All-terrain boarding: You've got the board. You've got the hill. Who needs snow?

A little confidence is a dangerous thing on an all-terrain board. But, as Andrew Moss discovers, there's nothing like a few acres of Oxfordshire meadow to cushion your fall
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Keep your knees bent, your weight over your front foot, and if you fall, try to get close to the ground before impact and get your feet out of the toe straps..." There may have been more, but by this stage I was shooting rapidly downhill, out of earshot and out of control.

Keep your knees bent, your weight over your front foot, and if you fall, try to get close to the ground before impact and get your feet out of the toe straps..." There may have been more, but by this stage I was shooting rapidly downhill, out of earshot and out of control.

As I wobbled towards my destiny I had time to reflect that although all-terrain boarding had been described to me as "just like snowboarding" – a sport with which I was equally unfamiliar – tumbling face-first into snow somehow seemed preferable to rubbing noses at speed with a solid chunk of Oxfordshire hillside. "Turn into the hill to slow down!" shouted another voice from the side of the course as I whizzed by, obviously an absolute beginner.

My first attempted turn was a bit sketchy, but I did manage to slow down. A little confidence is a dangerous thing; I then essayed a turn in the opposite direction by leaning backwards and dipping my heels. My balance was all wrong, and I knew it was wipeout time. Somehow I remembered to extricate my feet from the bindings and begin to run, before falling over.

As I lay there uninjured, I began to understand why boarders are not allowed to take part without donning the full complement of safety gear (helmet, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards). I had also been told to wear long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt to minimise the chance of grazes.

As for the board itself, it is best described as a cross between a snowboard and a skateboard, with four pneumatic tyres on sprung axles. Both feet are held in place by toe straps, and a cord attaches the board to the rider, to prevent the board flying down the slope if the rider is unshipped.

My introduction to the sport came from Stuart Kirk, who runs and owns the ATBSports team and is responsible for the running of the UK division of the All Terrain Boarding Association. The venue was the Blowing Stone Boarding Centre, an idyllic piece of countryside near Wantage, which also hosts rounds in the UK Championships. Two of Britain's foremost riders were practising as I was learning. Brothers Dave and Pete Tatham, 28 and 26 respectively, are not just big in Britain, they are among the leading all-terrain board riders in the world. The British lead the way in all-terrain boarding, and enthusiasts around the world keep a close eye on developments in this country.

Dave Tatham had volunteered to test the competition course for the next championship event, and it soon became apparent that the "BoarderX" (off-piste) section was where the action was – huge air and spectacular jumps with weird and wonderful names derived from the snow-boarding fraternity.

The competition format is simple – each rider has two qualifying runs where he or she goes head to head against another rider. The quickest eight move on to a knock-out stage, until two riders are left to battle it out in the final. The course can be any combination of slalom, BoarderX and downhill, each section testing different skills. After seeing the professionals tackle the competition course I decided I wanted a piece of the action. I had negotiated several more runs on the training slopes, but this was going to be much longer and far more testing. I followed other riders down the hill, making large, sweeping turns across the slopes and never pointing straight down.

By keeping within my limits and not trying to go too fast I stayed, mostly, in control, but after several more runs my legs began to feel tired and I decided to quit while I was still in one piece. There are times when you have to let the terrain take the strain.

The facts
Anyone wishing to have a go should first log on to the ATBA website at www.atbsports.fsnet.co.uk.
The site contains full details of all centres around the UK where hire equipment and instruction are available. It also contains details of all the UK Championship events where you can see the experts in action.
If you want more details on the Blowing Stone site, log on to www.ukboards.com.

Do and don't
Do wear old clothes, including long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, as well as all the safety equipment.
Do turn into the slope to slow down.

Don't race other riders unless you have entered one of the UK Championship events.
Don't try any jumps until you have mastered the basics.

Comments