• The Double-Cork: Anatomy of Olympic Snowboarding's Must-Have Halfpipe Trick



    The double cork: it's on the tip of everyone's tongue, but can someone please explain what this trick is and how it's executed?

    At the 2006 Winter Games the 1080 and its three-full rotations was what it took to get on the podium. Three rotations--that's easy to break down, and grasp. Four years of R&D later by riders like Shaun White and Kevin Pearce, and the double cork is now regarded as the must-have trick for winning gold in Vancouver. All four men on the U.S. Olympic halfpipe squad--Shaun White, Louie Vito, Scotty Lago and Greg Bretz--have it in their arsenals. And just one won't be enough--they will likely need to have back-to-back double corks in their repertoire to keep pace.

    For all the hype surrounding the trick of the year, the double cork is seemingly easier to lay down in the halfpipe than put into words. Jesse Fulton, a halfpipe coach for the Canadian Team and founder/head of Icarus Shreducation, a high-performance snowboard school, explained it better than the rest.

    "Nobody can explain it!" Fulton said, laughing. "It's gymnastics on snow! I know how it works because I was doing them back in 1997." Fulton said he was also the second person in the world to throw a double backflip in the halfpipe, the first being Mike Michalchuck.

    Fulton explained the double cork in these terms:

    "The waistline is the marker of horizontal--when the rider takes off on a [normal] spin, the waist stays on the same line. Inversion comes when your head dips below the waist at the time of execution. When your head dips below your waist during the execution of a trick--that's a cork. Come around from the first one and than your head dips past the waist again--that's a double cork."

    Put even more simply, double-corks are two off-axis rotations, or diagonal flips. Shaun White debuted back-to-back double-cork spins at the season's opening event in New Zealand. The first was a cab 1080 stalefish, meaning that while White was twice flipping diagonally, he was also executing three full spins and grabbing the board at his back heel edge. The trick set the bar for the season, and for the men vying for the Olympic team.

    "The whole new era of double corks is here," Lago said. "And all the riders are trying to get their double corks on lockdown." Lago describes the double cork as a trick thrown with two different axis's of rotation. "Say you're throwing a 360 flat, than your next 360 would be in a different rotation, spinning on a different axis," Lago said. "It's kind of hard to explain."

    Louie Vito also has the double cork in his back pocket and used it throughout the Grand Prix qualifiers to make his way to the 2010 Games. He describes the double cork as, "Two flips, off axis with some spins in it that equals out to a 1080. It's off axis, to the side; you just duck it, and then dump it over twice." The creativity involved in developing new tricks is part of what keeps Vito inspired.

    "That's what's cool about snowboarding," Vito explained. "You can add your own creativity to it, there's no right or wrong." Unlike choreographed dancing, as Vito discovered while a contestant on the hit television show "Dancing with the Stars."

    Greg Bretz, just 19 years old, won the three-way tie for the fourth ranking spot on the Grand Prix Olympic Qualifying series, becoming the fourth rider to make the men's snowboarding team. Bretz has a mean frontside double-cork, which helped him make his way to Vancouver. "Everyone is just progressing to an extreme and it's gotten a little out of hand," he said. "You see people just going out there and hucking themselves and doing double flips. It's kind of fun to watch, but people definitely are starting to wreck...bad."

    Olympic hopeful Kevin Pearce, who many said would give Shaun White a run for gold in 2010, was critically injured on New Year's Eve while practicing double-corks in Park City, Utah. He is still in a Salt Lake City hospital recovering from a severe head injury, but was recently set to be transferred out of critical care into the Neuro Acute Unit. His friend Danny Davis, who was also a strong favorite for making the Olympic squad and featured the double cork as well, suffered a season-ending, non-snowboarding related injury while riding a four-wheeler in the Utah mountains just hours after he won a Dew Tour event at Snow Basin in Utah.

    The double-cork will continue to headline conversations surrounding the Vancouver halfpipe competition. Even if it is kind of hard to explain.--Mike Horn
    Channels: Snow
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