Longboarders will take the hills above Britannia Beach this weekend to compete once again in the 9th annual Britannia Classic.
The event has attracted boarders from all over the world who come to the area to road-race their longboards.
Lee Cation, the event’s organizer, is not sure they would even get a permit now if they were trying to start the event from scratch. “I really doubt a permit like this would be approved nowadays,” he said.
The race takes place at Britannia Beach out of the way of traffic on a road above the community.
“We were lucky to get in when development was quiet,” he said.
Cation also organizes a race in Whistler and one in Sun Peaks. He says longboarding has too few places to compete. Kamloops area has built a specific park for the sport but is the exception. Longboarding has faced an uphill battle in terms of gaining public support because of perceptions that it is dangerous, so it’s hard to find roads on which to race.
Cation says housing crashes in parts of the U.S. after the economy faltered in 2008 have left planned subdivisions with roads behind where longboarders can race, but until more specific parks are built for the sport, they’re limited to places like Britannia Beach that will host them. “It’s one of the original downhill events,” he said.
Ski resorts should follow Sun Peaks’s lead and get behind longboarding as a way to expand their use year-round, he suggested.
“We feel like there’s a spot for us,” he said. “This activity has got some steam. We pull people from all over the world.”
While longboarding is still a relatively new sport, it has taken root all over the world over the past decade.
“We’ve got some benefits to offer in terms of recreation – and a free spectacle,” he said.
The Britannia event has attracted top longboarders from countries like Sweden, Brazil, South Africa and Puerto Rico. Plenty come from throughout Canada and the U.S. as well.
“We’ve had some pretty awesome people come from far away,” Cation said.
At the same time, it has seen some top talent from right next door, such as former world junior champ Alex Charleson, who won the junior class last year and almost took the open competition, finishing second behind Kevin Reimer.
He started seriously in Grade 8, eventually attracting sponsorship that allows him to attend more events at greater distances such as some in Europe.
Now 18, the North Shore rider had moved out of the junior ranks and into the open class, and he is once again looking forward to heading out onto the course close to home.
“Britannia’s a great event,” he said. “The road is very smooth. There’s no imperfections…. It’s a perfect course for trying out.”
The Britannia Classic runs this weekend, from Friday to Sunday. The first two days are loose, “free ride” days for longboarders to get ready, often taking the opportunity to ride with friends before the showdown on Sunday, when the riders compete in heats in the open, women’s, junior and 30-plus categories.
A learn-to-race camp will also be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Friday and Saturday in the morning.
Charleson encourages people to check out the event throughout the weekend, especially race day this Sunday.
“It’s a pretty fun spectator sport,” he said.
For info see www.britanniaclassic.com.