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"Riders on." Race day at Danger Bay

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The weather gods shone down on the Attack of Danger Bay!  8:30 arrived with the pierce of a blow horn.  Though the forecast had called for rain, there was barely a trace of cloud and the sun was already hot.  Trial runs began and racers came down in varied groups, men, women and one child.  At fifteen, my son, Wolf was not the youngest;  nine-year-old, Quinn held that title.

Striker, a local longboarding icon flew down the course, into the well-baled corner and provided it with its first full-body dint smashed the first dint.  After that, he took over as MC for a while and introduced racers .  He seemed to know them all, all 192 of them, including 25 women and a few very youthful youth (under 17).  He added colour to his commentary, complaining to the crowd how the riders made it all look so easy, riding the pavement like butter, and why was it that he couldn't make the corner, when they seemed to be able to without effort.  We all had a few good laughs.  

One crash after another should have prepared me for Wolf’s first run of the day, yet it didn't.  Wolf, in his silver stickered full-face lid, red, black and white leathers  rounded the corner.  I recognized him instantly from the hours of footage he had shown me of his moves, his style.   He tucked down the course, took the corner, and then it took him.  He slid rith into the bales, and bounced off.  But before I could gasp, he was back on his board, pushing back up to speed and tucking down the track.  The warm-up was over. “Riders On.” the MC announced.  “Clear the course.”  People hustled to the side of the road and clamber over the bales to safety.  The heats began;  now every move counted.   The first set of heats was an incredible elimination round where only two of the six in each heat would progress to the next round, knocking out two thirds of the racers in one fell swoop.  I hoped Wolf would get at least two runs in.  He hoped for more.  I just wanted him to walk away at the end of the day unassisted.

To start, riders were allowed a single push in the elimination round.  If they pushed more then once, they were disqualified, except for Quinn, who was allowed unlimited pushes.  A radar gun along the track cloced racers meeting and exceeding 60km/hour. 

I had expected to be in full panic as Wolf’s heat approached, but I wasn’t.  Everyone had been able to walk or ride away after the dozen or more pile-ups that I had already witnessed.  Either Wolf would handle his corner, or he wouldn’t, it was up to him, and his focus and the hope that someone else wouldn't take him out.

“This is Rob at the Top, and I am clear!”“Riders on.”Heats number twenty-five was on the track. "The track is live."  Wolf rounded the corner in third position.  But then the rider ahead of him skidded into the bales.  Wolf took the line and move into second.  That’s my boy! 

The elimination round ended and A U-Haul cube van over-flowing with racers drove up the track to the start. The course was cleared and four man heats with unlimited push began.  At heat thirty-three, Wolf rounded our corner in third spot, took the line and moved into second, cleared carnage corner and left our sight. Things looked close, good, but very close. Ten minutes later he returned on foot.  He was taken in the final stretch.  He couldn’t catch up.  He was finished.  I hugged him—as much as he’d let me. 

Even though he didn’t make past the second heat, I was proud.  He seemed so confident and focused.  Now that I have seen a race for myself, without a YouTube interface, I am no longer as fearful of his physical safety.  This doesn't mean that I am completely comfortable with his racing, or with longboarding in general; I'm not.  He's on roads with cars.  He breaks the speed-limit all the time.  He is a teen playing in an adult focused sport.  But now that I have met some of the folks that are entrenched in this sport, my fears have lessened.  They are an interesting group.  There is more camaraderie than competition, even when they are racing.  It is really great to see.  I have heard them refer to themselves as family.  I think that they are right, as from what I have witnessed and experienced, they certainly have formed a close-knit clan.  A clan I don't mind my son being a part of.

When he was finished, we departed; the kids were tuckered beyond belief, and we had eaten all of our snacks.  It was time to go.  The following weekend we would spend a whopping twelve hours on the course at the Gold Rush Challenge.  I could hardly wait.