Longboard festival goes downhill 

Top downhill skateboarders from 17 nations, including Canada, vie for World Cup points

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ANDREW MITCHELL - Split Seconds Despite racers reaching speeds of 90km/h in some sections, races were close in the 2012 Whistler Longboard Festival downhill. The 2013 downhill on Friday and Saturday is a World Cup event, with the top racers from 17 nations taking part.
  • Photo by Andrew Mitchell
  • Split Seconds Despite racers reaching speeds of 90km/h in some sections, races were close in the 2012 Whistler Longboard Festival downhill. The 2013 downhill on Friday and Saturday is a World Cup event, with the top racers from 17 nations taking part.

Little wheels make the world go around this weekend with the third annual Whistler Longboard Festival taking place, with events scheduled over four days.

The main event is a longboard downhill race sponsored by Arbor, the third event in a North American segment of the International Downhill Federation (IDF) World Cup series. Some 240 riders from 17 different countries will be represented, taking on the steep and winding access road to the Whistler Sliding Centre. The course features 12 turns, seven of them hairpins, with a total distance of 1.6 kilometres and a vertical drop of 300 metres. Volunteers place hundreds of hay bales around the course to make it safe for the athletes.

There are several Canadian athletes to watch, and the current IDF rankings boast four Canadians in the top 10. Kevin Reimer and Dillon Stephens are currently first and second with 3,378 points and 3,024 points respectively, while Kyle Martin is just one point back of James Kelly's 2,670 points for third place. Patrick Switzer, the top international rider last year, is sitting in ninth place.

On the women's side, Canada also boasts the top rider currently with Elena Corrigall sitting on top of the standings with 1,593 points. She's followed by Georgia Bontorin of Brazil and Marisa Nunez — another Canadian — with 1,000 points each.

There are also races for juniors and a street luge competition, plus showcase classes for kids aged 13 and under (Grom) and masters aged 40 and older.

Friday's qualifier round and Saturday's final are both open to the public, and people can walk up the course to watch skaters come down — just be mindful of bears and the dry conditions in the forest. But the best place to watch will be the beer garden, with Whistler Brewing sponsoring the event and live streaming over a television. This year's race will be live streamed at http://whistlerlongboard.com/live with some overhead footage from Sea to Sky Cable Cam.

Practice runs get underway at 1 p.m. on Friday, followed by six-man heat qualifiers at 4 p.m.

The Groms, women, juniors and masters will race from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, with the open class getting underway at 1 p.m.

There are free shuttles to the site leaving from Whistler Olympic Plaza from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, and 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

There are other events to watch as well, plus a few open longboard races at Whistler Olympic Park that are open to everyone:

Polaroid Big Air and Freestyle Skate Showcase — On July 5, a big air event will be held at Whistler Olympic Plaza with pro skateboarders launching off a ramp onto an air bag. Kevin Harris and his team will be providing the entertainment throughout the day. Freestyle shows are at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and big air shows are at noon and 2 p.m.

On July 6, the skaters will move to Mountain Square for another freestyle jam event, with shows at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

On Friday from noon to 3:30 p.m. there will be a "paint-off" at Whistler Olympic Plaza featuring local artists Dave "Pepe" Petko and Alex Fouls "Liks." The skaters will be painting a couple of longboard decks into original pieces of art.

Gullwing's Bowl Comp — This bowl contest takes place on Friday, July 5 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Whistler Skate Park, sponsored by Gullwing in partnership with the Whistler Sk8 Cave. The bowl jam is open to all skaters, and prizes — and possibly cash prizes — will be available. Spectators are also welcome.

Rayne Enduro / Skate X Shoot Biathlon — On Sunday, July 7, the second annual Rayne Enduro / Skate X Shoot Biathon is taking place at Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley, inviting all longboarders to come out for a long distance race in the morning — 20km on rolling roads and doubletrack — and a 10km skateboard biathlon event in the afternoon, the first event of its kind in the world, where participants make two appearances at the shooting range and take a lap of a 150-metre penalty loop for every shot they miss. All longboarders, all ages and abilities, are welcome. There will be a barbecue and $2,000 in cash prizes available.

For more info, visit www.whistlerlongboard.com.

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