Eurosport were kind enough to invite me along to commentate on the FIS World Snowboard Championships Slopestyle & Halfpipe contests last month – and it was an incredible experience.
I’ve done minor bits of MC work before – but primarily in front of slightly drunken university students who aren’t overly fussed about what your saying (if they’re even listening), and just cheer when they hear their universities name being called out. They’re an easy crowd to work – especially when it’s the prize giving ceremonies.
But providing a judges perspective on a world-class competition for Eurosport that would go out to thousands of people was a whole-different snowball game.
I wouldn’t be the lead commentator – that was going to be Ian Findlay’s job, to introduce the competition, set the scene, give the viewers the information about the series and the riders etc. My role was as an assistant commentator, to give a judges view on the competiton – calling the tricks, breaking down each trick and pointing out what the judges would reward or penalise, using my experience and knowledge of the sport. Discussing issues like why Rider A’s trick/run was better than Rider B’s etc. Our aim was to provide a different viewing experience to the audience – not just your standard snowsports commentary – so that the audience could understand and learn about the sport.
Preparation wise, I spent the week leading up to it finding and watching full replays from major competitions of this season – Winter X Games, Laax Open, World Cup Slopestyle & Superpies etc. Just to get into the flow of how quick each trick came after one before – and getting into the Pro Judge Level mindset of judging double & triple corks. This felt pretty natural – as a snowboard judge, it’s now pretty difficult to watch any snowboarding edit without mentally calling each trick in my head. It’s a curse – but a fun one – like the tickling charm in Harry Potter.
I can whittle on about snowboard judging for days, literally. I love talking about competitions we’ve just judged – what we liked, why we liked it, why something scored higher than something else, or even competitions I haven’t judged – what my thoughts were, whether I agreed with the judges etc. The subjective nature of snowboard judging means that it’s super easy to start a discussion from it.
Did I put on a ‘commentary’ voice? Not really – but since I was a teen, I’ve self-inflicted an attempted laid-back slur to come across more snowboarder-y. But for this – I tried to tidy it up a bit, and under Ian’s instruction, ‘enhance’ my voice to sound more professional and more upbeat. One of my biggest fears on the day was to come across as a Phil Neville – i.e to sound so dull and monotonic, that I sent our audience to sleep quicker than a sleeping pill. I tried to put as much charisma, excitement and professionalism into everything I said – to bounce off Ian’s experience and comments as much as possible, and to really absorb myself into the contest to try transfer the excitement levels and atmosphere across to our audience.
Having said that – my own sister only recognised my voice when they put text up to say who the commentators for the event were, and a good friend of mine said they’d tried to watch it, but it was just a “Scottish guy [Ian] and an American guy commentating”. Guess who the American was? You got it – me and my ‘new’ voice.
The contest was insane to watch – and being able to commentate on it was mind-blowing. I watch as much snowboarding contests as possible, and make comments here and there to whoever [housemate, friends or dogs] who happened to be watching it with me. So to be invited along to do it properly was hella nerve-wracking but super exciting. It was also a huge compliment to have my opinion and knowledge valued by a broadcasting company as respected and well-known as Eurosport.
From my perspective – the halfpipe commentary went better than the Slopestyle competition. It was the second program, which meant I’d got my nerves out the way already, and wasn’t being shown Live in the UK so I didn’t quite feel the pressure as much, and Ian & I were able to bounce off each other throughout the comp as well. Plus it was an epic Superpipe Final, which made it easy to get the excitement levels in!
Will I do it again? Honestly? I’d love to have the opportunity to do it again – it was an incredibly rewarding, fulfilling, and unique experience, and by all reports both broadcasts went well too. It gave me heaps of confidence for both my judging and my media skills. Last year I worked on quite a few media projects – whether it was short edits as a snowboard coach, introducing sections of the Ski The Kingdom film or the little skit for BBC The One Show, but Eurosport was certainly the highlight and the pinnacle of it all.
So keep your ears pealed and your TV tuned to Eurosport – fingers crossed you might just hear my voice coming out the speakers again sometime next season.