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Curtain call for Whistler Longboard Festival after six years

Pross, Hanna top fields at final event



The Whistler Longboard Festival will not be returning to the resort.

"It's our last year in Whistler, unfortunately," said organizer Lee Cation. "We unfortunately ran out of steam in Whistler. Whistler's an expensive place to operate."

He explained most events are held on public roads, allowing race organizers to minimize costs, but with the private Whistler Sliding Centre site providing the best runs for racing, it just wasn't feasible to continue.

Part of the issue, Cation said, was nailing down a time of year. Last year's event took place in September, but competitors yearned for a return to a summertime, high-season slot.

"We're not scared of rain. We operate during all weather. We don't change for the rain, but the rain and the cold is tough," he said. "Most people in Whistler want us to be in shoulder season and they want us fill up the shoulders but it's tough because we're an outdoor sport.

"We're as resilient as it comes with events in weather, we really are, but September is tough. People go back to school, people go back to work and it starts to get cold."

Another issue is that, as a whole, World Cup racing seems to be on the decline, Cation said. Pointing to events like Crankworx where the pinnacle events are style competitions, Cation said longboarding isn't exempt from the shift away from racing.

"A lot of sports are moving towards elements and (are) not so much focused on speed and racing," he said.

Cation recently organized a freeride event at Sun Peaks, a venue he plans to work with further in coming years and he also hosts an annual event in Squamish.

At the final Whistler event itself, Sechelt's Dane Hanna was, almost literally, the last man standing in the open division while New Jersey's Emily Pross snagged the women's win for the second consecutive year.

Hanna credited his new board with helping to earn him the win, as it allowed him better grip. He'd also practiced plenty in advance of the race and was ready to go at one of his favourite courses.

Throughout Sunday's final day of racing, Hanna said the drizzle was off and on, but the course was dry as the fields narrowed down. In the final, however, the top section seemed to be clear and competitors used their wheels for dry riding. After the first corner, though, they all got a rude awakening.

"The first corner was dry and we came around the second corner and next thing you know, the road was soaked and we all had our race wheels on," said Hanna. "My back end slid out a little bit and I held it. I kept it back in. I was still in my tuck and I kept it back in.

"I looked behind and everyone crashed behind except for one guy."

Pross, meanwhile, found some differences on the road between last year and this year, but still earned the win. The ever-present rain in 2015 didn't bother her, but when she pre-rode on Canada Day, it was a slippery ride. She was grateful to get through competition day without any significant slickness.

"Last year was, believe it or not, pretty grippy in the wet. I guess because it was dry (this year), that helped me out a lot," she said.

Pross is proud of her accomplishments in the women's division, but she is working her way toward trying to dominate the open division as well. The stiff challenges presented by the style of riding in the open division are what drive Pross to work out seven days a week.

"You have to do a lot of thinking and planning beforehand. Were you going to make a pass? Depending on who you're racing against, if you know how they race, then you know how to calculate when to do your passes," she said. "But if you don't know the racer, then you're kind of SOL. You have to make the decision during the race."