The Foundation of a Pizza is in the Crust
It has been two years of what seemed like pure fun and pizza after midnight. Looking back I get the feeling that there was a lot of hard work, though we didn’t really notice. We were working the 9-5 grind and when we should have been sleeping we were digging. We were failing quite a bit too, which should have been discouraging, but it wasn’t. It was all smiles.
I suppose it’s the norm for ams in snowboarding. Balancing a career (or a job) and a passion. Yeah, we all have to pay the bills. I’m not gonna whine about having to work for a living (I still might). To do that some of us will break our backs, fry our brains and run ourselves into the ground just to make ends meet. In this world, that’s what we accept as a job.
Then you add in an all consuming passion, and we seem to become delusional. If you’re trying to film a street part It means you’ll be committing the extra 20 hrs a week on top of the regular paid 40. You find yourself excited about staying up late and getting no sleep just so you can ride that spot you’ve been eyeing. At the risk of sounding clichéd, I’ll say that it IS what we live for. Specifically what we live for is snowboarding, friends and a good Spot Pizza.
What is a Spot Pizza? I’ll explain for those who aren’t familiar. Let’s say you and your buddies are out at night building a landing to a closeout rail with a 12 foot drop. It’s gonna take some time and effort to build a landing big enough for a drop like that. Spot Pizza is your fuel to build that landing, and to be able to hit it afterward. You call the delivery company and tell them your pizza order and then say we’ll be out front of this building on that road.
Taking life one slice at a time
The delivery guy is usually pretty interested in what you’re doing out in the snow at night eating pizza. Then once he sees the smile on your face after biting into the first slice he knows he’s done a great and necessary service for humanity. Fulfilled by his choices in life, the pizza guy then leaves. He’s probably still a bit confused about what he saw. The pizza gets passed around to the troops and with bellies full of cheese and presumably some cold ones, the boys get down to business.
It was late in 2015. The season hadn’t begun but I had built my first high speed winch, and got all my gear ready to film for the season. We were waiting, as always, on Mother Nature. The first storm in Maine hit just after New Years. I had the perfect spot in mind to test out my new creation. A large tree right in the middle of Deering Oaks park in portland had a tantalizing gap through 2 of the limbs. So after I got out of work at 4:30 I went straight there and began building the jump alone.
It took 4 hours to get half the jump built by myself. We only got about 5 inches of snow so I was ‘farming’ an area about the size of a basketball court. Then Christian Manhard joined me and helped me build. It’s worth noting that Christian made the 2 hour drive from central NH at 8pm to help me out. He set the bar for our entire group’s level of commitment to making it happen. Once the jump was built we pushed a small landing and set up the winch.
The frothing custom St Bernard winch
Kujo, my custom winch, is named for the ferocious dog from a 1980’s horror movie. He is part of the family. He offers 13 horsepower from a 420cc motor and weighs about 180 lbs. Kujo sits on a two inch receiver on the back of my Subaru when in transit. He was designed to propel us up to 40 mph over 600 ft of rope into whatever snowy death traps we can imagine.
With kujo in place and photographer Randy Williams set up in the light rain we were ready to rip. I pulled the rope almost all the way out about 500 ft. Another friend Nick operated the winch pulling me in for a few speed checks. I was blown away that the winch worked so well and was able to accelerate very quickly. So I sent one and almost paid the price. On my first attempt I just barely cleared the upper branch my toe edge even dragged across it. I compressed pretty hard and fell in the landing. Immediately I knew it was on, just needed a little more speed. Five or six attempts later I had my first clip and first photo of the season.
Flash forward to the middle of the 2016 winter and you will see us chasing every storm that hit the east coast from Maine to New Jersey. Now that we had the winch we were able to attack a wide array of spots that were previously inaccessible. We visited some old favorites too, but put a different twist on them. The down flat down in Bean Town was probably host to the first actual Spot Pizza. It stands out as a great example of taking a different approach.
Alex Cole and I had been teaming up quite a bit that year. It was sort of an unconscious decision for us to work as a production crew together. Alex shot photos and I shot video and we invited our friends to join us and get clips with us. For the Boston DFD Eugene Stancato was our 3rd.
Instead of hitting the rail going down Alex had the idea to make it a jump and go up it. It worked great. The pizza kept us all satisfied too. The inrun for this step-up was about 500ft long across an entire field. The winch rope was all the way out. 600ft of non stretch dyneema passing through a hole in a fence and then also a caribena at the top of the stairs. We were flying! After a couple scary moments and multiple tries each, we walked away with photos we took of each other and some solid clips for the movie. Now we were really getting hungry