Snowboarding was only added to the Winter Olympics 24 years ago and consisted of only two events: halfpipe and giant slalom. Since then, three other disciplines have been added: snowboard cross in 2006, slopestyle in 2014 and big air in 2018. However, these disciplines had already been established for several years before their Olympic inclusion. The first Winter X Games included snowboard cross in 1997, and big air has been part of the FIS Snowboard World Championships since 2004.
In 2019, the X Games created a new discipline, the knuckle huck. The competition is similar to big air in that riders perform only one trick, but instead of launching a single big jump, snowboarders go over the jump join, launching themselves down the slope of the base of the jump. Riders then land in the traditional jump landing zone.
This type of riding, popularized by Kleveland, emphasizes style and technique. Tricks don’t feature the big spins you’d see on a traditional jump, as completely different skills are required. Due to the flatness of the join, the figures are smaller and tend to turn outwards rather than upwards. Unlike big air, dragging on snow is considered a style factor rather than a technical error.
The emphasis on the creativity of tricks rather than the number of rotations and turns is what attracts runners who generally avoid competition. For example, the American Olympic gold medalist in slopestyle Sage Kotsenburgwho hasn’t competed in a major competition since 2016, returned to compete at X Games 2019. Swedish rider Kevin Backstrom and American athlete Zeb Powell, two Instagram-popular snowboarders, have also competed in knuckle huck events, even though they don’t compete on the traditional competition circuit. Athletes like Kleveland can continue to popularize unique types of rides and tricks that inspire new disciplines.