By: Jessica Rose
Nearly 100 longboard riders gathered from all over the map on Nov. 3 to race down the winding 1.7 km long track, reaching a speed of up to 80 km/h.
The venue for the event was King Mountain in Gatineau, which played host to the first-ever legally registered longboard race in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.
Eric Chernushenko, 19, is an Algonquin College pre-trades student who has been longboarding for three seasons.
He placed seventh out of the 90 racers who rode the track.
“This is the first race where we actually went and got permission and legally rented out the entire track,” Chernushenko said. “We got sponsors, got people coming from out of town and had officials show up and watch us.”
Joey Bidner, 23, organized the event and has been a prominent leader among the local longboarding community, working with the National Capital Commission to hold legal races.
Bidner has been longboarding for 10 seasons and building his own custom-made longboards under the name Bohdana Boards for six years.
“Being able to say that we’ve been working with the NCC to make this legal event really is kick-starting things and showing these government bodies that we do have a code of conduct and we are organized individuals,” said Bidner.
There was a large diversity of riders present in terms of age and level of experience, which Bidner gladly accommodated.
Confident riders registered and paid $30 to race, while less experienced riders could register and pay $5 to free-ride after each heat of racers.
Free-riders do not prioritize speed over enjoyment.
“It allows the kids to try to test the track and have fun without committing to racing with the big guys,” said Bidner. “It can be kind of intimidating and we wanted to have a race that was open to everybody.”
Riders ranged from 10 to 39-years-old.
Any rider under the age of 18 had to have a parent sign a waiver of consent, while any rider under the age of 16 is considered to be a “grom” in the longboarding community.
“Groms don’t have the body weight, the muscle mass or the height to really compete,” said Chernushenko. “So while they race, none of them really did better than 50th place or anything, but we all gave them a form of prize because they showed up, they tried, they’re the future of the sport and we want to encourage them to do it.”
The opportunity to practice riding downhill is sparse given the generally flat Ottawa landscape available to local riders.
“Most longboarders you see are usually just people that commute on their boards,” said Chernushenko. “It’s easier to carry around than a bike and you can pick it up to get on a bus, or walk into a store or walk into class with it and you don’t have to worry about locking it up.”
The race on King Mountain has greatly contributed to establishing a place for the longboarding community in Ottawa.
“The main thing is that we’ve been really trying to get longboarding recognized in the city as an equal in terms of motor transportation,” said Bidner. “By having a legal race, it shows everyone that we’re willing to comply and that we’re not just rebel skateboarders without a cause.”