Travis Rice, holding a vegetarian breakfast burrito with avocado in one hand and an iPhone 11 in the other, sits in a bright hotel restaurant booth between two attractive blondes, one fading, exhausted. He hadn’t slept the night before and his eyes, peeking over face mask, under Red Bull stocking cap, reflect it.
“Why didn’t you sleep last night?” The fading blonde smirks, knowing full well why and not partying or nervousness. More later…
Travis ignores and asks the non-fading one, “What did you think about the bunny avalanche?”
“I hope they don’t die,” she responds keeping her attention on an iPad she’s supposed to be doing school work on but is watching J-Pop videos instead.
“You headed up, Trav?” a production employee, masked, comes over to inquire.
“Right now…” he responds.
Shaun White is at a high top across the room wearing an opalescent puffy jacket. He is fresh off dropping out of the X-Games for tweaked knees and getting castigated by the voice of professional snowboarding Todd Richards.
Travis lugs himself up, Shaun comes over. They clasp hands and bro hug. Travis thanks him for coming out with real genuineness then turns toward the cadre of other production employees waiting for him.
Natural Selection kicks off in, exactly, less than an hour and the overall vibration should be one of sheer terror. Launching not only an event, but a tour, in the lap of a pandemic with a roster of international stars would be extremely ill-advised but, then again, so is everything else Travis does.
Shaun ambles back to his table. Travis is gone.
And in exactly less than an hour international star, Austrian, Gigi Ruff is pulling himself out of a reclaimed wood Yeti branded Quonset hut at the top of course dreamt, built, willed into existence.
Two attractive blondes, one fading, sit captivated in front of the computer upstairs, watching every move, every line, the angle of god, quickly smashing the volume down key to drown commenter drone, filling it with a J-Pop soundtrack.
It is magnificent.
So magnificent that the non-fading one says, “Daddy, we need to go snowboarding right now.”
Natural Selection fulfilling its true destiny after only one international star. Moving an eight-year-old so profoundly that she had no other instinct than to jump into her Burton Grom Boas and tighten the nob.
Granted in was Gigi Ruff but still.
I’ll let those who truly understand snowboarding at this level to weigh in on the specifics, winners and losers, bests and worsts. I spent my day tracking that eight-year-old hunting ramps into pow while intermittently streaming the live broadcast volume down.
She got to watch Hana Beaman backflip, while we were at lunch, before going out for more. She then attempted a backflip, landed on her head and told me her helmet spoke to her.
Long live Natural Selection.