Racers zipped between cones with precision accuracy at the 2008 U.S. National Slalom Skateboarding Championships in Morro Bay last weekend.
At one point, a racer neared the finish and plowed through the remaining cones to beat his opponent. Fortunately for him, hitting cones did not count against him.
“It’s totally different, because we can hit cones and we don’t get penalized for it,” said Lynn Kramer, a five-time women’s division world champion who placed first in the women’s class in all three courses last weekend. “So if you want to hit them and you think it will make you go faster, then you don’t have to worry about the point loss.”
There were three events in the nationals from June 11 to 13. The first was the “Super G” competition on Turri Road in Los Osos, which was a technical course down the steep incline. Boarders started on a large ramp and rolled their way to the finish. The second and third events – the hybrid and tight slaloms – took place in Morro Bay.
Participating racers represented countries from all over the world, including Australia, England and the Czech Republic. Each event had different tiers, including a double-elimination and a winner’s bracket.
“As with anything different, the most important difference a racer can bring to a double-elimination event is an open mind,” wrote Jack Smith, the event’s organizer, on the ISSA 2007 Contest Sanction Application. “Consider qualifying a first step. The winner’s bracket is another step. The do-or-die bracket is an opportunity to race again with better odds.
“Cones should be thought of as course markers and not as course penalties. The ‘starting line’ is just that: the start. It’s no longer an arbitrary idea with a plus-or-minus at a racer’s discretion.”
Even after competing against one another, most racers were jovial and joked around with their competitors.
“It’s kind of a small family scene,” said Eric Tokle, 35, who earned the top spot in the Super G race. “A lot of us see each other at the same events, other events, and there are only so many of us who are that active in this sport. These are old-time legends that have been racing since the ’70s, even before I was skating.”
Technique is extremely important in such a competition, especially on the steep incline of Turri Road because riders can reach speeds of up to 30 mph.
“Going this fast, aerodynamics plays a big key,” he said. “So you just try to get a good start off the start ramp; you’ve got to get a good pull so you get a good start. Then after that, just get in the tuck and try to be as aerodynamic as you can. The smaller you can get in a tuck, the faster you can be, because the bigger you are, the more wind resistance it takes to go down the hill.”
Tokle, a Petaluma native, said practice makes perfect.
“Certainly there’s no replacement for running cones, but I do a lot of downhill free-riding, too,” he said. “I’ve got a great hill next to my house, and free-riding is good practice – just getting used to your board.”
Classes of competitors ranged from pro to amateur.
Pro boarder Kramer, 39, has been skateboarding since 1985, but began racing in 2002. The San Diego native said she loved racing in Morro Bay because of the town’s involvement and support.
“It’s nice to have a crowd,” she said. “Sometimes the only spectators are peoples’ families.”
Prizes included medals for the amateurs and cash purses for the pros, Smith said.