Ask his friends and fellow competitors, and it’s clear that Ståle Sandbech should lose the “a” and its attached ring diacritic and replace it with a “y”: Style Sandbech.
“Ståle’s the style icon, for sure,” says fellow Norwegian Marcus Kleveland, a 16-year-old wunderkind who will make his first X Games appearance in 2016 Big Air. “Everybody else is out here hucking, trying to bring these big flips and spins around fast enough. Meanwhile, Ståle’s out there floating effortlessly, like he’s in slow motion, and holding on to his grabs forever like he somehow has more air time than the rest of us.”
Sandbech, 22, has four X Games medals between Slopestyle and Big Air — a silver and three bronze — but shrugs off such compliments. He says style comes naturally, and he attributes some of it to his older brother’s influence. Frode bought Ståle his first snowboard and gave him his first lesson when he was eight years old. Frode is now an award-winning senior photographer at Transworld Snowboarding magazine and recognized as one of the sport’s best image-makers.
“From the beginning, Frode was the one egging me on to go bigger and poke every trick out so he could get the shot, and now that’s just how my body moves,” Sandbech says. “For me it’s not just about doing big tricks, it’s about how you execute them. That’s always been a big thing for me, and it’s one of the things I love about snowboarding — different styles are what set riders apart.”
(Photo: Ståle Sandbech by Frode Sandbech/Oakley, via ESPN.com)