An essay in which Ade imagines a future where mountainboarding is far more popular than it currently is.
Imagine a world where mountainboarding was a viable alternative to walking, taking the car or riding public transport. Okay, maybe a stretch too far, so let’s imagine
a world the UK where just as many people participate in boarding
dirt as they do on snow. Not an unreasonable scenario, even with my limited
imagination and entirely possible if only more people dropped the assumption of
danger and embraced the lower entry level price-point allowing them to surf the
hills right there on their doorstop.
Secretly though, isn’t this what we all want? For the kids to think we’re cool and the ladies to swoon? To be seen to be alternative rather the mainstream and to have the bemused onlookers wondering what on earth you are riding, and how could you possibly be in control? This is of course a whole separate issue to be discussed at length elsewhere and for now let’s embrace the population en-mass.
It’s not hard these days to pick up a mountainboard, either new or second hand with spare parts going for pocket money. Upgrades and pimping come at a price, but for the meantime, at least we’re riding. From your budget Kheo or BlueEarth board through to the specialist MBS and noSno options, we’re not really looking at a huge price difference to the snowboard equivalent of £100-£500. Take out the cost of flights and lift passes though and throw in a little petrol money, and mountainboarding is clearly the budget-friendly winner of the two.
So what would happen if mountainboarding were to become the next biggest thing? It’s not impossible and the scene could massively benefit from a boost in sales should a boarding sequence appear in the next James Bond or Jason Bourne film. Supposing all of the above was to happen then several implications of such a scenario are envisioned below.
The entry cost of buying a boarding, already pretty cheap should drop as a result of mass production with an increase in both selection of board types and range of graphics. It’s not implausible that far more money will then be invested by the major manufacturers into R&D, producing boards that are more specific to the discipline in which they are developed in order to give people a definite reason to buy the current seasons stock. Of course, the market would be flooded with imitation NBS, Grampa and noGro knock-offs taking advantage of tried and tested to destruction designs but mountainbikes survived a similar growth spurt in the 1990’s and I suspect that micro scooters are going through a similar stage right now And that’s great - it will mean that the public have embraced the idea of travelling by four-wheels, and when NBS falls apart or when Mr Public takes it to the bumpier hills, the established brands will still be there for those who want them.
Awareness. Awareness of boarding is a tricky one, especially where the authorities are involved. Bearing in mind that I have absolutely no idea where we stand legally when riding public footpaths (though I was once told with dead-certainty that mountainboards were legally in the same category as a pram), my excuse that “bikes are not allowed here but this certainly isn’t a bike”, presently holds a little weight. Ignorance is no excuse, but when there’s uncertainty all around, make the most of it. Awareness can lead to specific rules; no longer is it “keep off the grass”, but “No Mountainboarding on the grass”, leading to popular “Mountainboarding is not a crime” T-shirts, in dirty protest.
Awareness means that no longer are you the strange daredevil on the rolling board of death, but in the public’s eyes you’re the chap who’s trying out the latest “craze”, no matter how long you’ve actually been riding for and you are defined by what you do rather than who you are. “I hate you because you’re a mountainboarder”. Skateboarders seemed to have fought back well on this issue, but there is still objections to build parks in certain areas due to the perception of the people that may congregate there and not due to the skating that will actually take place.
Incidentally, more mountainboarders equals far more mountainboarders that are inevitably going to be better than me. This is not good.
Busier Forums. Today’s Internet culture means that people are usually happy ask questions first, search later, ignoring all the hard work done previously writing beautifully crafted stickied FAQ’s and other replies to every other new rider who bought a new board and didn’t check whether it would be suitable for the over 12’s. We should prepare to answer the same questions over and over again, but that’s cool as everyone’s different and we all love receiving the personal touch.
Bear in mind that for Snowboarding, a sport that is limited to a handful of suitable UK venues or a handful of winter weeks (if we’re lucky), or the winter holidays, the SCUK [Snowboarding Club: UK] has close to 20,000 registered users compared to the world’s most active mountainboard forum [Surfing Dirt.com] (1,300 members, 200 active). Certainly the skills between the two sports are very similar and if anything, there’s less parts to a snowboard, but there’s certainly a larger choice in regards to range of manufacturers and varying products with their subtle (and not so subtle) differences. In the end, people still want reassurance that they’re buying the right equipment and if you can’t do what you love doing, then what better than hanging out with people of the same mindset who will also discuss what you love doing?
So, should we hold out and hope for mountainboarding being the sport of the masses? There is a popular podcast that goes by the name of ‘Answer Me This’, a UK based weekly production where listeners send in random questions which are then answered in a comedic way. During Episode 175 [currently available as a download at http://answermethis.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/episode175/], co-presenter Ollie Mann states on the subject of Parkour, that to him, whilst all very cool, “feels a bit intrinsically 2006” after a period of relatively heavy use in both film and advertising. Not an unreasonable comment and not a dissimilar feeling to how many members of the public are when pursuing the “next biggest thing”, leading to everything else to feel a bit dated. If mountainboarding remains relatively unknown, then in a way, it can never become new, and following this strained logic, can never really become old.