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Longboarders put on a show

Thousands turn out for inaugural Whistler Longboard Festival

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The first running of the Whistler Longboard Festival couldn't have gone better with roughly 3,000 spectators turning out to the Whistler Sliding Centre on Sunday to watch boarders race each other down the service road. The sun was out, there were no (serious) injuries, there was lots of passing and the final race of the day in the men's open had a crash and some controversy.

Event director and racer Lee Cation said it was a good start for the event.

"We had an amazing day, everything went off better than expected," he said. "The most positive sign is the response from Whistler - from the residents, from the Whistler Sliding Centre, Whistler Blackcomb, the resort municipality."

The course, which featured seven turns from top to bottom, plus a 300 metre vertical drop, also lived up to its reputation. There were crashes, as can be expected when groups of four and six longboarders race down a steep, curvy track, but nobody was injured beyond cuts and scrapes.

"The course was super challenging, and I'm confident to say that it's the most challenging and fun racetrack in North America. And I'm super-stoked that everybody made it out alive, so to speak, and that everything turned out fine."

Cation has big plans for the festival, and one day he plans to turn it into a multi-day, multi-venue event that shows off other roads in the Whistler area. In the short-term, he said he'd like to get some cameras on the course so spectators at the bottom know what's happening on the upper part of the track.

"It's a large playing field like alpine skiing so you can't catch all the action, you can't see the whole field, just a couple of curves," he said. "What it needs to pop is cameras on each corner. With live feed streaming, a beer garden, then we're cooking with fire. But it just doesn't happen in one year, it takes two years, three years."

Cation is also blown away by the growth of longboarding, but he's urging skaters not to poach roads. He's concerned that someone will be hurt or that stakeholders that allow events like the festival to happen will feel disrespected and shut down future events.

"We have to work with residents," said Cation. "They have to respect us and they have to be familiar with our activity. But it's growing so fast that it's very hard to control. It's growing like wildfire."

Cation also raced on Sunday, placing first in the men's master category for skaters over the age of 30. He was followed by Jim "JimZ" Zimlanski, Elskey Crozier, Wes "Hollywood" Sampson and Frank Cote.

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