By: John Stoesser

Winter arrived ahead of schedule at the Clocktower Brew Pub on Bank Street mid-October for Half Cab Production’s annual ski and snowboard competition.

Craig McCallion, an Algonquin College graduate of the small business enterprise management program and founder of Half Cab Productions, organized the Capitalize at the Clocktower rail jam for the eighth year in a row. John Coughlan, co-owner of the Clocktower, remembers when McCallion originally proposed the event.

“When he first asked to do it, we were like ‘whatever…clowns’ thinking to ourselves ‘there’s no snow in October’,” said Coughlan. “And then they showed up with all the snow from the rinks.”

The finished assembly is a spectacle to behold, as if a pyramid of snow rose overnight from the middle of a parking lot.

Over the course of a day and a half, Half Cab transformed the Clocktower’s parking lot into a mini terrain park. On Oct. 20, a crowd of boisterous snowboarders, skiers and fans showed up at the normally tranquil Bank Street and Pretoria Avenue intersection in the Glebe.

“It’s the best,” said skier Justin St-Laurent, on competing for the second time. “It’s a huge crowd. It’s so much fun.”

This year’s setup consisted of a steep drop-in from a two-storey high scaffolding platform to a flat box riders could hop onto before jumping onto one of two handrails that straddled either side of a gap.

Capitalize follows a different format from the X-Games or best-trick competitions. Rather than landing one big trick, riders try many tricks in timed heats to prove consistency and skill.

Fans saw tricks like frontside boardslides, where the rider is sliding backwards with the board perpendicular to the handrail. Extra points are awarded for spinning onto or off the rails. Judging is strict, especially with the landings.

“Not long ago snowboard parks had these big rainbows, dragon rails and S rails where really all you could do on it was a select few tricks,” said McCallion.

“I want a setup where people can do a lot of tricks so you’re not just seeing the same trick over and over again.”
This year the riders provided more than enough action for the crowd and the judges. The announcer asked competitors to slow down slightly during the final heat to give the judges a chance to catch every trick.

Riders are invited to compete. Originally, McCallion invited local shop riders. Riders now travel from Montreal and Toronto for a chance on top of the Capitalize podium. This shows in the skill level of the riders.

“The progression of the contest has grown,” said Chris Sawyer of the Half Cab crew. “The level of riders has stepped up.”

“We don’t make a penny on riders,” said McCallion. “We lose money on the women’s division. We give away more money than we bring in from the women riders but it’s the only way to grow the women’s division.”

McCallion started Half Cab right after graduating from Algonquin. He said the skills learned in the course helped him create an efficient company.

To sponsor the contest Half Cab works with local outlet Tommy and Lefebvre and snowboard/ski company Rossignol. The three core brands are more of a partnership than a sponsorship but McCallion said he would be willing to take on a new partner from outside the industry.

McCallion is always looking to add a new twist to the competition. Next year you might even be able enjoy a Clocktower-brewed Capitalize beer said Coughlan.

After the contest and prizes, what took months to design, and fabricate and two days to construct, is taken down in a couple hours.