More than 90 competitors representing 15 countries took to the perfectly groomed course that featured an impressive variety of new obstacles. The drop in feature lead into a junkyard consisting of a petrol pump and concrete mixer; from there it was straight into a down rail over a container before a daunting triple jump line, each consecutive jump measuring approximately 40ft, 50ft and 60ft plus. The finish feature was a choice of either a pole jam or flat box.
Zee's winning run was the very first of the final, the local favourite registering 79.30 points (out of a possible 100) from the judges. He began with a gnarly cab 270 gap to the down rail, followed by a frontside 720, a backside 900, switch backside double cork 1080 and a switch 50-50 on the final feature which Zee said he was "actually surprised" he landed.
"Good times! It was a fun event, I'm stoked to ride away and stoked to ride with some solid riders, the boys were killing it so I'm happy to be a part of that," said Zeestraten.
"I'm coming back from an ankle injury, some surgery, nothing too major but enough to ruin half a summer which is hard, but once you actually put the work in and believe it's possible, you can make it happen.
"I just like riding, I don't worry about points too much, I'm here to snowboard, it's what I'm here to do, to have a good time,"
The last competition Zee entered was in February, the Slope Japan, finishing 12th. Zee's last win was in the 3-star rated World Tour event the Dew Jam, held at Mt Buller, Victoria, Australia in July of 2010.
Although Zee isn't chasing points, Zee now has 500 valuable World Tour ranking points next to his name, US$5,000 in prize money and a swag of prizes that included a state-of-the-art NEXF3 single lens kit camera Sony Camera.
Japanese rider Yuki Kadono (JAP) was second on the final start list and the 16 year-old answered back immediately, locking in the second highest scoring run of the final 78.20 points (petrol pump tap, frontside lipslide to fakie, cab 540 underflip, front 1080 tail grab, back double 1080 and a nice little 50-50 frontside 540 exclamation point to wrap up the run). But as happy as Kadono was, the score fell a little short, coming in behind Zee by just over a point.
Defending Billabong Bro Down Champion Roope Tonteri (FIN) of Finland landed his run no problem, but fell just shy of the top spot on the judges sheet by two points. Three days of riding into a 90-day stint in New Zealand and competing in his first event of 35 scheduled in his itinerary, Tonteri has a long season ahead with plenty to look forward to.
"It's early in the season for me and I know who is going to pay tonight at the bar, so no problem," he joked.
Today's result is a personal best for Open Women's Division winner, Christy Prior (Auckland, NZL); the 23 year-old goofy only began competing internationally last season and she has already secured a wildcard for the upcoming invite-only Burton High Fives (Snow Park, NZ, Aug 15th-18th).
Prior's run included an air over the petrol tank, a boardslide onto the rail, a frontside rodeo 540, a cab 540, backside 360 and then a method air off the pole to finish. Prior achieved a mini milestone with her win, placing on the podium's top spot ahead of experienced local Wanaka local and Qualifying winner Shelly Gotlieb (Wanaka, NZL).
"I'm surprised, obviously everyone wants to win, but I wasn't expecting it to happen to me. I just went out there and tried to land my run and I did it. They're the biggest jumps I've ever sessioned, so this result has built my confidence up. Everyone rode well, Shelly's an amazing rider, I mean I've always looked up to her, she's always been the person I've looked up to, especially in New Zealand. Her back sevens are so sick, it feels pretty cool to finish ahead of her," said Prior.
Gotlieb knew what she had to do on her second run to overtake the hard-charging Prior, but in her words, "got a bit excited" heading into the final features.
"Instead of doing a seven, I kinda did a nine and bounced around into a 10 so technically it wasn't counted as a land. If I landed it nice and clean, I might've given Christy a run for her money but she rode real well so I'm stoked for her. Our New Zealand crew are pretty tight; we ride together lots. She's younger and coming up, I get so excited looking ahead a couple years, New Zealand's going to have such a contingency out there amongst the top riders," said Gotlieb.
Canadian Tyler Nicholson (CAN) managed what Tonteri hoped for by going back-to-back in the Men's Junior division. The 17 year-old 2011 Bro Down winner was going to enter the Open Men's but decided against it following seven months rehab off the snow. In the World Cup at Stoneham, Quebec, Nicholson came up short on a cab 900, hit the knuckle and snapped his fibula and ruined his ankle.
"I'm feeling pretty good, pretty stoked, it was definitely a good day, it's only my third day back riding. I wasn't sure what my run was going to be until this morning, the weather was a little bit iffy in practise, but it turned out to be a good ... I didn't think I was going to be able to ride nearly as well as I did. It was a serious injury, I have screws and pins in my ankle, but it's good, it doesn't feel too bad. I was going to Whistler in May, but I think I made the right choice by letting my injury come good; I didn't want to risk it. I'm glad I stayed healthy, I'm feeling strong," said Nicholson after his win.
The Junior Women's division was decided on Day 1 with Aussie Alex Fitch (AUS) placing first ahead of Biba Turnbull (AUS) and Kiwi Fiona Brunton (NZL).
The Billabong Bro Down presented by Xperia Sony Smartphone is the first Southern Hemi stop on the 2012/13 World Snowboard Tour. The 10th annual Bro Down (held in August 2011) was the first of its kind on the global calendar since the IOC (International Olympic Committee) Executive Board confirmed the discipline for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Mel Simmons, WST Head Judge summed up the days pretty succinctly: "Shtchea! Outstanding level, super high calibre of riding, we were pumped with the outcome, many thanks to all involved. Bring on Bro Down 2013!"
The official Bro Down after party rocked out to Auckland's infamous DJ set The ARC and New Zealand's premier hip hop crew of the moment The HOME BREW CREW.
Each rider was allowed a practise run and two times judged runs. Rider's scores were judged out of a 100, with separate judges focusing on individual tricks as well as overall impression.
All riders who competed this week earn points towards the World Snowboard Tour Slopestyle Rankings and the Overall World Tour Rankings. The World Snowboard Tour ranking system is designed to recognize the progression and specialization that has grown exponentially in snowboarding over the past 10-years.
The ranking system features three separate ranking lists for women (Overall, Slopestyle, Halfpipe) and four ranking lists for men (Overall, Slopestyle, Halfpipe and Big Air) that make it easy to follow the different disciplines on the World Snowboard Tour throughout the season.
Snow Park NZ is widely regarded as the best location for international teams and athletes to train in their off-season, along with the cream of the Southern Hemisphere's top riders - making the Bro Down one of the most hotly contested Slopestyle events anywhere in the world.
The Billabong Bro Down was presented by Sony Xperia and supported by Sony, Mountain Dew, Skinny, Von Zipper, Dakine, The Edge, DVS, Snow Park NZ and the World Snowboard Tour.
Billabong Bro Down presented by Xperia Sony Smartphone
Snow Park, NZ Aug 3rd - 4th, 2012
1st Stef Zeestraten (NZL) 79.30pts
$5,000, plus Sony NEXF3 single lens kit camera valued at $999.95, 500 World Tour ranking points
2nd Yuki Kadono (JPN) 78.20pts
$3000 plus Sony HDRPJ200 projector Handycam valued at $899.95, 471.15 World Tour ranking points
3rd Sven Thorgren (SWE) 77.70pts
$2,000 plus Sony DSCHX20V Cybershot camera valued at $599.95, 450 World Tour ranking points
1st Christy Prior (NZL) 51.10pts
$2,500 plus Sony NEXF3 single lens kit camera valued at $999.95, 500 World Tour ranking points
2nd Shelly Gotlieb (NZL) 471.0pts
$1,500 plus Sony HDRPJ200 projector Handycam valued at $899.95, 471.15 World Tour ranking points
3rd Panka Gyarmati (HUN) 38.00pts
$1,000 plus Sony DSCHX20V Cybershot camera valued at $599.95, 450 World Tour ranking points
1st Tyler Nicholson (CAN) 72.60pts
$300 plus Sony MDRPQ2 Headphones valued at $129.90
2nd JJ Rayward (NZL) 54.00pts
$200 plus Sony MDRPQ2 Headphones valued at $129.90
3rd Tim Herbert (NZL) 52.40pts
$100 plus Sony MDRPQ2 Headphones valued at $129.90
1st Alex Fitch (AUS) 37.25pts
$300 plus Sony MDRPQ3 Headphones valued at $69.95
2nd Biba Turnbull (AUS) 35.50pts
$200 plus Sony MDRPQ3 Headphones valued at $69.95
3rd Fiona Brunton (NZL) 16.50pts
$100 plus Sony MDRPQ3 Headphones valued at $69.95