Malachi Gerard, Brock Crouch team up for X Games Real Snow debut
As 2020 turned to 2021 and pro snowboarder Brock Crouch continued a grueling street-riding session past midnight, it was fitting that Malachi Gerard was there with him for every single take.
“Kai is just down; that’s all I can say,” Crouch said
The 21-year-old Crouch regards “Kai,” Olympic gold medalist Red Gerard’s older brother, as his own brother. Their relationship dates back a decade to their time together in the Gerard family backyard park.
“When getting into some of the battles in some of the (riding) spots, Kai was keeping me motivated, definitely keeping the fire going for sure,” Crouch said. “It literally felt like I have one of my own brothers there pushing me to get tricks.”
Crouch teamed with Gerard at a rail on New Year’s Eve at Tahoe City Elementary School in California over a two-day twilight session.
“I was like, ‘I’m not starting 2021 off like this,’” Crouch said. “Battling street spots is just completely different. Me and Red have gotten the opportunity to film a lot in the backcountry. Once you start playing with metal and getting into the streets, it’s a whole different story; that’s for damn sure.”
The midnight marauding of this street spot came just one week after Crouch, from Mammoth Lakes California, called Malachi Gerard on Christmas Eve. Crouch, a U.S. Team slopestyle and big air snowboarder, asked Gerard if he was down to team up as rider and filmmaker for X Games’ annual Real Snow competition, where riders piece together 10 to 15 video clips over a 90-second film. This year, X Games opted to permit riders to film in any setting — from backcountry to resort to streets — after the contest previously was an all-urban affair.
Once Gerard and Crouch accepted the invite, they knew they had a daunting task ahead of them turning around 90 seconds of film with just more than one month’s notice before the Jan. 31 deadline. Other teams knew back in the summer that they’d be competing in Real Snow.
Crouch and Gerard did their best to find a variety of riding spots to showcase Crouch’s skills in all settings. That ranged from starting Dec. 27 in a backcountry powder setting at Mount Rose in Nevada and moving on to street sessions around Tahoe near New Year’s. From there, Crouch flew to Europe for an Austrian World Cup and the Laax Open in Switzerland, when he linked up with Austrian pro Gigi Ruf to record a few more clips. Gerard then linked back up with Crouch upon his return to the United States before they rounded up filming in Jackson, Wyoming.
In total, Gerard said the team was able to get two weeks of filming in.
Through the process, Crouch found he had to be ever-present in the moment, knowing the pressure was on to land a trick on each feature the crew committed time to. That included long sessions for Crouch as he was winched and towed into rails by Tahoe locals via four-wheel drive trucks, snowmobiles and side-by-side ATVs.
X Games Real Snow is a two-part contest with judge and fan votes.
Winners of the judge-awarded X Games gold, silver and bronze medals will be announced at the conclusion of the hourlong behind-the-scenes “World of X Games: Real Snow 2021,” which airs at 9:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.
“Some nights, you’re out there from 8 p.m. to 2 in the morning and going back the next day to try to get it based on how hard you want to work and how hard you’re motivated to get that trick,” Crouch said. “And for me, when Kai is there, the motivation is there until every single camera battery is dead.”
The video showcases a range of not only Crouch’s riding but also Gerard’s filmmaking skills. The combination is showcased in the opening clips, when Crouch uses lights affixed to his board to illuminate backcountry powder slashes under the stars. Crouch and Gerard decided to film in this way after Crouch, an avid surfer, was inspired by Jamie O’Brien, who had done something similar. Crouch and Gerard also were inspired by what they saw the year prior with the Fire on the Mountain nighttime Grateful Dead ski light show at Mammoth Mountain.
In the wake of the whirlwind Real Snow filming experience, Crouch appreciates how Gerard looked after him at each spot, much like he would for his brother, Red.
Gerard and Crouch now know the beast of burden that is Real Snow, and Gerard helped Crouch see it through to the other side, healthy and ready to vie for a spot on Team USA at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
“Kai kind of knows when, ‘OK, dude, you can’t physically try any longer,’” Crouch said. “’Your body looks like it’s completely shutting down.’ He’s looking out for you like a big brother.”
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