The Whistler Longboard Festival (WLF) is looking to double down on fun when it returns for a fifth edition this weekend.
For the first time, the event is adding a freeride day this Friday (Sept. 18) in additon to its two days of Landyachtz World Cup competition on Sept. 19 and 20. All events will take place at the Whistler Sliding Centre on Blackcomb Mountain.
WLF founder Lee Cation said everyone is welcome to take part in the kick-off event.
"It's an open event and it's pretty much a non-race," he said. "We're traditionally hosting events around races, so the freeride is a nice way to encourage everyone to get involved.
"If you have intermediate downhill skills, you can participate at the sliding centre and roll with the world's best."
Cation explained the decision comes as the event looks to get back to the sport's grassroots. It's difficult to foster participation in longboarding since locations where beginners can safely gain their footing are in short supply. Any opportunity to get on a hill is welcomed.
"In our activity, we've had to evolve," he said. "We have a challenge in our activity, and our challenge is we have very few places to actually do the activity. Events tend to be very race-focused and that's the only time to have a safe environment.
"We're trying to provide more time for people to get involved with our sport and come up through the ranks. It's a way for us to get back to our inclusive roots."
Cation noted Sector 9 has footed the venue rental bill for the freeride. Registration is $100 and can be completed at www.whistlerlongboard.com. Leather suits and membership are both optional, though a full-face helmet, kneepads and gloves are mandatory.
Cation noted when competition kicks off there will be 120 of the top riders from around the world participating in junior, female, male, masters and street luge divisions. Competitors will be attending from as far away as Sweden, Australia, Brazil and New Zealand.
The festival is entering its third year as a stop on the International Downhill Federation's World Cup tour. The event is the sixth of eight on a circuit that has already taken competitors to Norway, the Czech Republic and three American states. The season will wrap in October in Colombia and Brazil.
"People come in to chase the World Cup points and just get exposed to a bigger audience," Cation said. "We hope that World Cup accreditation will bring even more profile to the event, and greater sponsorship and greater support from the region."
Events run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all three days and spectators are welcome. While there's no set admission fee, entrants will be encouraged to make a donation to the Whistler Skateboard Association.
"There will be local food vendors and a couple other little fun demos," Cation said.
"It's a real good chance for people to come check out some equipment if they're looking for equipment to test out."
As well, participants will have the opportunity to take their skills to the bowl at the Whistler Municipal Skatepark at 5 p.m. on Sept. 18 for the Flatspot BBQ Bowl Jam and Gullwing Death Race.