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    Categories: Lifestyle

Locals eager for longboard competition

You see kids of all ages doing it around town; gliding on and pushing a skateboard on streets and sidewalks to school, the convenience store or the park. Skateboarding is an increasingly popular pastime in St. Albert, particularly among teenage boys who use the board as a means of transport – usually as an alternative to cycling – or to socialize with fellow boarders.

The spike in popularity of skateboarding hasn’t gone unnoticed in the non-boarding community. For the first time, the City of St. Albert is hosting a longboard (a longer than average skateboard) competition this Canada Day weekend, offering cash and product prizes and a chance to gain race experience for skateboard enthusiasts at all levels, beginner to expert.

For advanced skateboarder T.J. Pennington, who has been boarding for about three years, the St. Albert race is one of a few he’s registered for – there are upcoming races in Calgary and B.C. – but the 15-year-old Lacombe Park resident is glad to be part of the inaugural race at home.

“I’ll race anywhere I can. This one at home will give exposure to longboarding, and, for me, it’s a good place to meet other riders. Plus there’s the adrenalin,” laughed Pennington, who calls skateboarding a way of life, using it along the city’s bike trails, residential streets or as a quick way to get a Slurpee.

Outfitted with longboard, helmet and gloves, Pennington will join other boarders (up to 21 years old) in a four-kilometre push race winding the paved trails and streets of the city and a downhill race along Woodlands Road.

Ben Huising, community resource co-ordinator with the city, said it’s the young people, through school recreational and mentoring programs, that are the impetus for this first longboard race. He said kids often get a sense of community and belonging through a common interest like skateboarding.

“It’s a fun event more than a competition,” said Huising. “We want kids to see that even if they’re not great at it, just beginners, there’s a place for them in this event.”

Huising estimates at least 25 locals are signed up in junior (6-9 years), beginner, intermediate or advanced races, but expects a number of walk-ups on race day, too. While novices may be shy or intimidated to compete, Huising says this first longboard competition should convince boarders of every level to sign up for future events.

John Chrzanowski signed up in the advanced category for Sunday’s race as soon as he heard about it. The 14-year-old Vincent J. Maloney student is primarily into snowboarding, so he finds the longer, wider longboard a natural fit during warm weather months. Hanging out and boarding with friends or riding to school is the main function, but Chrzanowski likes a chance to compete, too.

“I’d like to win, but I’m a casual longboarder, just average,” he said. “I hope there’s a good turnout.”

Boarders can register until race time, and riders need only come with board, helmet and gloves, and a registration fee. The event finishes at Festival Village, where racers can then join in with the other Canada Day festivities.

Lucy Haines: Lucy Haines has been a freelancer writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2012. She writes features on travel, food, seniors, homes and gardens.