Danny Davis: Halfpipe snowboarding’s safeguard of style
Rather than winding up and hucking as many flips and spins that he could manage, Davis took a step back with his run and made a point to emphasize the style of his tricks.
Some riders are trying double McTwists; Davis did a single McTwist that spun about as slowly as possible, with a Japan grab pulled to full extension behind his head.
While the reigning Olympic gold medalist, Shaun White, has worked hard to increase the amount of spins and flips with the addition of a 1440 (four complete rotations), Davis opted to kick off his run with a simple 360 – a single rotation.
Davis practices in the Sochi halfpipe.
However, the trick that truly set his run apart from the rest was his switch method. Essentially, Davis went backwards through the pipe, did a single grab and returned to the pipe riding backwards again. To those that have never ridden a snowboard, it likely looked like the simplest trick of the evening, but in reality it was equivalent to throwing a perfect strike from center field… with the unnatural hand.
The 25-year-old Davis made a statement at X Games to his competition with his run —you don’t have to conform to flips and spins to take the win, and he has found out how to do just that.
As Davis – who has become fed up with the concept of “spin to win” – explains, “I really wanted to start progressing the sport in a different way than everybody else was.”
We caught up with Davis following his win at X Games and picked his brain as to why he chose the tricks he did and what drove that decision.
NBCOlympics.com: What sparked you to learn switch methods and throw them into your run?
Danny Davis: It started this summer when we went to New Zealand, and we were riding a halfpipe that really wasn’t that good. Everyone was still throwing their double corks and all these crazy tricks in a pipe that really wasn’t that great.
I was just getting sick of going up to the hill everyday and stressing about having to do these tricks that I, for one, didn’t really feel like doing and, for two, that were scary. [Those tricks] are scary, man, they’re dangerous. I don’t want to sound like a wimp, but the tricks are kind of frightening sometimes, those double corks.
With everything that has happened to Kevin [Pearce] – and then when we were in New Zealand, Luke [Mitrani] broke his neck doing one – I just was pissed at snowboarding once again for progressing in the way that it has. I was like, “I’m not going to succumb to that.” I’m going to do what I want to do, and I want to get good at switch riding. I really wanted to start progressing the sport in a different way than everybody else was.
Shaun [White], Iouri [Podladtchikov] and Louie [Vito], they add more doubles to their runs. I guess I could play that game, but I don’t really want to. I don’t really enjoy doing those tricks. I asked myself, “How can I still have fun in the halfpipe and still try to do well and win contests?” So I started exploring riding switch more. Nobody else was, and it was fun! It was fun to ride the other direction and relearn everything.
My friend Benny Bright has been helping me a lot – that’s Torah’s brother – and he has kind of been my coach a bit. It’s taken a long time to get to the point to do a switch backside air as big as I do a regular air. It’s put a lot of fun back into halfpipe riding for me.
Are you working on any other switch tricks? Anything new we haven’t seen in one of your runs in the past?
Yeah, I’m definitely working on some. I say that I don’t like to do doubles, but I do want to add one or two more of them into my run. They are hard tricks and they are challenging, so when I say they are scary and I don’t like to do them, it’s because they are hard.
I would like to add a cab double and maybe bring back the switch alley-oop double backside rodeo. I want to incorporate my switch McTwist 720. I’m just having so much fun, and there are so many tricks I want to do. It’s almost like the pipe isn’t long enough. I would love to add everything into one run, but there’s just not enough hits in the pipe.
I definitely would like to explore more switch backside tricks – it’s just something that nobody is doing and I’m really enjoying. It’s fun to learn. It’s bringing me back to being 17, 18 when I was learning all these tricks and having a lot of fun learning them. Not like being scared because you’re going upside down twice here [and thinking,] “Don’t land on your head."
I heard you got hooked up with a spreadsheet breaking down some judging and scoring data from other events. True?
Yeah, actually someone did make a spreadsheet and sent it to me. Basically, my buddy wrote me an email and said, “Hey man, I don’t want to get in your head.” This came from the best place – he really meant well – and said, “it truly is a spin to win contest.” He was saying, “ditch the straight air, and if you are going to do frontside double [cork] 1080s, then also do a frontside flat 1080 as well.”
I just didn’t agree with it. I just wanted to do it my way. I like doing the straight air, I have a lot of fun doing the straight air. I can go big, it’s stylish and people like to see it.
As soon as I got that, it almost inspired me more to do a run that didn’t have [more] spins but could still do well. That’s what really got me thinking how could I ride switch more and impress some people with some switch riding.
If Shaun White lands the double cork 1440 clean in his run in Sochi, that will lock it up for him? Or do you think there is room for good style to challenge it?
If he lands it, he will get a high score for sure. But it will take the rest of his run too. He’s going to have to do his double [McTwist] 1260 [and] his back-to-back doubles. So just the double [cork] 1440 isn’t going to do it for him.
Even if he does land everything he’s got, I know there are some people that have some stuff stocked up. If Iouri lands his run with all his tricks that he’s got, he is very competitive with Shaun.
If I can put together my run and do my ultimate run, I believe that if I landed it big and well that I would have a decent chance at winning.
Shaun’s a good shredder. He lands high on the tranny, he goes big. He’s a great snowboarder and very talented. He’s got a great chance at winning, but I’m going to do everything I can to land my best run, and hopefully if I’m lucky enough, the judges will like it.
Do I think if he lands his [double cork] 1440 that he has it locked in? No. There are so many scenarios.
Embedded video_content_type: Danny Davis qualifies for Olympics
Say you win at the Olympics and get the gold, what will that mean for you?
For me, it will be the cherry on top of a great season. It will be my goal. Well, I’ve kind of already reached my goal to come back this season and be a great snowboarder again, and I feel like I have gotten there.
The Olympics doesn’t define me as a person or a snowboarder. But would I love to take home a gold? Absolutely, because I’d be doing it for my country. What a rad a thing to do, to have a gold medal in the Olympics for America that I got. That would be so rad.
Yeah, to beat Shaun would be great, but that’s got nothing to do it. If you win gold, it just feels good. It feels good to win a contest. Since it is the Olympics, and is a big deal, that just adds some fun to it.