Backyard board park better than Boler

Seven Western students build a park complete with rails, ramps and a drawbridge

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Grinding (sliding) down the rail on a snowboard

Courtesy of Jeremy Vanwalsh

THAT’S THE ONLY THING HE’S RAILING TONIGHT. Fourth-year engineering student Joel Bamsey and his housemates built a snowboard park in their backyard, proving engineering students aren’t all total dweebs.

As ski resorts closed and snowboards gathered dust this winter, seven Western students decided to cure their winter blues by building a mini-snowboard park in their backyard.

The project was started last year by fourth-year engineering student Joel Bamsey and his housemates Ryan Rupke, Aaron Day, Nathan Chortos, Tristan Knight, Dane Labonte and Jeremy Vanwalsh.

“[It was] purely to have something to snowboard on right in our backyard,” Bamsey says. “There’s a couple little hills around " Boler and Cobble " and they’re pretty terrible, so we figured we’d just do our own thing.

“We just wanted to do something creative and different; we come home from the library from studying and just snowboard on a Friday night before going out. We could just ride for a few hours and get stoked on that.”

Friends and even random spectators visit regularly to see the impressive setup. Since half the housemates are engineers, it only took three days to build the park. However, Bamsey says they plan to expand.

The ramp starts at the top of the back porch 13 feet off the ground. The five-foot wide balcony facing the backyard is completely routed so a drawbridge folds down and links with the rest of the ramp. A long, skinny rail sits at the end of the ramp so the boarders can perform different moves and spins.

Bamsey says they sometimes lay old mattresses or hay around the ramp to prevent serious injuries.

“Your heart definitely goes a little faster when you stay on top,” Rupke says. “For the first time your heart is just like, ‘Oh boy, I hope I can do this.’ It’s more like your working it up, but you just have to keep telling yourself you could do it.”

“But once you’re into the rail, you just don’t even think about how scared you were before or the rush of it,” Day says. “You’re just totally locked into the second nature of doing what you’re about to do and then you get off and you’re like, ‘Oh, that was awesome.’”

A wooden ramp rigged to a two-story balcony is pretty conspicuous; Rupke says they’ve had several complaints from neighbours as well as the City of London.

“Last year, we built it without anybody really knowing about it,” Rupke says. “But at the end of the year, [we got] a notice saying that we had built ‘an illegal wheelchair ramp’ to the second story of our house. But it’s on a 45-degree angle " nobody in their right mind is gonna take a wheelchair down it.

“We kind of just ignored the warnings and then it ended up that we were going to get like a $1,000 fine.”

Despite this winter’s lack of snow, they’ve found ways to use the park; they even rented a U-Haul truck to transport snow from a local arena to their house.

While these hardcore riders claim London’s big December snowstorm was “the most unreal day of our university careers,” they’ve had more than their share of backyard-boarding adventures.

“One night, after we were winding down with the riding, we had these Sumo suits [from Halloween] that were ridiculously big,” Bamsey says. “[My friends] Curtis and Jere put them on and did the rail at the same time with large slices of pizza in their mouth.

“It went surprisingly well.”

Though they’re hardcore boarders, the housemates agree it takes more than just one rail in a backyard to become a professional snowboarder.

“I think several of us plan on snowboarding quite a bit once we get out of school,” Vanwalsh says. “But where it goes from there, we won’t know.”

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