words: Mary Walsh
captions: T. Bird
photos: Ryan “Huggy” Hughes, Mike Yoshida, T. Bird, and Nathan Veter
That’s it. The Launch 2015 presented by Volcom is a wrap. Four days of riding and the underage set has torn apart the white waves of the Mammoth Unbound park like a pack of starving great whites in seal country. Jumps have been sessioned, the hip has been shut down, and a list of rail tricks that could populate a season of park edits has been ticked off by the rising rider generation. After almost a week of watching these twelve to twenty-one year olds pick apart lines, send it on jump trains, and spin and flip over everything in the path, here at SNOWBOARDER Magazine, we’re once again happy to say that the future of snowboarding is bright as ever. Quite frankly, watching groms like Judd Henkes, Red Gerard, Benny Milam, Garrett Mackenzie, Seamus O’Connor, Drayden Gardner, Miles Fallon, Brock Crouch, Griffin MacFadyen, Luke Winkelmann, Lyon Farrell, Milo Malkoski, Cody Warble, Kix Kamp, and many more makes us not only wonder what exactly we were doing when we were in junior high, but also provides plenty of proof that snowboarding is heading in the right direction—a direction that leaves plenty of room for interpretation as these young boarders keep adding to their on hill repertoire.
Of course, the older set at The Launch led the pack throughout the week. Laps by Brady Lem, Zach Normandin, Ezra Racine, Jaeger Bailey, Christian Connors, Ritchie Conklin, Ryland West, Spencer Whiting, Demetri Bales, Boris Mouton, Jed Sky, Garrett Warnick, Brandon Davis, and more cruised through the park proliferating an easy style each and every day.
None of this would have been possible without the tireless efforts of TJ Dawoud and the Mammoth Unbound Park Staff. These diggers worked long hours perfecting take offs and landings as well as shuttling riders on snowmobiles during each sunset shoot. The crew at Mammoth continued a tradition of banner SNOWBOARDER Mag collaborations, marking off the tenth time that the resort has hosted Superpark, Ms. Superpark and The Launch. “It’s exciting hosting The Launch because it’s the future of snowboarding,” said Dawoud. “These are the up and comers that don’t have big names, but they shred hard and they work hard to get themselves out there.” Over the past few decades, the list of snowboarders that have groomed their talents on the Main Park corduroy is long and ever-growing. Bringing such a large group of up and comers to Mammoth was a natural fit for The Launch.
“We’re really passionate about what we do here,” stated TJ. “Building for an event like The Launch is a labor of love for us. The payoff is getting to see these riders progress and have fun and the level of excitement there is for that. Unbound has a long history of being an incredible place for snowboarders to come and grow and it’s exciting to be a part of it. It’s something that’s bigger than any one individual. It’s much bigger than me or anyone that has come before me or anybody that’ll come after me. We talk about it all the time. We don’t save lives here, we’re not changing the world, we’re not curing cancer; we provide fun.”
Throughout the four days of The Launch, there are always riders who will captivate attention, turning an especially large number of heads whenever they point their board downhill. Minnesotan Benny Milam was one of those riders at Mammoth this year. Honing his penchant for destroying metal on the trails of the Midwest, Benny brought a cool fire to The Launch, shutting down features with a quiet determination and super easy style. On the final day of The Launch, we caught up with him about his Launch experience. Listen to Benny and follow him on Instagram at @mennybilam, because you’re going to want to see what he does next.
Where are you from, where do you ride and what is your age?
Benny Milam: I’m from Chisago City, Minnesota, I’m sixteen and I ride at Trollhuagen in Wisconsin.
Trollhaugen There is a scene at Trollhaugen, just insane riders everywhere at that place. What’s it like riding there as your home mountain?
It’s really fun. All the kids kill it there, so you can just lap and have a lot of fun with them and it’s a good vibe all the time.
And riding there helps with the rail skills a little bit.
Yeah, definitely. The towropes are the best.
How many laps can you get in, in a day?
You could probably get in somewhere around 100 laps or something like that. A lot of laps.
What number Launch is this for you?
This is my second year.
How does this year’s Launch at Mammoth compare to your first experience last year at Seven Springs?
This one has such good rails. Jumps are fun, lapping is really easy. Everything is really fun this year.
You’ve been spending a lot of time in the upper rail section, what have you been stoked on in that area?
The top two down rails are really fun and then the waterfall rail is one of my favorites. Then there’s a really fun flat tube that’s just a mess around, fun rail.
People will see in the videos later this week, but you were stacking up there. Can you tick off, say, three of the tricks you got on that waterfall rail?
(laughs) I got a back one through the first drop and then switch up to switch frontboard through the last drop, and then switch back two to the second down of the waterfall, and then switch backlip through the whole thing.
Coming to The Launch for the second year, what’s your overall impression of being here with this big group of riders who are all coming up?
It’s just like a big family reunion. You meet so many more people, ride with a bunch of different crews you never ride with; it’s just a good time.
When you’re back home, you’re cruising Trollhaugen, riding with 1817, anywhere else people can watch your snowboarding on the internet?
Yeah, Cryptic Films is one of the crews I filmed with this year and they’re putting out a full video. It’s got a bunch of good riders like Cody Beiersdorf, Brady Lem, Shane Ruprecht, Drew Poganski, and many more. It’s going to be a good video.
Growing up in Minnesota, rail riding in your guys’ blood. Who are the riders you look up to and who influence your style?
Joe Sexton always been one of my favorites. Justin Fronius, Danimals, they’re always fun to watch, too.
Volcom, Celtek, CAPiTA, Electric, Union, Grab Grab, 1817, and The Youth Shelter Supply.
A huge thank you to TJ, Tyson, Lauren, Molly, Michelle, Peter, Greg, Kevin, and the whole crew at Mammoth, to all the riders who came out for the event, and Pat, Seth, Oren and the Volcom crew, and to all the parents who provided riders, permission slips, and supervision to get their kids to The Launch. See you next year!
Read the full The Launch 2015 presented by Volcom: Day 4 Photos and Recap article on Snowboarder Magazine.