Seb Toots makes Real Snow bid
"We worked hard."
When asked how he put together one of the most talked about street parts of the season in two weeks flat, Seb Toutant's answer is simple.
The video, which was uploaded to Vimeo and posted to Sebtoots.com on April 14, went viral, clocking 208,000 views in the first 24 hours and, to date, more than 450,000 views overall.
Filmed and edited by Mathieu Cowan in Toutant's stomping grounds of Montreal, the edit blows doors in a few different ways. First, it was filmed in an incredibly tight time frame. Second, Toutant delivered on tricks, mixing up go-to rail bangers with technical freestyle tricks rarely (if ever?) seen executed on street rails. And third was the fact that the edit was from Toutant himself, a snowboarder who has been labeled a jump rider and a contest kid. (Albeit a winning contest kid!)
I thought I could prove that I can do Real Snow and maybe get chosen for it next year.
"I really wanted to prove myself as a street rider," he says -- a declaration aimed both at the snowboard community in general and, specifically, the organizers of X Games Real Snow.
Toutant is a two-time winner of X Games slopestyle, but next season his sites are set on a different event:
"I thought I could prove that I can do Real Snow and maybe get chosen for it next year."
The drive to prove himself -- as well as a killer work ethic -- helps explain the speed at which Toutant logged over a dozen worthy shots in the two seven-day periods before and after he competed in the Burton U.S. Open this spring.
"I had a week before the Open, and my goal was to get ten tricks," he says. "I got them." He then hopped a flight to Colorado, jumped his way into 4th place in the U.S. Open slopestyle contest, flew back to Montreal, and somehow managed to log ten more shots. "I was really tired," he admits.
Of course, as with anything posted to the Internet, not all the reaction was positive. The comment boards on a bevvy of media outlets were instantly alive with the key-jabs of haters: Toutant's stance is too wide, there was too much "hucking," etc.
"I'd say about 85 percent of the reactions I heard were good," says Toutant. "I mean there's always gonna be hate. But I don't really care about the stuff."
The video was an undeniable success in that it got people talking and got people watching. But the negative fallout begs a different question -- one about what a "street rider" does, is, and should look like. Should they have a skinnier stance in simulation of skateboarding? Should they only do certain tricks? Should or shouldn't they wear a helmet?
On the helmet subject, Toutant is noticeably without one in this video. (He wore a helmet in his previous street edits and was rumored to have caught flack for "not being street.") So what was behind the decision to leave it off?
"I think it's more street if you don't wear a helmet, and I want to be respected as a legit street rider," Toutant says. "But no one pushed me into it. Last year I only wore it on the hardcore spots, and I used to wear a helmet when I'd ride park, but I don't anymore.
"I don't see a guy's [video] part, though, and if he's wearing a helmet think it's lame. I just don't think that way. I grew up riding in one, and we have to wear helmets in the contests, so I don't care. I'm used to it."
It's actually surprising that the current level of street riding -- with the size of the spots and the speed they require to get into -- doesn't cause more riders to wear helmets. Joe Sexton, for instance, fractured his skull this winter while filming for Videograss. Months later, he's still recovering. But even he agrees that while the decision to wear a helmet is a personal one, as a pro there are a lot of factors at play, including safety, image, comfort, and style:
"I don't think a rail part is deemed less legit because of a helmet," says Sexton. "If the tricks are good and the part is really solid, I don't think it matters what's on your head ... I mean, obviously footage looks better without a helmet, but that's not to say one is right and the other isn't.
"I think it comes down to the way the rider was brought up and who their influences were-also what generation they grew up in, because it's becoming more and more acceptable to wear helmets in video parts. It really shouldn't matter at all, and ultimately it's up to the person to make the decision."
Fellow Quebecois Louif Paradis, an X Games Real Snow vet, adds: "I personally don't think the helmet makes any difference in the legitimacy of a part. Look at Jed [Anderson]. He had been wearing one for a lot of his parts until recently and no one would question him."
Helmet or not, it's clear that Toutant pulled out all the stops for his edit. And if his goal was to prove that he's more than a contest rider, he did that in spades.
Plus, he says street riding actually renews and inspires his competition riding: "I come back to my contest run with all these ideas of new stuff to do that I never would have thought of before. I mean, there's so much hype around the triple cork and just landing your run clean over and over again, but being creative and coming up with a new run every contest is what I really try to do."
Talking to Toutant, another thing is clear. He loves snowboarding -- every aspect of it -- enough that he's willing to work insanely hard (and fall insanely hard) for nothing more than that incendiary feeling of landing a new trick on film.