Last weekend I had a chance to be a soccer mom, of sorts, for my longboarding son. For years I've driven kids to games, practices, recitals, dance classes, swim lessons and so on. I have even gone to a couple of my son's downhill races. But, over the past eighteen months, I have not been the driver to take him to his down-hill or corner sessions. During the weekends, the riders get together to practice. They belong to various teams, and are sponsored by various companies. None of this seems to matter when the weekend rolls around. A call goes out on the local message board "who wants to skate?". Ten or more replies will be posted back up right away. "Where?" one will ask. From there the meeting places and times are determined. The thread will stay up on the message board, leaving a trail for other riders to follow if they decide to join the ride.
Last Sunday, it was the Access Road on Cypress Mountain, and then Hedgy-Righty (because there is a hedge and a right corner... not original, but descriptive.) I was the driver. Boards, gloves, pads, helmet, and a bag of oranges and apples along with ample water and an empty 4G card in my camera. We were ready. Along the way we picked up two of Wolf’s rider friends and met another at the road. I had heard about the Access Road; I’d seen photos, but wow. I could imagine why they all love it. It is new pavement down a steep incline of mountain, a beautiful view of the harbour, and Vancouver; it’s blocked off with a barricade at the top because the area is under construction, so it would be impossible for cars to come up the road. Safe as can be expected for a practice run location. Funnily, someone had left a single long hay bale at the side of the bottom corner for good measure. Useless, but funny.
The four guys rode the corner doing stand up slides, taking the corner low and trying out different cornering techniques. They checked on each other’s bale-outs, “you okay?” Everyone was properly protected with slide gloves knee protection and of course helmets. Not even a bruised ego that day. It was sunny in every aspect. About an hour in, Wolf came to me at my camera perfect location at the outside of the lower corner and told me that it was their second last run and then we’d be going to another spot. So, I watched and waited, they had their second last run. I waited longer, and they started to head up the hill. Wolf came and got me. “We’re heading out.”
“I thought you said that was your second last run?” I picked up my blanket and slipped my camera into my pocket.
“Too many people get hurt on the last run, so we don’t have last runs, only second last,”
There it was one more little insight to the world of the longboarder. I hung onto it like a gold dust in a stream hoping it wouldn’t slip through my fingers before I could write it down. Hedgy-Righty, is a lovely intersection in West Vancouver (Not to be confused with the West-side, or the West-End of Vancouver; those are actually in Vancouver; West Vancouver is an entirely different Municipality on the North Shore which encompasses the mountains that we view from Vancouver—we’re across English Bay from one another.) Though Vancouver does have some gnar hills to bomb, it’s nothing like WestVan. At this intersection there are several multi-million dollar homes and car and boats to match. I parked my little Honda Fit in front of one such house just as the owners drove up. The boys piled out of the car and set up their gear. I smiled and waved as the family in the Land Rover gathered more things from the house. It wasn’t as though we were on their property, or blocking their driveway. The dad smiled back as they did a u-turn in front of their place and drove off.
Spotting corners: I was the only non-rider there, so they asked if I would spot the corner for me. I stood party in the road, checked all four directions, signalled with a big arm loop when it was clear to ride. And one after another they screamed around the steep, wide and beautifully smooth corner. Sometimes the corner was too sharp, and they’d end up sprawled on the pavement, only to dust themselves off and hike back up to do it again.
After a few runs two more riders joined the session. One was a world contender and often graces the top of various podia. He offered up suggestions and joined in the general discussion about each of their ‘set-ups’ (trucks, wheels, boards, etc.).
The last run for Wolf was a self-imposed finish. He was riding his slide deck and spilled. I managed to catch some of it on film before my stomach fully seized up and forced my finger to stop the camera. He skidded out on his hands and knees. He was fine, but suffered a nasty patch of fabric burn on his left knee from the inside of his knee pad. Rather that than the road. But with an open layer of skin, he wouldn’t put his smelly knee pads back on and risk a staph infection or some other nasty thing. It was a relief for me. I didn’t have to tell him anything; he had all the common sense needed. The other riders went on to another local to hit some more runs; we hit grocery store to pick up something for dinner.
One of the things I gathered from this session as the side-line parental helper and observer is that off the race track, it is all very friendly, no, it’s more than that. Longboarders work together to push one another further, to grow as riders. It reminds me of the years I spent parenting my young ballet dancer. In the halls of the dance studio where the young adults and teens mingle, stretch and chat; this is a similar type of family dynamic. Though they compete against each other, they mostly dance together, and want to see their fellow dancers and themselves be the best they can be. In longboarding, these hill sessions are really a lot like studio practice, to me at least. This, in all honesty, it is a good thing. By working together, supporting one another, they all will grow, both in skills and in person. I commend them for this mature and insightful approach to their sport.