Snowboarding judges are notoriously stingy, especially at the beginning the season, and even getting close to a perfect score is pretty much unheard of, so Danny Davis' 96.50 in the pipe at Breck for the first stop of the 2009-2010 Winter Tour on Saturday is something to talk about.
Last year's overall Dew Tour champ Shaun White chose to sit this one out to focus on his bid for a return to the Olympics, but Davis' score - the highest awarded in Dew Tour competition to date - helps ensure that nobody will put an asterisk by his name in the history books. We caught up with Davis in between autograph sessions at the Totino's Open in Breckenridge to talk about the Dew Tour, the level of progression in snowboarding this season, the new mountain man beard he's sporting, and his "no I in Friends" gang of pro riders, known as the Frends crew.
Hell of a way to start a season off, Danny. How are you feeling?
Pretty good, considering last weekend we had a Grand Prix contest and I didn't land either of my runs. It was nice to put some stuff down this weekend.
The announcers were making a big deal of it being the highest score on the Dew Tour so far.
Yeah, they like to do that for us, hype everything up. It's nice to get that, but it's more important just to land the tricks that I landed and do the runs I came out here wanting to do. I'm having a great time up here. I won the Breck event last year, too, so I'm feeling this place, for sure.
That casual attitude reminds me to ask about the Frends crew and the whole vibe in snowboarding you've been trying to promote. Tell me about where you're coming from.
It was a realization that some outside forces were trying to shape our sport into this big competitive thing that was a little bit off from what snowboarding actually means to most of us who live it. Jack and Luke Mitrani, Keir Dillon, Kevin Pearce, Mason Aguirre, Scotty Lago... I've been friends with those dudes for quite a while now. I went to school with a couple of those guys and through Burton I've had opportunities to travel with some of them for years now. We're all competitors, but we're also good buddies and didn't want to lose track of that part of it, so now we just try to support each other, make sure everyone's feeling alright before their runs. It's a good way to go about all these contests, and that's what's cool about snowboarding, you know? It's more of a loose sport, and that's kind of the vibe we bring into it.
Do you have any rivalries?
Nah. Everybody wants to see the best snowboarding from everybody else, so that makes it a little bit different than some other kinds of competition if you can remember not to lose sight of it.
How do you wrap your brain around the level of progression in snowboarding and try to keep up with it? I mean, half the people out here today are doing tricks that didn't even exist last season.
New tricks are bound to happen every year and it keeps getting a little heavier because the tricks are more dangerous. You just have to step up and learn them, keep pushing yourself. Luckily Kevin Pearce got us a private halfpipe at Mammoth this Spring for two weeks and I got to learn a bunch of tricks. I feel like we cheated a little bit.
What's going through your mind the first time you try a new trick like the double cork. How do you pysch yourself up to go for it?
One thing that I've really realized is that you've got to commit. If you're unsure about something, don't try it. If you think you're gonna freak out and open up halfway through it, don't try it. There's an even bigger commitment factor with some of these new tricks, but if you can commit you'll usually be alright. Humans are like cats: We want to land on our feet, so if you commit to what you're trying to do, gravity and instinct will take care of some of the rest. It's when you spazz out that things get dangerous.
Watching a contest these days it seems like you're either going to see the best riding you've ever seen, or see somebody go down trying. Has it really become an all-or-nothing sport?
This other interviewer today was really surprised, right after the contest, saying "Why did you put it all into your first run and not save anything for the next run?" I think some people don't understand snowboarding and maybe they just don't understand life itself very much. You've got to put your best on the line every time. Kids are killing it out here. You can't "save" anything..
Are you planning on riding all the Dew Tour stops?
I'm not 100 percent sure yet. It's a hectic year with the whole Olympic qualifying process, so it really depends on how I'm feeling, how healthy I am, how tired I get. I'd be stoked to go to the Olympics. The United States' snowboard team is one of the hardest teams to make, so I'm not going to stress it super hard, but I'd definitely like to go for my country and all that. It would be pretty special, so I'm going to give it what I've got.
The pipe here at Breck is built to the smaller standard, with 18-foot transitions, compared to the 22-foot pipe at Copper last week for the Grand Prix and the new Olympic standard. Is it tough to make that transition and go back to the smaller pipe?
18 feet is still a big ol' pipe, but now the transition feels so so tight. On that 22-foot pipe it's such a long, smooth tranny, and this one's really quick in comparison. But I don't mind the adjustment so much. It just takes a couple days to get used to. Some of the other riders were really tripping about it, like "Oh, it's gonna mess up your riding." But skateboarders do it all the time, going from one tranny to another, sometimes in the same contest, and they're fine. So I feel like we should be able to do the same thing.
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I know you're more than just a pipe jock and have a lot of other stuff going on as a snowboarder. What else are you looking forward to this season besides all these big contests?
I just started filming with Absinthe Films, and we're planning an Alaska trip. I love getting in the helicopter and just finding natural stuff to do, looking for good lines, building jumps in the backcountry. Otherwise I'm just trying to stay healthy all season. It's been three years since I've made it through a season without having surgery. Staying healthy would be so nice.
Alright, last question: What's the story behind the new beard?
I just started growing it and then Kevin Pearce wanted to make a bet, to see how long I could go. We're planning a little vacation over to Europe and he said he'd buy my ticket if I can grow out the beard until the U.S. Open in March. If I don't, I've got to buy his ticket. But it's a sucker's bet: I've always wanted to grow out a burly beard anyway. If I can get on that Olympic team I intend to be the shaggiest looking dude the Olympics have ever seen.