Posted by: Feet Banks
Skateboarding will always be cool because it self-regulates. Falling off a skateboard hurts like heck and only the most passionate riders get back on and try again, and again, and again. Only the strong persevere and Whistler is hosting some of the strongest and most passionate longboard riders in the world at the third annual Whistler Longboard Festival this July 4-7, 2013.
The World Cup Downhill event will see competitors from 20 countries racing in 6-man heats down a 1.6km track course that drops 300m (1000 feet) of elevation over 12 corners, 7 of which are hairpins. With full leather speed suits and aerodynamic helmets the race resembles some kind of post-apocalyptic snowboardcross and the steep, twisty roads servicing the Whistler Sliding Centre provide the perfect venue.
“Longboard downhill fits with the core culture of this town,” says festival founder/organizer Lee Cation, “because Whistler is built on downhill gravity-fed mountain sports.”
One of only three North American stops on the International Downhill Federation’s World Cup series, the Whistler Longboard Festival will see over 200 racers from as far away as Australia, Europe and South America. Thursday July 4 is a freeride day with more training and qualifying on Friday July 5th. The main event is set for Saturday July 6th with races running from 9 AM to 4 PM.
“We’ll have a shuttle running up from the Village for spectators,” Lee explains, “Otherwise people can park in Lot 7 on Blackcomb and walk up from there. If it rains we just put different wheels on the boards and keep right on going.”
A World Cup race is big news but the Longboard Fest is no one-trick pony. Other events include a bowl jam at the Whistler Skate Park, a Big Air competition in Whistler Olympic Plaza, and demonstrations from legendary Canadian freestyle skater Kevin Harris and his team. Harris was Canada’s first sponsored pro skateboarder who once rode on the legendary Bones Brigade skate team.
“Freestyle and longboarding were sort of on the outside for a while,” Lee says of the skateboard community, “but these days skating is growing in all directions—street, park, downhill, freestyle, endurance… We are kind of over the stigma of who is cooler and who is number one. It’s more about just getting out and doing it.”
“Doing it” includes doing stuff that’s never been done and on July 7th skateboarding gets really innovative with the 20 km Enduro race and SkateX Shoot biathlon out on the paved trails of the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley. The Skate X Shoot will see skaters race two laps of a 5km course with two stops to shoot rifles on the Biathlon range. Skateboarding and guns, only in Whistler.
Photo:Matt Murray Photography
“That event is something we came up with ourselves,” Lee admits. “We have the facility here and both the Skate X Shoot and the Enduro are good gateway events for people who want to get involved with the fest but maybe don’t have full leathers or don’t want to jump right into downhill.”
Innovation and inclusion combined with world class athletes and gravity-fed excitement have positioned the Whistler Longboard Festival as one of the coolest events on Whistler’s summer calendar and Lee says that community support has been incredible.
“Skateboarding is about freedom and clarity,” Lee says. “It’s a very soulful activity –similar to skiing or snowboarding—just peaceful time to yourself and with your friends. It’s about freedom and painting your own picture and having fun. Skating is supposed to be fun and I will be right there in the truck with the participants. I like to get first run so I can see everyone come in at the bottom, full of joy.”
The Whistler Longboard fest is giving away $10,000 across all the podiums. Check the official Longboard Festival website for full details, maps and info on the live online streaming of the World Cup Downhill. There's plenty of other stuff going on in Whistler from Canada Day straight though the Independence Day long weekend. Hit up Whistler.com for more info and deals on accommodation.
Check out the official Whistler Longboard Festival Video from 2012