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Sunday, April 8, 2012
Throwback Throwdown

"We wanted to hit the rewind button a bit," says Zach Black, who won Breck's Throwback Throwdown.

On Saturday, as part of its 50th anniversary Spring Fever celebration, Colorado's Breckenridge Resort paid tribute to its long history of catering to snowboarders by building a re-creation of the five-foot halfpipe constructed for the 1986 World Snowboarding Championships and inviting several generations of pro snowboarders to compete for a $10,000 prize purse in the first annual Rockstar Throwback Throwdown.

The two-part competition started in the resort's 22-foot superpipe, where spins were limited to 540 degrees and judges were more interested in tweaked airs, old-school grabs, handplants, and alley-oop tricks than the double cork spins that have come to dominate modern pro pipe competition. Breck local Zach Black owned the superpipe, beating out Danny Davis and Taylor Gold, and New Zealand's Rebecca Sinclair won the women's superpipe competition, beating out Sylvia Mittermueller and Ariel Gold.

Then it was on to the main event, with old-school legends Chris Pappas, Andy Brewer, Steve Link, and Rick Shimpeno facing off in the minipipe against the likes of Zach and Jake Black, Luke Mitrani, Danny Davis, Benji Farrow, Elijah Teeter, Steve Fisher, Dom Harrington, Chad Otterstrom, and 13-year old rider Matt Cox, many of them riding vintage boards for the occasion. Pappas, one of several Throwback Throwdown competitors who also competed in the 1986 World Snowboarding Championships, made the cut for the minipipe finals and won the Raddest Old Dude award.

"It's great to see Breckenridge and all these younger riders out paying tribute to where snowboarding came from," said Pappas. "Breck was the first major resort in Colorado, outside of a couple smaller ski areas like Berthoud Pass and Ski Cooper, to allow snowboarding, way back in 1984, and then really cemented that commitment in 1986 when they hosed the Worlds. At the time, the pipe for 1986 Worlds was the sickest thing any of us had ever seen. It's just been wild to watch what it's all become, to see these massive terrain parks and 22-foot pipes out there today, and then at the same to time to remember where we came from."

The top three female finishers this weekend at Breckenridge, Colo.

Davis and Mitrani were blasting bigger than than the tiny pipe's walls should have allowed but were disqualified for refusing to wear helmets, Davis standing by his choice of a flailing jester's hat and Mitrani rocking a bit of Mad Hatter haberdashery. "We were just out here to have some fun," explained Davis. "I wasn't even born yet in 1986. I was negative two-years old! But I totally respect those roots of snowboarding. It was a whole different game then, where it was all about style and doing different grabs and just going for it. This little pipe was probably the hardest thing I've ever ridden, and it was a total trip to get to ride it with a bunch of the old cats like Shimpeno and Brewer and Pappas, and to see Steve Link out here. It was a blast."

Sylvia Mittermueller won the women's competition in the throwback pipe, beating out Rebecca Sinclair and veteran rider Kim Stacey, but it wasn't enough to catch Sinclair in the combined overall standings: Sinclair took top honors, sharing the podium with Mittermueller and Gold. "It was really, really hard to ride that thing," Sinclair said, after the competition. "But it was also really, really fun."

"The coolest thing I saw all day -- besides my own J-Tear -- is that there were like four generations of snowboarders in one place," said Jake Black, who won Best Handplant honors in the men's final after several runs full of J-Tear and Andrecht plants and ended up in third place in the minipipe portion of the competition. The J-Tear  essentially a 540 McTwist with a handplant thrown in -- was invented by Mike Jacoby and dates back to the days when inverted airs -- but not handplants -- were illegal in snowboarding competition.

Speaking of inverted airs, Benji Farrow managed to land several cripplers and McTwists in his runs and finished in second place. But it was British snowboarder Dom Harrington who stole the show, wearing cuffed jean shorts and white kneepads to complete the look and dominating the sketchy, slushy pipe announcer Dave Duncan took to calling a "stunt ditch."

Zach Black finished on top in the men's overall standings, thanks to his dominance in the superpipe, sharing the overall podium with Dom Harrington and Taylor Gold.

"My brother Jake and I had been thinking of doing a contest similar to this for a while, and after we approached Breck they pulled out all the stops to figure it out," said Black. "We thought it was important to remind people that our sport didn't come from a serious 'we need to win, we need to scare ourselves' mentality, that was more about this in the beginning: Getting a bunch of people together and having fun. I think some of that has been lost as the sport has progressed into bigger and bigger double and triple cork spins, so wanted to hit the rewind button a bit. In my opinion alley-oop airs and big, crazy, stylish grabs are just as sick as the big spins. I see guys like Chris Pappas out here and I think it's important to go back and respect what they had and how they treated snowboarding, and try to treat it the same way. Hopefully this goes on to be an annual event."

Rockstar Throwback Throwdown results

Women's Superpipe
1. Rebecca Sinclair
2. Sylvia Mittermueller
3. Ariel Gold

Women's Minipipe
1. Sylvia Mittermueller
2. Rebecca Sinclair
3. Kim Stacey

Women's Overall
1. Rebecca Sinclair
2. Sylvia Mittermueller
3. Ariel Gold

Men's Superpipe
1. Zach Black
2. Danny Davis
3. Taylor Gold

Men's Minipipe
1. Dom Harrington
2. Benji Farrow
3. Jake Black

Men's Overall
1. Zach Black
2. Dom Harrington
3. Taylor Gold