Taylor Pearcey, an OG snowboard warrior who can hardly walk 100 metres, is at the front of a pack of bindingless snowboarders, barreling through the Christmas trees that have come to dominate the venue for the GT Memorial Noboard race.
Like a surfer who’s found the sweet spot on a perfect wave, he’s locked into his line and looks to be unstoppable. Stu Andrews, the memorial’s official announcer, booms Pearcey’s abbreviated nickname over the loudspeaker.
With only metres to go before hitting the road at the end of the course, Taylor claims his victory just as Skye Sheele sneaks past and steals it from him.
It’s the 9th annual Memorial Race. And it’s the tenth anniversary since the death of Greg Todds, which happened at the behest of an avalanche in the valley adjacent to the one we’re all gathered in.
Skye’s won the race before. But this would have been Pearcey’s first win. It doesn’t matter though; the whole crowd is just stoked to see him push through his injuries and shred like a madman 20 years his junior. Cholo Burns is in a different heat, but his time nudges Taylor into 3rd place.
In the end, Skye, Cholo and Taylor posted times within 0.8 seconds of one another for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place respectively. “Young Dave” Seaton, another former winner and favoured contender, was within under a second of Taylor’s time and settles for 4th place.
Greg definitely would have been stoked to see four of his best old buds have such a close and friendly competition with one another.
Jenna Low, who along with her husband Cholo is one of the driving forces behind the organization and generosity that makes the race happen, won the first women’s heat of the day with such authority that she looked to be unbeatable. But Hana Beaman, a relative newcomer to the race, rode a magical line through the forest with such precision that she claimed top spot on the podium for the ladies.
But the Memorial’s not about who wins or loses; it’s about the progression of the style of riding that Greg invented and honouring his memory by throwing an epic party that raises money for his kids.
Greg’s 10-year old daughter, Lily, actually came out from Ontario with her mom Nikki and had a chance to visit with her dad’s old friends. And we all had a chance to visit with her, which really made the weekend for a lot of people.
Bindingless snowboarding has been around since Sherman Popper invented the Snurfer in 1966. But Greg’s design for the Noboard pad is what sparked the bindingless revolution in the BC Interior around the time of his death.
There were quite a few different designs at The Memorial this year. Grassroots’ Jeremy Jensen was there with his Powsurfer: a more skateboard-influenced creation that he wields in the backcountry of Utah. A few people had versions of Wolle Nyvelt’s Asmo. And a lot of riders showed up with their own variations of boards that nobody has seen before.
Over the years, the Memorial has come to act a pseudo tradeshow for all types of bindingless riding. Riders show up from around the world, ideas are exchanged and beverages are consumed.
Many, many, many beverages.
Taylor’s the self-proclaimed Bar Manager of the Noboard Race, showing up the day before to carve a Caesar Bar into the snow and ensuring that the thirsty crowd has enough alcoholic clam juice to get through the day. He was the first to show up on race day and one of the last to leave, taking breaks only to kick ass at Noboarding and shuttle people to the top of the course.
He’s one of many people who have become staples of the Memorial, doing whatever they can to make sure it goes smoothly. The whole weekend is a collaborative effort, with proceeds from the race and the auction going to Greg’s kids, Lily and Ashton.
There are rumours that this was the last Memorial race for the next little while. But nobody confirmed that over the course of the weekend.
Either way, the trees on the course will get bigger as the year progresses, we’ll all get a little older and tales of Taylor’s near-victory will make it into the unwritten history of the race, whether it happens again or not.
Huge thanks to everyone who makes this event possible. There’s too many of you to mention. But you know who you are and we hope you know how much we all appreciate it.