just a photoshoot, The Launch is an annual, non-contest venue that provides an unmatched occasion for the groms and man-groms of snowboarding to shine. Over the past eight years, as Launch alums have graduated to become members of the Superpark class, they have challenged the status quo in both video parts and competitions, as riders like Sage Kotsenburg, Mark McMorris, Stale Sandbech, Forest Bailey, Austen Sweetin and many more have left a mark in the canons of Launch photos and video. In 2015, The Launch presented by Volcom touched down at Mammoth Mountain, California so that the next generation of snowboarding could rise to the occasion.
Over one hundred and fifty of the most talented snowboarders arrived to session the features in Mammoth’s Main Park. Mammoth Mountain has a long heritage of providing terrain for SNOWBOARDER’s biggest events. They have hosted Superpark six times and Ms Superpark three. This year marked the tenth event of this kind and Mammoth’s first go with The Launch. Per usual, the Mammoth crew hit the ground running to create an ideal snow playground. Unbound Terrain Park Manager TJ Dawoud and his hardworking crew took the bones of the infamous Main Park and added more transition, more rails and tubes, and a sizable hip to make sure that The Launch attendees would have plenty to keep them busy. And as Chair 6 began to turn for Day 1, a throng of riders lined up for laps. Benny Milam, Ryland West, Brock Crouch, Red Gerard, Scotty James, Seamus O’Connor, Chloe Kim, Ezra Racine, Milo Malkoski, Garrett Warnick, Zach Normandin, Jaeger Bailey, Joss McAlpin, Luke Winklemann, Boris Mouton, Billy Bjork, Sam Gildea, Lyon Farrell, Christian Connors, and Miles Fallon are only a portion of the well-qualified individuals that spent the first day of The Launch merking from feature to feature with a controlled abandon. If any of these names are unfamiliar, we recommend putting them in the ol’ memory bank, because these are riders that are staking their claim to on hill sovereignty, quickly and efficiently, with each season they put under their belt.
The sky was blue and sunny on Day 1, softening up the snow by late morning. Wind gusts kept riders off the massive cheesewedge in the lower portion of the park, so sessions broke out in the upper rail zone, as Benny Milam knocked out a hammer (see the GIF above) on the triple step down tube and everyone began to stack clips for the first video. The middle jump warmed everyone up for what’s sure to be a banger session on the college fund booter the rest of the week. Tuckknees, proper methods, double lines, double grabs, mellow spins, and a rumored switch method by Christian Connors on that directional stick he’s been sending it on—photo evidence to come.
The lower area of Main Park combines a bevy of transition options and tubes in a plaza section off the side of the behemoth jump as well as plentiful rails and wallrides. The tube plaza saw plenty of action, like a layback back one nose by Ryland West and a lofty backflip from Boris Mouton. Transition was felt out as The Launch crew got their feet underneath them in preparation for the next three, sunny days.
Each year, as the flock of young riders drops into the sizable jumps and jibs of The Launch, new faces emerge and assert their talents. During The Launch 2015, we will catch up with one person who is sending it in the park and is definitely worth paying attention to. First up is Tahoe’s Ryland West. At Superpark 19 presented by Nexen Tire at Seven Springs, Ryland turned heads in each and every zone. Whether we was stomping one-footed handplants in the Bear zone, throwing down on the hitching post in the Boreal area, or sending it in The Streets, Ryland was out there making a big impression on those around him. On Day 1 of The Launch, this Boreal local immediately dropped in with a no-holds-barred, creative approach to the Mammoth park.
First off, how old are you and where do you live and ride?
I usually ride at Boreal in California, over by Truckee where I live and I am nineteen years old.
How many Launches have you attended?
This is my first one.
You’ve been to Superpark the past two years, what has your experience been at that event?
The first one I went to was really intimidating. There were so many big people there, I was really nervous. The last one [at Seven Springs] was really fun. I went into it with a better attitude and I had so much fun riding with everyone and just trying new things and branching out.
Being at Superpark and then immediately coming here to Mammoth for The Launch, with three days between the events–how was it for you going from event to event?
It’s kind of nice. My home resort just closed down so I was super bummed out, “Ah, I’m done snowboarding for the season.” And then I realized The Launch was this week and hype was back up. I was super excited.
First day, first ever Launch, what was your first impression?
The jump is huge here. That was my first impression. (laughs) Other than that, it’s also really fun. There’s more sessions going on, if that makes sense; there’s more people just sessioning one feature, not just everyone doing their own thing—groups of people everywhere. And it’s also cool because you can go up the chairlift and watch your friends go down, see them kill it, yell at them, get really excited. Also, you can always ride with a new group of friends each lap. It’s cool.
When you were at Superpark, you were one of the only people to hit the Boreal hitching post, you were in the transition zone, you were sessioning The Streets, you were doing a bit of everything. Already during Day 1 of The Launch, you’ve started attacking this park in the same way. To this end, what riders inspire you to snowboard like you do? Who do you look up to in snowboarding?
Oh my god, there’s so many people. I look at Scotty Vine a lot; he’s a pretty big inspiration. He was at Superpark just killing everything. I also look at Dylan Gamache, he does some really creative stuff. I like Scott Stevens’ riding a lot. It all kind of roots back to when I first moved to Tahoe and I saw Colton Morgan, Sammy Spiteri, Ben Strauss, Paul Heran and everybody filming out there. That was my first impression I ever had of snowboarding and it’s stayed with me and made me so excited to go snowboard every day.
If people want to see more of your snowboarding, have you been filming this year? Where can they watch you snowboard?
Pretty much all the stuff I have out right now is Woodward Tahoe stuff, so anything on Woodward Tahoe TV. Go check that out, please. Thank you! I went to Michigan a little bit. I went out East and filmed a bit and shot with one of my friends, Nathan Vetter. I’ll have some stuff coming out later this summer once I get that all together.
The first day of The Launch was a little windy, what are you looking forward to over the next few days at The Launch?
I’m just looking forward to not having windy days. I was getting a little bummed out on the wind today, but the snow stayed so good and everyone’s attitudes just kept it up and it was a great day. I think the weather did not matter at that point.
I ride for Arbor, Union, Outdoor Tech. Homeschool helps me out with baselayers, VonZipper helps me out with goggles and ThirtyTwo helps me out with boots.
Read the full The Launch 2015 presented by Volcom: Day 1 Photos and Recap article on Snowboarder Magazine.