When All The Stars Align

Patience pays off when the right crew and conditions combine to deliver…

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Words & Images | Mark Clinton

Will Jackways and Carlos Garcia-Knight score in their own backyard – as New Zealand’s Southern Alps serve up versatile, untouched terrain. The two caught up for a beer afterwards, to reflect on a day worth waiting for. 

Carlos Garcia Knight: I grew up in Canterbury and didn’t initially have any drive to ride the park. I was all about cruising around the mountain with my mates. For the past couple of years however, I’ve been pretty focused on the comp scene. I knew in the back of my mind that after I was done with the Olympics, I’d take some time out of the park and take off to explore what’s in my own backyard.

I’ve always followed Will in video parts as he’s one of the few snowboarders in NZ to really own the freeriding aspect. Coming from the pipe, I think Will’s style is so well suited to the type of terrain New Zealand has. I feel really humbled and stoked to go out and experience what Will has been refining for years – learning from the best.

Will Jackways: Growing up in Wanaka, I would look out from the lake and see the endless potential around here. I guess I took a slightly different path to everyone else at the time – they were focused on heading to Whistler to build jumps in perfect conditions, but I wanted to ride the mountains that were in front of me.

After spending quite a few years around the local zones, I soon realised how fickle the conditions here can be. Seasons can go by without anything turning on, so patience is key when waiting for the right conditions… lots of patience.

I’ve known Carlos for years, but it was only now – when his hectic schedule freed up – that I knew it was the right time to get out and explore together.

Carlos: That first day we had hiking around mid-winter got me insanely hyped on some of the readily accessible terrain New Zealand has. We could see everyone fighting for first tracks a few miles away in the resort, but we were solo taking laps in our backyard.

Will J: Those are the days any snowboarder would dream of! With the conditions around here being so touch-and-go, you have to be patient – but also ready to quickly jump on the next trip.

I’ve always believed in having a good dynamic between the crew, with everyone on the same wavelength. Everybody needs to move efficiently and professionally and share the same goal. We started talking about a Mt Albert trip that day and I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen this season – the scale of going from that day in the slack country, to the process of organising heading up into bigger mountains can blow out so easily.

Carlos: We didn’t want to make any erratic decisions to save costs. I found it hilarious that we had this streamlined plan between the two of us, Skinny (filmer) and Mark (writer and photographer). We said if the conditions were good, we’d talk about getting the doors off the heli. As soon as we tracked over to the face and I saw the light on the spines, I looked at the filmers, knowing straight away the doors were coming off.

Albert was easily the best day of the season. Tom Willmott was there as our guide and we knew his local knowledge would pay off. With Tom being my coach – and recently being the first qualified snowboard guide in New Zealand – we had the right group dynamic. It’s funny to think that between comps and training he would be slyly showing me all these zones to hit next time we were both free and here we were, standing on top of big ass mountain, ready to drop together.

Tom is more than just a guide. He understands our approach and shares the same eye. After our first couple of runs, I remember looking up to see him having a few hits himself. He came down one of the spines, white roomed himself, then sent it to his back off a cliff and popped up laughing.

And you Will J – I didn’t see you fall once. To see you picking your lines and see your style match so perfectly to the environment was insane to watch.

Will J: Means a lot. It was sick to see how you work too, man. You know, you’re quite humble and not a big loudmouth talker, but when it comes to riding you put your best foot forward and ride strong. It’s really cool to see that approach.

Carlos: A lot of the crews these days seem to be going to the famous jump spots and that’s why I get so hyped on riding in my own backyard. It hasn’t been overdone. I don’t feel the pressure to try and one-up the last person. Instead, I get to go explore what we’ve got and make it my own. I love it way more because I can go out and have a good time, plus take a creative approach because there’s more versatile, untouched terrain.

Will J: For me, riding in New Zealand is like going out for a skate or surf at your local. It’s unlike flying overseas to somewhere new and feeling the pressure to put on a bit of a show because you’ve got something to prove.

Carlos: The lifestyle here sells it for me. Here we are, after shredding Albert and taking a swim in the lake, sitting in the sun with a beer in hand amongst a bunch of farmers, looking up at what we just rode with a big grin on both of our faces. It’s safe to say, from now on I want to shoot all of my backcountry in New Zealand. 

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