Whistler Longboard Festival dates confirmed 

New recreational "Marathon" race added to program

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The second annual Whistler Longboard Festival released some of the information for the 2012 event last week, including the dates — July 12 to 15 — and a rundown on events.

The festival will be getting bigger with a second event at the Whistler Sliding Centre that's geared to recreational and beginner racers, as well as the main downhill race — a 1.6 km course with a 325 metres drop and 13 corners — seven of them 180 degree hairpin turns.

It's arguably the most technical course in North America, and last year over 1,000 spectators turned out to watch the first event, the biggest crowd for any event in the North American tour. The field was also huge with 100 skaters taking part, including athletes from as far away as Australia and South America.

The 2012 Whistler Olympic Park Challenge is the new event, with a rolling five kilometre course that includes a mix of climbs and hills, and is open to all ages and levels of experience. It's similar to a skateboard endurance race, which are growing in popularity.

The main event is the Downhill at the Whistler Sliding Centre, which attracted 100 of the top racers in the world last year and will get bigger this year with a women's category and junior competition.

Downhill skateboarding is one of the fastest growing events in skateboarding. Riders leave the start line in groups of six with the first three to the finish line moving on to the next round. Racers wear special suits and helmets to guard against road rash, tuck through straightaways and use strong gloves and slides to carve around corners. In some races the speeds can exceed 100km/h. Hay bales line the side of the course to protect riders in crashes, which are frequent events as they battle for lines and bump into one another.

More information will be posted in the run-up to the festival on their Facebook Page, Whistler Longboard Festival.

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