Make no mistake, Felix Dallaire and Stephanie Haines know their way around a snowboard and some wild courses.
But with boarderstyle being a relatively new discipline on the scene, neither had enjoyed tons of experience dashing around the course against some other stiff competition.
Dallaire, in just his second major boarderstyle race, and Haines, in her debut, both won the top prizes at the Monster Boarderstyle at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival April 16.
Montreal's Dallaire came in looking for redemption after flubbing a glorious opportunity for a win at a qualifying stop back in Quebec earlier this month.
"I was stoked about that. I was at the nationals in Stoneham two weeks ago and I qualified third and didn't make it to finals because I crashed in the semis. I had so much fun that day that I decided to try out Whistler and try to make it to finals," he said. "I made it to finals and then won."
Dallaire qualified seventh into the final 32, ultimately defeating Derek Livingston, Rhett Haubrich and Warren Williams in the final. With the opportunity to end his year in B.C., he came out west to the World Ski and Snowboard Festival for the first time.
"I was just in a mindset of finishing the season on a good note and having fun," he said. "A couple buddies I know there, we were just so hyped running out together and you get in your race mindset."
On course, Dallaire assumed a slippery persona, working efficiently to pass opponents over the course of the two-day event.
"I did some sneaky moves here and there to cut gates really close and make it to the jump and I did a safe trick, a 540," he said. "Once you're first, you want to keep it safe, play it safe and not crash. I landed my trick and that was it."
With several banked slalom and a handful of minor boarderstyle competitions under his belt, Dallaire felt well prepared to take a jump up and take on a field that included national slopestyle athletes Darcy Sharpe, Mike Ciccarelli, Charles Reid and Tyler Nicholson, as well as national halfpipe boarder Livingston.
"It was a fast course, so on that side, I was really lucky to have the skills to go fast on the berms or banks," he said. "I can jump and land and be solid on my legs, but the jump was the big challenge for me. When you're in race mode, your head is there, your legs are there and you're just ready to do whatever it takes to win."
As for the women, Haines had a significantly smaller field with which to contend, knocking off five other challengers, including three in the finals, to top the podium.
In the finals, she defeated Alexa Welgan, local shredder Darrah Reid and Mutsumi Ido after entering as the top-ranked competitor.
Like Dallaire, she had done some slopestyle and banked slalom events, and though she'd eyed the Monster Boarderstyle for years, it only worked out in her schedule this year.
Though there were some butterflies, she had some fun with it.
"This was pretty crazy. I was definitely nervous. What I was most nervous about was having to ride that same course but with three other awesome ladies at the same time. That was the scariest part."
Haines described being inundated with obstacles, but conquered them all — and her fellow riders, too.
"It was a crazy course. I've never done anything like this before," she said. "It was one feature after the next feature, so it was crazy but super fun, though.
"My tactic was to try to get ahead right from the start and being able to pick my own line," she added.
In the end, Haines took home $800 for her win while Dallaire captured $5,000. She understands the small field sizes are a factor when the pot is divvied up.
"It's a bit of a bummer. I get where they're coming from," she said. "I wish more girls would come out and then they would probably up the prize money."
Haines noted she wasn't sure whether bigger prizes would boost the number of women, explaining roughly half the number of competitors who had initially registered bowed out after getting a closer look at the competition site.
"I don't know if it's because of the prize money or because of the course," she said. "There was 12 ladies registered and then they saw the final jump and a bunch of them dropped out.
"The jump was pretty big. It's so tricky because you're racing and you're doing these berms before the jumps. It's mentally challenging because if you mess up on one berm, you give up so much speed and you're wondering 'Am I gonna make it?'"
For his part, Dallaire thought the gap between the two top prizes could have been closed, especially with the nature of the event. While field sizes are a factor that should come into consideration, it's not the only determination.
"During a slopestyle event and the guys are throwing double corks and triple corks and the girl's only doing 540s and stuff like that, the risks are not the same, but that (boarderstyle) course is the same for guys and girls. It should be more (for women), for sure," he said. "In the perfect world, it should be the same, but it depends what the risk is.
"I wouldn't say it's not fair, but it could be better, for sure."
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