The sun is shining, two little girls are playing in Terry Park, and Andrew Riddle is flying through the air on his snowboard like some ninja Superman stunt performer.
“Yee haw!” he shouts before being pulled along the flat ground by a motorized winch, reeling him toward the swing set like a big fish. Only this fish drops the line before flying up onto the arched metal swing via a snowy ramp and then, in an explosive jump, springs upward and over into a full front flip.
Thump! The landing is hard. Riddle skids to a snowy stop. The little girls cheer and clap.
“He’s always been the craziest one,” says a smiling Michael Rodriguez, Riddle’s lifelong buddy, operator of the winch and a stunt-building assistant. “We call him an alien. He grew up flipping. He’s got that air awareness, which is pretty amazing.”
Rodriguez’s days of flying are over after four knee surgeries, but the 26-year-old Riddle — also known by the nickname Bob — continues pinging his body off of stair rails, buildings and even light poles despite two broken elbows, two torn shoulders, three broken toes, one dislocated finger and numerous bloody facial scrapes. This is the heavy toll exacted on human flyers.
The worst collision was when he “smoked” a tree at Red Lodge Mountain ski area. He hit the tree so hard with his head that several of his back teeth were chipped, and one flew out of his mouth and landed on his bloody chin. That concussion later led to seizures that he now has to control with medicine. But there’s no way even that crash would stop him from snowboarding. He loves it too much.
“It’s just a good feeling to put something together and have it go well,” says the married father of a 2-year-old snowboarding daughter, a photo of which adorns his custom snowboard.
Ever since he started riding as a freshman in high school, summer has become an annoying delay that includes cliff jumping, rope swings and wakeboarding to feed the daredevil’s hunger until winter and snowboarding begin again.
Riddle has put together some of his greatest hits in a video that he uploaded to Outside TV’s digital community, called Campfire, in hopes of winning the Peace Park video contest. The video shows him gliding down long stair rails at Skyview High School, and then sliding off and belly-flopping onto the rail, amazingly uninjured. He jumps off a second-story building ricocheting off a wall before gliding down a ramp of snow he and his friends have piled up. In one shot he shoots up and over the top of a metal building.
On flat ground he uses a motorized winch to speed him toward his target at up to 30 mph. Prior to that he used a large rubber-band-like bungee to sling him forward, sometimes riding in the trunk of his girlfriend’s car to build up the tension before rocketing free.
It seems no matter the setting Riddle can find something to fly off of, smack into or jump from. It’s a brutal, graceful and fascinating art form that combines engineering, boldness, playfulness and a lot of imagination. It also includes a healthy dose of self-induced physical abuse.
“He does some pretty gnarly stuff on a snowboard,” says Kevin Harrigan of Outside TV. That’s why the channel noticed his contributed video, polished it up and posted it on Facebook. By the middle of last week he’d already received more than 600,000 views. “Clearly he’s one of our top Campfire performers.
“This is exactly why we have Campfire, to put guys like him on a national platform and reward them accordingly,” Harrigan added.
That makes Riddle’s mother, Linda Delich, very happy.
“He’s been trying to get somewhere for a long time,” she says. “He’s a determined, dedicated person.
“I’m pretty proud of him.”
Delich said her son was always athletic and looking for thrills. Skateboarding was his first love. Then he discovered snowboarding tricks had softer landings.
“He has no fear whatsoever,” she says. “He’s an adrenaline junkie.”
It must be a gene because his brother is a motorcycle hill climber. They didn’t get it from her, though, Delich says, but she’s always encouraged him to “spread his wings and fly.” It’s not clear whether she meant that quite so literally, though.
“He’s doing stuff I’ve never seen anyone else do,” says Rodriguez, who is constantly trolling Instagram to find other snowboarders’ unique aerial maneuvers. “We watch a lot of videos and share them.”
It was Rodriguez who saw the Outside TV contest online and encouraged Riddle to enter. He’s won a couple in the past, including one that allowed him to take a three-day, all-expenses-paid trip to Salt Lake City and ride with three of the Rossignol team at Brighton Resort. Not bad for a Laurel-born-and-raised guy who works for a concrete company to support his snowboarding habit.
“It’s just a good feeling to put something together and have it go well,” Riddle says.
His favorite trick on his most recent video collection was a double backflip off a light pole, called a double rodeo. Rodriguez said the double front flip Riddle executed over the top of an outdoor chimney was crazy because of the high consequences of not landing the jump.
As for the injuries?
“Love hurts sometimes,” Riddle says and laughs. “If I weren’t snowboarding, I wouldn’t know what to do. It’s so fun.”