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Grenier grand at Whistler Longboard Festival

Pross, Charleson also take big wins on rainy weekend with attendance dip



They reigned in the rain.

Though the Whistler Longboard Festival crowned winners on all three days of competition from Sept. 18 to 20, everyone had some precipitation with which to contend. The race was the sixth stop of eight on the International Longboard Federation circuit.

Abbotsford's Troy Grenier won the 96-rider open division on Sunday, edging out Alex Hannigan and Brendan Davidson while New Jersey's Emily Pross emerged victorious on the eight-boarder women's side over Caitlin Yong and Marcela Giraldo. Pross also impressed in the open category, making the quarterfinals before narrowly bowing out.

North Vancouver's Alex Charleson won a pair of events over the weekend, taking the juniors category as well as the stand-up race. Nick Breton, meanwhile, rolled away with the masters title. Frank Williams won the street luge division while Api Ihaia captured the classic luge race.

Grenier, who took home $2,000 for the open race explained growing up with rainy conditions came in handy with a prize on the line on Sunday afternoon.

"It sets me up a little better than the international rider from southern countries where it's sunny all the time," Grenier said. "The start of the day (Sunday) was puddles. There was a torrential downpour. The whole top section, all the flat areas, there were puddles and people were actually falling off their boards going in a straight line. As the day progressed, the rain died down and people went through the puddles enough to disperse the water.

"By the finals, it was a clean, more easy surface."

With his competitors struggling at times, Grenier spoke and rode like a previous champion at this level, but that's not the case.

"It's almost like a dream. It's a pretty big win and it's my first big win," Grenier said. "It's really awesome right now."

Grenier, who recently moved to Vancouver, explained he secured a lead — and a cozy one at that — quite early into the race. He was surprised to establish himself so early, especially in a hard-nosed final.

"At the top of the hill, I got really nervous. Everybody at the top of the hill was lining up and we were pretty silent. We were all getting in our own heads," he said. "I pushed off in third, held my line in the first corner, ended up getting a double-draft around the first bend after the bridge. I got out in front, held it down and didn't look back.

"I looked for my line and after every corner, I was very satisfied with my line. I pulled away and kept my first-place position."

Charleson, meanwhile, has had a strong season with four wins now, but to perform so well in his home race was an invigorating feeling.

"It's pretty special considering this is my last year in junior," Charleson said, thanking his parents for helping get him to races in Europe this year, which is support he doesn't anticipate as he progresses to the open category next year.

Charleson felt he was well prepared for the slick conditions, as he has the proper set-up well-in-hand for when the rain is coming down.

"I found the best wheels for the conditions at hand," he said. "You just try to see what line on the course works best, try to get the fastest time that you can and compete your hardest. Try not to make any stupid decisions."

Event founder Lee Cation said attendance at the event was roughly half of what he's used to hosting, chalking up the difference to the later date in the season. The event is typically held in the summer months, not shoulder season.

"We had half the competitors we had last year," he said. "I can only attribute that to our September date.

"It's a youth-orientated event and we didn't get offered a summer date."

Cation said he'll approach the stakeholders, including Whistler Sport Legacies, to see if anything can be done about restoring a summer date in 2016.

"That's the plan. Otherwise, I don't see us continuing," he said.

Still, organizers made the most of the weekend even in the face of the lower attendance and less-than-ideal weather. Cation noted more Whistler locals volunteered to help out with the event as the community embraces the competition.

"We had a lot of smiling faces at the bottom of the hill and a lot of families came out to cheer on their sons and daughters," he said. "It was a really good experience."

Cation was also proud to offer 13 timed qualifying runs at the event, whereas other events typically only offer one to two.