words: Mary Walsh
photos: Ryan “Huggy” Hughes, Mike Yoshida, Mary Walsh, Jeep Eddy, Hayley Radel, and Chris Moran
captions: a collective effort by Huggy, Yosh, Walsh, and Mia Lambson
Standing in the middle of the Bear Mountain baselodge in the early afternoon on Saturday, September 19th, I craned my neck to see Bear Mountain Director of Marketing, Clayton Shoemaker and SNOWBOARDER Magazine’s Pat Bridges address the crowd. Shoulder-to-shoulder, leaning against railings and perched on stairs were over fifty of snowboarding’s elite jibbers: Lucas Magoon, Jordan Small, Dylan Alito, Denis Leontyev, Brady Lem, Nial Romanek, Riley Nickerson, Jesse Paul, Johnny O’Connor, Zak Hale, Ryan Tarbell, Dillon Ojo, Jaeger Bailey, Mariah Dugan, Danyale Patterson, Madison Blackley. The ranks where thick. The assembled crew boasted a distinct faculty on alloy, and yet, even compared to previous editions of infamous preseason competition Hot Dawgz & Hand Rails, there was a palpable electricity in the air because outside, a few hundred feet away at the bottom of the mountain, the Bear Park Staff shouldered rakes and tossed salt to prepare what was indeed one of the gnarliest preseason set ups, ever.
For the past twelve years, Hot Dawgz has been a major kick off to the snowboarding season, arriving early in fall when the itch for snow has just start to collectively set in. Every September, a litany of professional and amateur riders have made the pilgrimage up the winding mountain road to Big Bear Lake, pulled on snowpants in often very summery weather, and put in work on the course with a zealot-like ferver. Bear’s commitment to providing a high quality competition has made HDHR a defacto proving ground, bolstered continually by a legendary list of past victors, including Jed Anderson, Keegan Valaika, Tommy Gesme, Nick Visconti, Johnny O’Connor, Scotty Vine and on the woman’s side, Jess Kimura, Laura Hadar, Leanne Pelosi, Mariah Dugan, and four-time winner, Melissa Evans. And each year, just when it seems that there’s no way the previous year’s event could be topped, Clayton and the industrious diggers of Bear dream up a course that defies expectations. 2015 was no different. It was mental.
Following up on 2014’s double-sided set up, for the 12th annual edition of HDHR the course was an official cross-up. On looker’s left, an up rail to double down bar set the pace at top and the bottom had a 60-plus-foot up-flat-down tube ending right in front of Bear’s deck. On looker’s right, a kinked tube with a donkey started the line off, and a dual line of boxes with tubes on top of them separated by ominous-looking rocks finished things up. These features were gnarly in their own right, but the kicker was the mandatory center section. Left-to-right and you gapped high overhead, landing on a down tube. Right-to-left and you had three rail options: a creeper on rider’s left, a flat-up creeper on rider’s right, and a giant flat tube in the middle. Beneath the jibs was a healthy, three-foot deep water hazard. Not only was it technical, it was ballsy as hell. Bear doesn’t mess around.
At 2pm, Bear local Lucas Magoon dropped in and the jam was on. Immediately, any sense of trepidation caused by the imposing set up was gone and the field of riders wasted no time in picking apart the set up. Creativity overtook the afternoon, increasing with every drop. Two hour-long heats with no elimination allowed everyone to get comfortable on the course and put down plenty of tricks. To see just what happened, the webcast has the uncut action and stay tuned for the recap edit dropping on Monday, because the following paragraph doesn’t do justice to the snowboarding that went down in the San Bernadinos at HDHR 2015.
First off, Riley Nickerson, Jordan Small, Johnny O’Connor, and Erik Leon have style that is really good. Jesse Paul, Nial Romanek, and Brendan Gerard each offered up an impressive diversity of tricks. Ryan Tarbell was riding really well. Lenny Mazzotti and Ryan Paul were going for it, but weren’t able to find the landings they were looking for. And the young guns, Benny Milam, River Richer, and Drayden Garder offered a very bright glimpse of the up and coming generation of young jibbers.
Oliver Dixon put on a show, donning a Jason mask and sending the gap one-footed, landing boot-down on the tube in the rarely-seen Danielsan. Oliver made it 90% of the way down the rail—it was insanity. Jaeger Bailey, whose deep bag of tricks was aptly on display on Saturday, was trying rodeos over the gap onto the tube, but when he didn’t land one completely cleanly, he decided to attempt a cannonball into the pond—he is always one to dive in to whatever trick he’s trying. Jaeger was later seen fishing his sunglasses out of the pool with a rake.
Denis Leontyev, arguably the Bradshaw of Russia and practically a Bear local himself, was making ridiculous rail combination look (almost) easy and earned Best Trick for a frontside 450 gap over the water hazard to the tube on the other side. Mike Gray was force all afternoon. Proper tricks and easy style with a fine-tuned consistency earned this Bear Mountain rider the third spot on the podium and a cool $1,000. Ozzy Henning took second place for his efforts, adding more evidence that there may very well be nothing that this guy can’t hit and do so with solid style. Ozzy threw a big back one over the gap which was one of the sickest tricks of the day.
From the very start of the contest, one rider was having no trouble putting down banner top-to-bottom runs, changing things up and exuding proper and easy style. Beginning with technical lines and ticking off a long list of tricks, it was clear that Zak Hale had his eyes set on the podium at his home resort. Emcee Terence Stilin-Rooney put it best when he announced that Zak Hale was “Benjamin Buttoning the course,” starting with all of the hardest tricks first. When it was time to hand out oversized checks, Zak earned a well-deserved first place and came up ten grand.
The contingent of female rippers all rode well, but it was Madison Blackley and Mariah Dugan who led the pack with their consistency and multitude of tricks. At the end of the day, Madison, bolstered by Pedialyte consumption, walked away with her first HDHR title and two grand, minus the obligatory 10% to be spent at the AV Club.
An enormous thank you to Clayton Shoemaker, Lee Stockwell, Missy Konig, and all of the BBMR staff who made the 12th Annual Hot Dawgz & Hand Rails the best one, yet. You guys rule.
Read the full Zak Hale wins Hot Dawgz & Hand Rails 2015 – Photos article on Snowboarder Magazine.