Saturday, December 9, 2017

Adrenalina!

"Have these guys figured out that, when you and your fellow competitors have given it all you've got and the finish line nears, it feels better to celebrate the effort than to digitize the outcome?"
One of the coolest things, for my money, about belonging to a club centered around a particular activity -- say, cross country skiing -- is discovering that fellow club members have other sides to their lives that I don't know anything about.  Take Ian Whyte, for example.  You've seen him on the ski trails and at the races, Ian with the flowing silver mane.  But I bet you didn't know that, in a parallel universe, he's actually a distance skateboard racer.  I didn't even know there was such a thing, but there is, and he's damn good at it: first in his age group in the International Distance Skateboarding Association rankings last year, fourth this year but aiming for first again next year with some improvements in equipment and technique.  Finding out about this is so much fun!

Turns out the biggest distance skateboarding race of the year is called Adrenalina, held in San Diego. Ian was there racing and sends us this awesome report: a peek at a piece of the world of sports that we're probably not familiar with, a chance to broaden our view and taste something new.  Thanks, Ian, for the report!

Adrenalina, the First Time
Ian Whyte
swellandsnow@gmail.com

Photo: Kevin Kennedy


Adrenalina. The last couple of years, my friend Smooth Phil starts asking me if I’m going to do it almost as soon as the season’s last Pacific Northwest Long Distance Push (LDP) skateboarding race is over. What’s an Adrenalina? This year, I’m going to find out.

One thing I do know is that Adrenalina is a marathon, which means that if I’m going to do it I’ve got to figure out how to do this pumping thing that has enabled Sandbagger James to thrash me all season. So I call the guy from the board company-which-will-remain-nameless and ask him if the company can get behind getting me set up with a hybrid push-pump board in time for me to train on it a couple weeks before riding it at Adrenalina. He checks with the board-maker and they say right-on; yet, somehowever, my departure for San Diego comes and I go without said board ever materializing. Fortunately for me, Pablo, the organizer of Adrenalina, turns out to be both the owner of Adrenalina Skate Shop in La Jolla and one of the warmest, friendliest, most accommodating and empathetic dudes ever. On Thursday before the Saturday race, he sets me up with a board and bushings that will work with the trucks I bought for the board that never arrived from the unnamed company. After a poke (the Hawaiian tuna and avocado poke, I mean) from the restaurant down La Jolla Boulevard, I am on my way to Fiesta Island, home of Adrenalina, the Skateboard Marathon.

The Marathon is six laps around the island. I push off on my new board and it’s cool, and it pumps, but, man, I’m so much higher off the ground than I’m used to being. I cruise a couple of laid-back laps, but I wonder about the effect on my back of the added height during higher-speed pushing over six laps.

(Here I pay homage to my 11-year old rider son, who is not here because he will keep goal for his soccer team back in Seattle later the next day, and share with you, likely against your will, that my fear, with respect to the additional height of the new deck, is that the other shoe might drop. Drop. Get it? Sorry. And, actually, I was making Dad jokes long before I became a Dad.)

Friday, I roll back out to the shop. It’s packed today, riders from all over the world are rolling in to pick up their race stuff. Somehow, Pablo and his colleagues Henry and Ben find a way to get me on a deck that will get me a little lower, a Gravity deck with cool wave graphics. Not that the graphics matter a little. They matter a lot!

Angela is in the parking lot when I get to the island. Angela is a saint, married to an angel. Okay, they’re human, she and Chris, but the races they put on every year in Arlington, Washington, are heavenly. Actually, every LDP race I’ve ever ridden is like that in its own way, and for each race you can draw a direct line from the organizer’s soul to the heavenliness of the race. Kelly McGuirk and Conan Gay (Oregon’s Push in the Woods and Bend Beatdown, respectively), I’m talking about you! Angela and I push and pump a lap around the course. The board abides!

Meanwhile, SP,  SJ, and the rest of the PacNW team (the ‘squatches) are rolling in. They are too funny, usually. But sometimes they’re just right. Okay, most of the time. Collectively, we drive waiters crazy, especially crusty old controlling Cro-Magnon cuisine-slingers in Little Italy on Friday night.

I pin my number on my race shirt and watch “The Accountant” on the Best Western cable feed, allowing the omnipotence of Ben Affleck’s character to permeate my soul and fill me with delusions of skateboard marathon grandeur, until I see my board out of the corner of my eye and remember that, its profound copaseticity notwithstanding, I still haven’t really figured out the pumping thing.

RaceDay. My eyes and nose trip over each other coming to terms with the fact that there is a legit java purveyor, Café Moto, blessing us with coffee forty feet from the start line. I am overcome with gratitude. I’m not kidding. It’s one such Adrenalina moment among many.

Pablo counts down from fifteen, and we’re off. I push and push and push and push and pump and push and push and push and pump and push. A lot of pushing, really. SJ catches up with me on Lap 2, and we leapfrog and draft and so on through the middle of Lap 4, when I am overcome with balance issues. I never go down really hard, but I come off my board like five times on the lap. By the end of it, I’ve lost contact with SJ and the wolfpack of four or five with whom he’s rolling. I think I’ll make it back, but, really, when you lose contact like that, unless wolves within the pack totally lose it, it’s over.
Photo: Lance Curry
I keep pushing on and pumping too, though, and I do catch a few people in the last two laps, and enjoy a pitched game of leapfrogging and drafting with a bushy red-bearded thirty-something who later turns out to be a teenager.  At some point the lead pack passes me, and I amp up my cadence to lose ground less slowly to them as they fly by than I would have had I not begun to amp. Soon they will pass under the big red glorious International Distance Skating Association banner that arches over the finish line, the four of them, holding hands, confounding traditional concepts of competition, something they have done in several races recently. It’s revolutionary, really, when you think about it. The competition thing comes from caveman days, when losing meant death, hunger, like that. Have these guys figured out that, when you and your fellow competitors have given it all you’ve got and the finish line nears, it feels better to celebrate the effort than to digitize the outcome?

Photo: Mike Frank
Apres-LDP racing is festive. For me, it’s euphoric, even, independent of how I stack up against the competition that day. Endorphin levels are high, but it’s more than that; something about what a unique place in the endurance sport landscape we’re carving out for ourselves.

Apres-Adrenalina: Massage therapists from San Diego Sports Medicine, burritos, Gatorade, all kinds of skateboard industry tents (including Gravity Skateboards, who made the deck I rode and many more). Then Pablo takes the sandy stage. For three hours he has implored the faltering and the charging as they crossed the line to begin another lap, yet he seems to have saved the highest gear of his infectious enthusiasm for last, celebrating the speediest of the day up to the podium: Schwag time.

SP and SJ organize a PNW ‘squatches photo shoot. We are proud. We are friendly. We are awesome. We are purple. We are funny. We are family.

Photo: Brad T. Miller
A couple hours later, I’m sitting on the beach, scarfing Ceviche before I head to the airport. I love Ceviche. Any trip that ends with Ceviche becomes a good trip. This one becomes a great trip, one of the greatest 60-hour push-in pump-outs ever. My eyes slip from the Pacific horizon to Alyssa-from-Chicago, LDP royalty, engulfing herself in the crashing waves with her friend. Next time I’ll bring the longboard that gets wet, stay longer; that will be a different Adrenalina. This one, this one is number one.


2 comments:

  1. Hi Ian,
    Until reading your post, I'd never even heard of this sport, and here I've been all these years thinking I knew about endurance sports! You bring long-distance boarding to life with humored and humble detail. I loved your piece; please write more when you can. David Evans

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    1. Thanks, David! I would likely never have known about the sport myself if I hadn't determined a couple years ago that one of those longboard things was something every eight-year old and his Dad should have. When I realized how much fun, how relatively free of joint-pounding, and how accessible (Seattle's got a pretty good number of miles of no-vehicle traffic trails) LDP is, I was hooked. With respect to those first two, it's really a lot like Nordic skiing. I have to say though, if Cabin Creek were as close as the Interurban, I'd happily ski as much as I ride.

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