Sunday, June 27, 2010

Darren Powell - The World’s Fastest (and most obscure) Snowboarder


This was Darren’s career plan…
1.       Master the most dangerous element of snowboarding
2.       Set a world record that won’t been beaten for over 10 years
3.       Sit back and let the fame start and the money roll in

Unfortunately for Darren, things didn’t quite work out according to plan. He managed to do the hard work and achieve points 1 & 2, however point 3 has been a significantly more evasive. In 1999 he became the fastest man to ever strap on a snowboard, but over ten years later pretty much no one has ever heard of the guy. Here’s the reason why…

Here’s a graphical interpretation of the risks and rewards involved in snowboarding.
When you start there is very little danger involved in snowboarding and no one knows who you are. As you progress there are various types of snowboarding you can pursue. If you chose Olympic alpine racing like Chris Klug you will not risk your body much but you will toil away in relative obscurity until once every four years you get your few minutes in the global spotlight. Somewhere in the middle of the possible danger scale is Sean White with his risky endeavours in the half-pipe, which payoff nicely turning him into the best-known and highest paid celebrity in the sport. So at first there’s a trend that the more dangerous snowboarding gets the more famous/rich you will become, but then contrary to what you might expect, things start to reverse. Jeremy Jones, for example, concentrates on backcountry freeriding, but despite facing the constant danger of dying in an avalanche he is in very little danger of becoming a household celebrity outside the world of snowboarding. Ultimately if you take this trend to the extreme you get to speed snowboarding, a sport where with one slip will either kill you or cripple you, and you get to Darren Powell, a man who is only slightly better known in the world of snowboarding than you.
Darren Powell - So few people can recognize him, he is forced to write his name on the photos on his own website... photos of him that already had his name written on his nifty helmet.
There is a limit to this trend because after speed snowboarding the next most dangerous version of snowboarding will result in 100% likelihood of death. I’m not sure exactly what that version of the sport involves though because if someone has invented it they didn’t live long enough to tell anyone about it.

So Darren chose his sport very badly, but you’ve got to respect what’s he’s doing. This guy must have balls that size of moons. Here’s a look at the sport of speed snowboarding

Speed snowboarding
Speed snowboarding must be snowboard’s equivalent to Fight Club. I can find only a tiny amount of information on Darren Powell and although there must be a few other nutters that also have a go at this I can’t find information about them at all. For example, Darren’s website mentions that he is the “7 times World Speed Snowboarding Champ”, but as far as the interweb is concerned there is no such event. 
Darren comes first at some imaginary event.

The sport itself is pretty straightforward. You head to a long, steep and icy mountain, point yourself straight down it and do everything you can not to crash. 
The Flying K, Les Arcs, France. Steep

The speeds and acceleration these guys achieve are mental. They accelerate from 0-60mph in 3seconds and after just 6 seconds they’re topping 120mph. That’s the sort of acceleration you get from a Formula One car. Darren’s record was set back in 1999 when he hit an incredible 201.9 km/h or 126.4 mph. Here’s a video from Darren's site including some glimpses of his record.Apart from the obscurity of his achievement there are a few other downsides I can see to this event.
  1. You have to wear tight-fitting clothes that only come in the colour red and make you look like a futuristic prostitute. I guess the red colour is designed to hide the blood.
  2. 98% chance of death.
  3. 1% chance of you falling to your death just getting to the start line. A couple of years ago two speed skiers (Italian Marco Salvaggio and Briton Caitlin Tovar) died after they slipped on the way to the course. 
  4. 1% chance of this happening: Eric Barone the cycling decent record holder demonstrates

Snow Speed Records
Darren is the fastest snowboarder on the planet but how does his achievement stack up amongst the various other speed lunatics?

Speed Skiing - Simone Origone (Italy) 251.4 km/h (156.2 mph); 2006

Cycling Descent on snow - Eric Barone (France) 222.0 km/h (138.0 mph); 2000

One-legged Speed Skiing - Michael Milton (Australia) 213.7 km/h (132.8 mph);  2006

Speed Monoskiing - Xavier Cousseau (France), 206.1 km/h (128.0 mph); 2005
 Xavier Cousseau - the campest world record holder since Carl Lewis

Xavier Cousseau - training by strapping himself on the roof of the campest car since K.I.T.T

Speed Snowboarding - Darren Powell (Australia) 201.9 km/h (126.4 mph); 1999

Blind Speed Skiing - Kevin Alderton (Great Britain) 162.5 kph (100.0 mph): 2006

Speed Snowscoot - Yann Grandjean (Switzerland) 141.3 km/h (87.8 mph); 2008

And here's those speeds in a handy comparison chart

This is embarrassing, the fucking monoskiier has gone faster! Basically we are only beating a guy on a toy scooter and a blind man. Someone needs to set that straight. Darren Powell continues to try and beat his own record and I think this is one record that is ready to be broken. If you like wearing tight red rubber clothes, you don’t mind shattering every bone in you body if you are lucky enough to live through the experience and you fancy becoming an almost unknown part of snowboard history then this is your chance. Good luck.

Also it looks like the record for a blind one-legged snowboarder is still waiting to be set.

Related Articles…
This article from the Times is worth a read to find out what the experience of speed skiing is like. 

If you fancy something else from the illicit snowboard catalogue then why not check out another snowboard record that is waiting to be completed. Snowboarding down all of the seven summits


  1. Hi,

    Any ideas where can i find Darren? i would like to write an article about speed snowboarding... but Darren's inbox is full...

  2. Maybe try this site. He now runs this Hotel

    Or try his Facebook profile.

    Good luck.


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