Indulge one more Olympic-inspired post, please. I’ll move on next week to other goodies in my queue.
The only snowboard trick I ever executed was an air-and-fakie, without the air, so obviously I am impressed by recent riding performances in the 2022 Games. Yet I want to offer a shout-out to the skateboard and snowboard community not for their riding skills, but for their body of literary work. (I’ll also mention rollerbladers, who may be disappointed at the afterthought or pleased at the mention.)
To get some context here, let’s first look at how the figure skating entourage has named their jumps, about which I’ve been curious ever since as a kid I giggled at the term “Salchow.” Like everyone else, I thought the commentators were saying “sow-cow.” Figure skating honors their innovators simply by naming jumps after them. The early 1900s introduced the Lutz (by an Austrian), the Salchow (a Swede), and the half loop known as the Euler, of unknown origin, but I’m guessing it is somehow connected to the European mathematician since it was originally part of a compulsory shape. Regardless, Europeans often call the Euler a Thorén, who was a 1908 Swedish bronze medalist. The oldest jump, an Axel (which might easily be confused as an “axle” by anyone not in on this discussion), is named after another Swede, Axel Paulson, who must have been on a first-name basis with the judges.
As far as the rotations, naming conventions are also straightforward: single, double, triple, quadruple. No halves need be involved due to how the various jumps are defined.
So, there you have it in figure skating. Elegant and past-honoring, and surprisingly Swedish, yet quite bland and not difficult to master (the identifications, not the actual jumps of course).
In extreme contrast to figure skating, the rider community offers variety and creativity superior on several levels. In fact, it’s worth noting that the only term figure skaters and riders have in common is the “flip,” and yet the meaning of this basic word is entirely different in one as compared to the other.
For starters, riders rarely use person’s names for a trick. Even the signature move of the legendary Shawn White is not the “Shawny” or “Whitey,” but rather the Double McTwist 1260. And its alternate name is the “Tomahawk” when perhaps it could have been the “Ginger.” Sure, there are a few proper-name tricks, yet one of the few to be found, the Ollie, was its innovator’s nickname.
So, what’s the go-to M.O. instead? Apparently, cheap foods, or in the case of the McTwist, words that could pass as such. Here’s a sampling of some trick and jump servings: Poptart, Pretzel, Bagel, HoHo, and Sato (the Japanese word for sugar). And to round out the meal, the off-axis rotation known as the Misty could pass as a slushy beverage and got its name within the skateboarding movie Caffeine. So, there you go.
Then there’s the general creativity outside of not-so-fine dining: the Corkscrew, or just “Cork,” Rodeo, and Rippey Flip (its gymnastics counterpart is simply a “full”). Any good writer focuses on his or her verbs, and these riders have tweak, poke, grab, invert, and revert, and when they do go with nouns, you get something like the Bio or the Fresh. Brilliant.
Continuing, the riders get my recognition not only for English skills, but math and engineering prowess. They multiply effortlessly by 180, giving us the “900” (degrees, that is) instead of a “two-and-a-half,” and a “1080” instead of a “triple.” They are up to “1980” and I can tell you with confidence that if they need to go higher, they have no fear, because hey, it’s four digits from here on out. Furthermore, they secured the engineering term “amplitude,” used nowhere in everyday life. “Height” would work just fine, but we must all agree that amplitude is a great substitution and carries attitude when taken from the Wave Theory 301 chalkboard to the snowy slopes.
Finally, I offer kudos to the rider innovators not only for their food and classroom vernacular but also for embracing the overall sophistication of seemingly limitless variations in stance, direction, orientation, and grabs that accompany their jumps and spins. Nuance is required to fully describe the variety of what riders do. For example, I challenge you to wrap your head around Wikipedia’s clarification that “a snowboarder would say fakie Ollie rather than switch Nollie to avoid redundancy.” I imagined a group of skaters getting baked at the margin of the city skatepark working out that distinction. Something like this:
“Dude! I just realized we both called that trick something different, but it’s, like, exactly the same! And bro, we were both not wrong…. Sick!”
“Word, dog, we were both right technically, but you were redundant. Earlier you asked me for a toke, not a toke of weed, so I know you get it.”
“Fakie Ollie all the way, bro.”
“Right on. Let’s spin 540 and get some pizza.”
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