Extreme "street snowboarders" are converging on a Duluth city park this weekend for a competition in which they’ll hurl themselves off a 20-foot ledge from a pavilion, jump off picnic tables and slide down steep stairway railings.
The event, called Red Bull Heavy Metal, is sponsored by the energy drink giant Red Bull, which puts on extreme sports events around the world. It features 40 athletes from around the country, many of them professional snowboarders.
The sport of snowboarding is more than Olympic athletes like Shaun White, flipping and twisting through the air, taking off from jumps and halfpipes, explains Brett Stamper, 20, a Duluth snowboarder competing in the event.
There’s another side of the sport known as “street snowboarding,” in which athletes jump off buildings and parking ramps and ride down steep stairway railings and just about anything else their boards will slide across.
"It's something to express yourself in more of a way,” said Stamper. “In my opinion, it's a lot harder to do. It's a lot harder to get tricks in ‘street.’”
Stamper said the culture surrounding street snowboarding shares a lot of similarities to skateboarding.
It “can be stressful at times,” said Benny Milam, a snowboarder from Chisago City who’s competing in the event. “Whether you're waiting to get told to leave while you’re battling a trick, or constantly thinking about that tree that’s in your ride out.”
“Heavy Metal” begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Duluth’s Cascade Park, a small city park perched on the hillside a few blocks above downtown where local street snowboarders have honed their skills for years.
“A lot of history has gone down in that park,” said Milam. It features what Milam calls one of the “gnarliest kinks in the Midwest,” a long handrail that angles steeply downhill, then flattens out for several feet, before turning sharply downhill again. Stamper calls it a “widow maker.”
The park features two other competition zones, one where boarders blast out of a tower window to the ground 20 feet below, and another where they showcase their technical style on a variety of features, including rails and picnic tables propped up on fences.
The snowboarders all compete at the same time, what Stamper calls “controlled chaos.”
The event will be the first street snowboarding competition that Red Bull has hosted in 19 years. It’s free and open to the public for viewing.
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