words by Tommy Watson
A few weeks ago, I headed out to a remote island off the coast of Vancouver to take part in the annual Salt Spring Slasher death race. This is one of the fastest courses on the BC circuit. What makes it interesting is that the fastest section of this course is also the most technical. When riders reach their top speeds (in the 80-90kph range), a left kink to right hairpin comes in to the mix. This carnage corner sees a lot of action as it’s also the last real place to make moves. I love courses like this one. Steep, fast, close to 90* corners and some good straight sections to draft and pass or pull away on people.
The format of this race was a little different this year. Organizers Alege Akolo and Max Kaye opted to have practice and race day on Saturday, allowing riders to party harder in celebration and not having to worry about ruining their stamina going in to the race. It worked out well, with tons of runs happening before racing actually kicked off on Saturday and even more runs coming in on Sunday. I definitely was not disappointed!
This year, Wes Sampson was out feeding the riders and volunteers with the bounty of the sea thanks to crafty skater cooks along side head chef and organizer Alege. It was a good thing that there were refreshments, because the course was hotter than it had been in past years with temperatures reaching 40* on race day. Heat like this is sort of in my favour as it’s just like home: TEXAS. Wheels stick less, and the temperatures really try a riders stamina.
Racing started and I was against Ben Dub from heat one… I knew it was going to be a hard day. He and I battled it out heat to heat and we both managed to make it to the final! So stoked on that. I’ve never seen two people from heat one march all the way to the finish, and it was great for Ben coming off his podium at Whistler! Congrats on that, Ben. As we got to finals, it was certain to be a close race. We had the likes of James Ware, Charlie Darragh, Aidan Lynds and Nick Jean all gunning for it. Charlie, Nick and I went up against Kevin in the finals the year before. These two guys have got great lines and make it hard to pass in the corners. James Ware is a beast in both corners and straights. Really techy and always a threat. Aidan destroys the corners, and I knew that if he was in the mix coming in to the last one he would have a big advantage with the little breaking he would have to do thanks to his light weight.
We got on the line and had a three hump start to launch us… It was pretty official (laughs), but not as official as Troy’s shotgun start the year prior. Anyway, as the third hump was thrust I launched off and got a good jump on the pack (say what you will). We came thru the first 90 and I held the lead on the exit… This is kind of a bummer because there’s a biiiiiiig straight before the next tech section. It’s the perfect place to draft the guy in front and make the move before shutting the door in the last right. With James Ware on my mind, I put my head down thru the left sweeper and held the tightest tuck I could, listening for bearings behind me. Coming in to the chicane I did a quick look back to see Charlie Darragh on my tail. He managed to beat me the year before when I blew it on some aggressive breaking trying to catch Kevin… With just a quick glance back I wasn’t able to see if Charlie was gaining on me with much speed, so I held tuck a little longer in to the left kink before my slide. It could have been bad! I ended up on three wheels before getting myself together to put four to the floor and grip up for the corner. Not the best way to go in to a corner! I was spooked. Charlie took an amazing line, but my fears went away as I was able to keep more exit speed and made it over in first!
SOOO much stoke!! This was my first gold Coast Longboarding medal, something that I’ve been after for a long time. It was a huge honor to get that and the slasher cup this year. Thanks to Skoa Trucks for taking some of my design suggestions for the Vapor and my other sponsors for giving me a setup that I couldn’t be more comfortable on: Rayne Longboards, Vicious Griptape, Rad Wheels and Zealous Bearings.