The first step to really riding pipe is learning how to drop in. Most would feel comfortable starting with the backside wall with the intention of hitting the frontside wall. The absolute key here is commitment. Hesitate and you may gain too much speed (you’ll be travelling downhill just before you drop in). Now before you try this make sure you can ride into the pipe from the flat bottom and have a few goes at riding up and down the walls getting used to what it feels like. It’s very easy to carve up and down the walls, so do that for an hour or so, then hike back up and get ready to drop into the pipe from the top of the transition: the platform.
- Ride parallel to the lip, about a foot away from the actual drop, all the time focusing on the point where your board and the lip will meet. Take about a 10 feet run up.
- Still focussing on the lip, think about getting your body position right with arms open for balance and weight over the centre of the board. Try to stay relaxed and fluid.
- Approach the lip and look into the pipe at this point.
- Getting closer to the lip, you will be thinking about and starting to lean into the pipe. This is the commitment phase. The more you lean the easier it is.
- Keep the board on target.
- Make any last second adjustments to your body shape. Keeping very low is a good idea here.
- Ok the lip of the pipe is coming up. And you’re ready to meet it.
- As the board goes over the lip, your body should already be over the pipe. This is the point of no return, but it’s fine. Enter the pipe at a very acute angle – your board should not be far off parallel with the lip - definitely not riding straight off the lip directly into the middle of the pipe.
- You’re now dropping into the pipe keeping as low as possible. The board will follow but in order to keep centralised over it, you need to go from being vertical when riding on the platform, to being horizontal when riding down the vertical wall of the pipe. You can do this by letting your body ‘drop’ into that horizontal position. Basically, falling into the pipe.
- Suck up your knees as close to your chest as possible as you move over the lip, and then extend them slightly to meet the wall of the pipe. Basically, absorbing the lip of the pipe.
- If the angle is right, you can now push against your board and feel the vert wall of the pipe. Everything you do here must be gentle as you are in effect ‘weightless’ and still dropping down the wall.
- If it’s all gone well the transition should have ‘caught’ you. You can now start to push against the transition and basically start to stand up tall.
- When you’re at the flat bottom of the pipe, simply start to look up for the next wall with a smile - you’ve successfully dropped in.
Now employ the same theory to practise dropping into the frontside wall with the intention of hitting the backside wall… Good luck
Because you are facing the wall as you approach it, and because this trick requires less commitment than it’s opposite – the backside air, the first trick most people learn in the half-pipe is the frontside air.
Approach - As you drop into the pipe, the opposing wall is going to look very menacing and the most common mistake at this stage is to turn tail and run, which in this case means down the pipe. All this does unfortunately is give you more speed, which in turn will strip you of your confidence. To stop this, give yourself a stern pep talk and promise yourself you will ride up the wall. There’s a sound reason for this: doing so will slow you down naturally and afford you more control.
Hitting the wall - For every trick in the pipe, body positioning is crucial. Here you must keep your weight on your toe edge from the traverse. Knees are bent both for stability and so you can lower your centre of gravity and improve your balance. You should be looking at the lip of the pipe where you’ll take off, but your shoulders (which are the spring for the rotation of the air) are in line with your board.
Riding up the transition - As you ride into the transition, there is going to be an increase in force on your toe edge. This is because you’re going against gravity now, rather than with it, so anticipate this and steady your legs. Stay very low through the first part of the transition to absorb this pressure. As you reach halfway up the transition, start to extend your legs and unwind your shoulders into the rotation of the air. As you approach the coping of the pipe transfer your weight from your toe edge to as near flat base as possible.
Taking off - At this point the biggest temptation is to stand up over the board, but all this means is that you will land back on your toes and slide down the transition, so whatever happens try to resist the urge. Instead, allow your weight to stay inside the pipe. You’re aiming to land on the flat base of your board or slightly on your heels, so try to balance yourself to do this. Ollieing (using the tail of the board to achieve spring) is something that is personal to the pipe you’re riding, and the ability to know when to do this comes only through experience. If there’s a lot of vert on the wall of the pipe, your natural momentum will mean that you won’t need to pop very hard, if at all, because the vert will send you straight up into the air. But if the pipe has little in the way of vert you’ll probably have to ollie quite hard to compensate. This simple formula means it’s easy to work out why you are going wrong. If you keep landing on the platform then you will need to pop harder. If you keep landing in the flat, then you will need to pop less. Simple.
In the air - To start with this is going to be quite a short flight so don’t worry too much about the jump itself. Firstly, concentrate on rotating your body (and in turn, the board) so that you can re-enter the pipe smoothly. The angle from which you take off directly affects your landing angle. If you go straight up the pipe then you will have to rotate almost one hundred and eighty degrees to re-enter smoothly, a bit like a clock. If you take off at twelve then you will have to land at 6, and in contrast if you take off at ten, then you want to land at eight.
Landing - The closer to the lip you can land, the smoother your re-entry will be. Everything else will work itself out if you get this right. Trust us, we know what we’re talking about.
Riding out - Keep your arms open as you ride out of the transition, and start looking up to the lip of the backside wall as soon as you can in order to prepare for that oncoming inevitability. If you’re feeling confident, pump the transition for extra speed and meet the next wall with vigour.
This is exactly the same in technique as the frontside air, but because of a number of factors it is slightly harder to learn. Yet when you get the hang of it, it’s easier to go bigger on the backside wall. Backside is harder because you approach the wall on your heels, which means you have less control and as you ride up the wall it takes more commitment to keep your weight inside the pipe.
Approach - As you ride into the transition, keep your knees bent and your weight low. Have your shoulders square to the lip and concentrate on the point of the lip where you are going to take off. As with the frontside air, you must ride straight at the wall and anticipate the pressure on your edge.
Take off - Having extended through the transition, start to rotate your shoulders backside as you reach the lip. Your weight should be totally inside the pipe as you need to be horizontal when you takes off. You must aim to leave the lip with your board flat as this will put you weight in the right place to take-off and re-enter.
Air Miles - The most important thing to remember is to keep your weight inside the pipe. This will keep your weight off the heel edge of your board when you land. Just practice riding at the wall and popping the board round to start with. If you start small and build yourself up you will be able to learn in relative safety, without battering your confidence first go. The key to floating air is timing. If you time your pop just before you reach the lip, or run out of speed (whichever comes first) then you will rotate round with the apex of your jump. If you pop too early or too late then you will under or over rotate because your upper body will be out of time with your legs. If you are having trouble getting it right then don’t even try to get airborne, just try to ride the pipe smoothly with just a tiny jump round at the top of each wall so that you can get the hang of the feeling you are looking for. The secret to pipe and most things you will learn is that, if you’re fighting something to make it work, then you are most probably doing it wrong. As you get the hang of the pipe you will feel when something is right because it seems so effortless!
Landing - Keep your focus on the lip where you intend to land throughout the air and extend your legs out to meet the lip as you return. Land with the board flat and with your weight on the toe edge ready to start your pump out of the transition.
Now here comes the fun part. Once you can ride the pipe fairly confidently, you can start to learn some tricks and these are some of the easiest and most fun ones on offer. They are basically an easy rotation because you don’t actually have to rotate a full cycle because you are rotating back up the pipe. Because of this, the rotations work on their opposite walls, so a backside alley oop would be done on the frontside wall and as we see Simon performing here, a frontside ally oop is done on the backside wall.
Approach - Use the transition just as you would if you were going to do a normal air, with your shoulders square to the board and your head looking at the lip of the pipe where you want to take off. Look a little further up the pipe though because this will help to start your rotation.
Take Off - As you reach the lip, start to unwind your shoulders into the rotation and look over your leading shoulder.
Air Miles - Once you have taken off and initiated the spin, stay with it. Don’t hesitate, and keep looking for your landing. Your head leads the spin and if you are not looking for your landing then you will stall the spin. When learning alley oops you should find backside easier because you will be able to see the landing almost from the moment you take off.
Landing - This is exactly the same as before, but because you have rotated more it will be harder to judge the angle of your landing. Spins can be sped up or slowed down with your grab. If you want to speed up a spin, you’ll need to let go of your grab and pull your arms in (or if you are really desperate you can flail wildly). If you’re over-rotating, then you can cling on to the grab for dear life and this will slow it down. When you have landed, pump that transition for all it’s worth and do the backside variation on the next wall.
Air to Fakie
This one is a very nice trick to have in your repertoire and serves as a good set up trick for getting into switch tricks. When you start to learn these, it is best to do it at the bottom of the pipe where the walls are mellower and you don’t have too much speed. This will give you the chance to get used to the sensation of riding back into the pipe fakie without the prospect of death if you get it wrong.
Approach - As you ride into the transition, stay low and focused on the part of the lip that you are going to hit. This is the same as the other tricks, except with the difference that you are not going to rotate. The aim here is to travel down the pipe without turning. Because you are not going to rotate you need to unwind your body before you ride into the transition.
Take off - As you ride through the transition, don’t be tempted to ride too hard back up the wall. You don’t want to take off the wall going vertically up it (at least not to start with) as the force of the wall and your speed will combine to throw you away from the wall and into the Flatbottom. Ride up and pop off just as you reach the lip.
Air Miles - To start with this is quite literally going to be a hop, and the key to making it a successful one is to anticipate the landing and keep the board underneath you ready for this. As long as your weight stays inside the pipe you’ll be able to land squarely on the board. If you’re thrown too far back or you do not anticipate the distance you’re going to travel down the pipe, you’ll almost certainly end up on your arse so take it easy and start small.
Landing - This is the tricky bit. Learning to swap everything over and ride the pipe backwards sounds a lot harder than it is. It can in fact be broken down so that you can learn it quite simply. Rather than aiming to get airborne on your first go, try to just ride up the wall and then back down fakie. This will get you used to the sensation and prepare you for landing.
Once you are pretty skilled in Halfpipe Snowboarding you can try to make some handplants. These moves also originated from skateboarding and now using the lip of the halfpipe you can perform them with your snowboard too. These are some of the most popular handplants in the game:
Two-Handed Inverts - These are easiest to learn and the beginning of learning hand plants. As your snowboard leaves the lip and goes airborn, cartwheel your body toward the halfpipe. As you hang upside down plant both your hands on the lip. As you drop back down into the pipe, rotate your snowboard under you and push both hands of the lip. Centre your body over your snowboard again and make your landing
Layback Air - The easiest of one handed plants. Ride up the wall with your toe edge, as your snowboard passes the lip plant your backhand on the lip. Keep your snowboard going upwards and let it pass your head. Arch your back as you fall back into the pipe and push off with your backhand
Andrecht - As your snowboard leaves the lip, plant your backhand on the lip and grab your snowboard with your front hand
Sad Andrecht - Andrecht with a Nose Poke
Eggplant - As your snowboard leaves the lip, plant your front hand on the lip and grab your snowboard with your back hand
Miller Flip- Plant your front hand on the lip. Let your snowboard fly over your head and grab the toe edge of your snowboard between the bindings with your back hand, spin the board 180 degrees as you come back for the landing
OK, here’s the all time classic pipe trick – The Haakonflip! The Haakon Flip was invented (surprise, surprise) by Terje Haakonsen. He came up with this beauty one day and has decided to stick his name to it. Broken down into it’s most basic form, it’s somewhere between a switch three sixty with a backflip and a half cab McTwist.
To start learning these, you are going to need to be able to ride a pipe comfortably switch and be happy doing inverts. Those are the two most basic prerequisites you will need to even think about learning this trick. That said, there are always ways to build a trick from scratch. The first thing that you are going to have to learn is riding into transitions switch, so find a fairly steep hip that you can ride into without having to rely on your edges (as you do in the pipe). Learning switch frontside rotations (one eighty, three sixty etc) will prepare you for the spin, and then finally you will have to get used to switch backflips. The key to this trick is commitment. Your head and shoulders are controlling and directing the spin, and during the rotation you are watching the lip to spot for your landing. When you attempt this trick the ideal conditions will be a soft pipe, so that you don’t nail yourself too hard, and you should have a clear mental picture of what you are trying to achieve. It’s a very difficult trick to visualise, so don’t even think about attempting this until you can at least work out in your head the first part of the rotation.
Approach - Spot your take off point and anticipate the pressure on your toe edge. Do not try and ride straight at the wall; approach it at quite a shallow angle to maintain your speed.
Transition - As you ride up the wall, try to gauge your speed so that you can judge how hard you will need to throw your spin as this is directly related to how high you are going to go. Your shoulders should start to unwind into the trick, but your weight is still centred over the board.
Take off - Commitment point, what all folk fear. As you reach the lip, you should open your shoulders up and throw your head into the spin. Your back leg is bent to allow your weight to fall slightly over the back of the board and you should try to look diagonally back up the pipe. This is the point of no return and it is also the point where all the work is done so if you get this right then the rest should fall into place.
Air Miles - Now that the hard part is done you must control your rotation. The first part of the trick is to get the board rotating one hundred and eighty degrees before you get fully inverted. From here the inverted part of the trick will rotate parallel to the lip and you should be watching the lip as it passes below you. It is here that the last one eighty begins. This is probably the most confusing part of the trick as both axis of rotation merge to make one of the most difficult re-entries to judge. As I said though, if you have done the work on take off this part will take care of itself.
Landing - The one advantage that you have here is that you can see the lip and that allows you to stay tucked up and land smoothly at the top of the transition. All that is left is to pump out of the transition to the adoring cries of your fans. Congratulations! You are now a pipe master…
The wild cat is a basic trick that is quite easy to do small but getting a nice one out the lip of the pipe can be quite tricky. The key to Wildcat’s is getting them dialled in your brain. Imagine your body doing it, and make sure you fully commit. The melon (front hand, between the feet, heel edge) is the easiest grab to do on this one, but be sure that you are comfortable with air to fakies first, and make sure you are getting them out of the pipe too!
- 1. Approach the front side wall of the pipe, with a nice amount of speed, (enough to get your tail out on an air to fakie) and go as straight as you can. You will always feel like your going straight up the wall, but really, you will be going up at an angle.
- 2. As your board leaves the lip of the pipe, COMMIT to this trick and throw back your head and shoulders.
- 3. If you fully committed to the trick you should be looking down at the pipe transition, with your board coming over your head, grabbing melon. If not, the 0.2secs will be the slowest of your life! I guarantee it!
- 4. This all happens a bit fast and your board will hit the transition before you know it, so be prepared to ride out fakie.
- 5. Try not to revert on the flat bottom, lock in your heel edge until you are clear of the transition and then you can transfer to your toes! Key to the Wildcat? Full commitment! Easier than it looks and easier than I have described. Get out there and give it a shot. It opens up a whole New World of tricks for the halfpipe.