By Vernon Felton
1s and 0s by Morgan Meredith
Paddy Kaye trudges up the dust of Whistler's famed Boneyard, followed by a pack of journalists and photographers. Red Bull, the sponsor of the Joyride slopestyle event, has organized a group walk-through of the course and Kaye–the primary architect of Joyride–is our tour guide. We climb to the top of the judging tower and behold the sprawling set of ramps, berms, jumps and structures that comprise the 2012 Joyride course.
Kaye gives the lowdown on the course—they've moved the start over to the riders' lefthand side of the course. Riders from last year's Joyride felt the start was too fast, which created its own problems. A boner log (a bridge that goes up at an angle) has also been added. The course features multiple lines and the cabin at the bottom of the course now sports a kicker jump on the side of the cabin as well as a flat drop off the roof of the cabin.
"The most technical line with the smaller jumps has 11 hits and the biggest line has seven hits and the way the judges will weigh that, it should come up pretty even. The goal was to not build a one-line course. We wanted to build a course that would score on multiple lines."
In other words, Kaye and company wanted to create a course that had a good balance of big and technical.
The new arrangement should encourage riders to mix it up, deviate from one another, innovate and ultimately, floor both the judges and the crowd of spectators which, if last year's attendance is any indication, should number 25,000 or more.
As Kaye gives his presentation, camera flashes pop and journalists jostle one another for the best angle. Photographers ask Kaye to remove his aviator sunglasses so that they can get that just-right-for-the-local-newspaper portrait. He obliges. Kaye is a professional—at the moment, his employer needs him to be the public face of the world's biggest slopestyle event and he plays the part without complaint, even though the course is still crawling with workers who are raking lines, molding take-offs and generally scrambling to make sure everything is absolutely perfect on the day before the all-crucial qualifying runs.
As the photographers depart and head back down to the bottom of the Boneyard, I get a moment alone with Kaye.
The course is absolutely massive—how long does it take to build Joyride?
"I've got a lot of projects on the burner all the time, but this," he says looking back over his shoulder, "this is on my mind all year. It's funny, it'll get pushed flat, the snow will come and it'll disappear, but I'll be thinking about the next course all winter long. We'll have a couple of conference calls in February and as soon as we can start building, we do. And then we're fine tuning right up until the end."
So, this is how it works: Kaye and an army of workers spend most of the year building the world's most innovative freeride course so that it can be ridden for roughly two days of the year and then smooshed flat. This seems a tragedy to me, but Kaye sees it differently.
"I don't know, there's definitely a silver lining to that whole process. I learn something new every year and every year we get a chance to take those things we learned and to make it bigger and better. I get better at what I do. The course gets better—it progresses and, in a way, that helps the entire sport progress and evolve too."
How many people worked on the course?
"Oh, it's impossible to say," says Kaye. "Everyone you see walking around town with an orange Joyride shirt [Ed. Note: Whistler is crawling with people wearing those t-shirts] is helping out. And then there are pros who came out and help fine tune it. Yesterday Cam McCaul was out on the course helping out and he's not the only rider doing that. It's big."
How many hours do you think you and your crew have spent building this year's Joyride course?
"That's easy—10,000 hours."
The Red Bull Joyride has a reputation as a rider-driven event—that is, professional freeriders are the ones providing input on what the course should be like. How does that works?
"Officially,” says Kaye, “the top six riders from last year's Joyride provide input, but it's a much, much larger group of riders. I drive machines, I move dirt, I've been doing that for a long time now—I built the first Joyride course here in 2001 —but I'm not hitting these jumps. I need the riders' perspective and input in order for this thing to succeed."
Once the basic concept is agreed upon, illustrator, Scott Dixon, draws a sketch of the course. "I see some guys use CAD drawings for their jumps and stuff," says Kaye. "I don't know, I don't want to call this an art exactly, but that is kind of how we approach it. We sit down and we talk about what we want the course to be and then Scott Dixon sort of takes that and draws it—and you know, it's kind of like a cartoon at that point—but that's what we begin to work off of. It just works for us."
Does it ever get hard to balance all that rider feedback? Riders have different strengths and it's easy to imagine that some riders are going to want the course to play to those talents in their individual riding styles. There's a $25,000 cash prize at stake here for the winner and, even more importantly, lucrative sponsorship deals that come hand in hand with being the Crankworx winner. Simply put, winning Crankworx brings home the Benjamins; you can imagine that riders might get a bit testy about the way the course is formed. A course builder like Paddy Kaye could attract a lot of ire.
"Well, you know, you can't please everyone. It's just not possible," says Kaye. "Different riders have different strengths, but I know these guys, we have history, and I'm always listening to what they have to say. You have to balance everything out–it’s not easy, but that’s what it takes to make something great like this. And I live here, this is my home, my family and friends are watching—I want this thing to be as great as it can be.”
And with that, Paddy Kaye turns and marches across the hill. He still has a lot of work to do and less than a day to do it in.