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kottke.org posts about snowboarding

The Winter Olympics, male & female physiology, and socially constructed bodies

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2018

This is a fascinating thread by Milena Popova about the differing performances of male and female athletes at the Winter Olympics. As they point out, humans are sexually dimorphic but the story doesn’t end there. Bodies are also socially constructed.

Physiology is a thing, but physiology is shaped and mediated by our social context.

Look back at those pictures of “women”. Those petite, delicate bodies, those faces we process as “beautiful”. Those are the qualities that globally dominant Western cultures associate with “femininity”.

And sport is one of the institutions that fiercely guards and reproduces dominant ideas about gender, masculinity and femininity. This plays out differently in different sports.

Generally, men and women compete separately. And for the purposes of sport “men” and “women” are defined as people whose bodies were assigned male or female at birth and whose gender matches that assignment.

The obvious example here is South African runner Caster Semenya. But Popova continues with a more subtle (and admittedly speculative) situation:

Now, what really gets me is snowboarding. Because on the face of it that’s not a sport that’s judged on the same gendered criteria of artistry and aesthetics as figure skating or gymnastics.

You’d think under all the skiing gear, helmets, scarves and goggles, it would be quite hard to perform femininity.

And still, as my friend whom I made watch slope style and half pipe for the first time in her life last night pointed out, the body types of the men and women riders are really rather different. You can tell even under all the gear.

And that translates to performance. Women get an amplitude of about 3m above the half pipe, men about 4-5m. The best women do 1080s (three revolutions), the best men 1440s (four revolutions).

But much like any other subculture snowboarding reproduces hierarchical structures. Moves are named after people, some people find it easier to access than others (hint: it’s a massively expensive sport), some people set trends.

One of the structures it reproduces is a gendered hierarchy. It’s a very masculine culture. Women find it harder to access the sport, find it harder to be taken seriously as athletes in their own right rather than “just hangers-on”.

And I have the sneaky suspicion that because the people with the most subcultural capital tend to be men and they decide whom they will admit and accept to the community, there are certain looks and body types of women who find it less hard (not easy!) to gain access.

And those happen to be the body types that may find it harder to do 1440s and to get 5m amplitude above the half pipe.

Another example from figure skating is Surya Bonaly, a French figure skater who landed a backflip on one skate in a performance at the 1998 Olympics. While backflips weren’t banned because of Bonaly’s relative ease in performing them (as claimed here), her athletic style was outside the norm in women’s figure skating, in which traditional femininity is baked right into the rules & judging. This was also a factor in Tonya Harding’s career (as depicted in I, Tonya).

Anyway, super interesting to think about.

Slowly shredding some pow to classical music

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2018

Glide along with this snowboarder as he surfs his way through a powdery forest to the strains of Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune. I’ve watched this twice now; it’s super relaxing. A fine antidote to the typical extreme sports video. (via the kid should see this)

Snowboarding on the streets of Manhattan

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2016

Just as he did a couple of years ago, Casey Neistat busted out his board yesterday and went snowboarding behind a 4WD Jeep in the blizzard covered streets of Manhattan. (thx, david)

NYC snowboarding

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 14, 2014

This is fucking great and crazy…when the snow hit NYC yesterday, Casey Neistat grabbed his snowboard and went snowboarding behind a Jeep in the East Village.

Vintage snowboarding footage from 1977

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2014

From 1977, a video of someone snowboarding on one of the first commercially made boards:

I’m not completely sure who the rider is (probably Dimitrije Milovich), but the board is a Winterstick. A company who owns the Winterstick trademark still makes a version of the split-tail board you see in the video.

Winterstick

From what I can tell, Winterstick was the first modern snowboard company but was quickly eclipsed by rivals Sims and Burton, with Burton emerging in the 1990s as the growing sport’s 800 lb gorilla.

The decline of snowboarding

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 29, 2014

I wasn’t aware of this: snowboarding numbers are down across the board…revenue from snowboarders is down, snowboard visits to resorts are down, sales of gear is down, the number of first-timers under 14 years-old is down, etc.

Each February I experience the unrestrained joy of attending the ski and snowboard trade show in Denver. Here’s what I see when I walk the snowboard section: Underage snowboarders puking in the corridors after one too many keg stands-at 10 a.m. And overseeing all this fabricated youthfulness? Fifty-year-old white dudes in flat-brim caps, tight jeans, and designer flannel. Chuckleheads. Leveraging snowboarding’s rebel cred, they modeled its image on skateboarding and aimed it almost entirely at teenagers.

That worked great for a while. Then snowboarding went mainstream-the X Games, Mountain Dew ads, Shaun White-and, inevitably, it lost a bit of its mojo. The first generation of riders got real jobs and started having kids, and snowboarding’s image never matured to accommodate them.

As snowboarding went narrow, skiing went big. Today’s skiers can choose to carve turns, launch off the slopestyle jumps, hammer bumps, navigate steeps, tour the backcountry, rip bottomless pow, race in a beer league, or just go skiing like a vacationer from Chicago or Boca Friggin’ Raton. It’s cool; there’s a place for you and a group of likeminded folks who would love to have you. Cooler still if you’re a lifelong enthusiast? Dabble in all the above. Skiing isn’t golf; there’s always some new adventure waiting for you.

But industrialized snowboarding hates diversity.

The green Flying Tomato

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2014

Video of Shaun White snowboarding at age 10:

John Lyke at Sugarbush

posted by Aaron Cohen   Mar 21, 2012

Chris sent me this crazy technical snowboard video of John Lyke riding the rail at Sugarbush. I like it. I like that it says it’s inspired by the film Drive. More snowboard videos of awesome tricks should be inspired by the film Drive.

Is there a definitive explanation as to why skate/BMX/snowboarding videos usually start with a couple scenes of someone falling down? I have a theory, but curious what you think. Let me know.

Snowboarding in an LED suit

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 17, 2012

I needed a little beauty this morning and this certainly fit the bill…a snowboarder covered in LED lights shreds in the dark.

(thx, finn)

The Danny MacAskill of snowboarding

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 09, 2012

That’s how a recent tweet referred to Scott Stevens and his snowboarding skills. Some pretty sick street snowboarding moves in this one.

MacAskill? Oh, he’s just this guy. (via @polarben)

Street snowboarding

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 29, 2011

The street skiing video has more narrative structure but the tricks pulled in this urban snowboarding video are just filthy.

(thx, river)

The Art of FLIGHT trailer

posted by Aaron Cohen   Aug 18, 2011

So you’re thinking, ‘It’s getting late, I’m winding down the day, maybe I should watch some videos.’ And then you watch this snowboarding trailer with a metal soundtrack, avalanches, and a BEAR. Cripes, maybe you should just watch this one tomorrow morning instead of coffee.

(Via @Kazaroth)

Burton is offering a $5000 prize for the

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 28, 2007

Burton is offering a $5000 prize for the best snowboarding video taken at one of the three remaining US ski areas (Alta, Taos, Deer Valley, Mad River Glen) that don’t allow snowboarding. The intro video is the perfect explanation for why these four areas don’t allow snowboards.

Tim Gasparak captured JJ Thomas catching same

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 03, 2005

Tim Gasparak captured JJ Thomas catching same air over the streets of San Francisco on a snowboard. SF recently played host to extreme skiers and snowboarders flying down Fillmore Street on several tons of trucked-in snow. Tim’s got more photos of the event on Flickr.