LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN — According to these guys — and no one knows more about speed on a skateboard than they do — there's a hill in Colorado with the distinction of being the fastest skateboarding street in the world.
Although it isn't impossible to sleuth out, they're hesitant to say exactly where it is. They even prefer not to mention the town it's in.
That's because skateboarding on a road is illegal in Colorado, albeit a misdemeanor of the jaywalking variety, punishable with a $22 fine. But for the throng of more than 100 gritty gravity-fueled street surfers who gathered last weekend for the second annual Buffalo Bill Downhill Race on Lookout Mountain, that kind of money can add up quickly.
It's one of the reasons the enthusiastic crowd of longboard racers is so stoked about the fledgling Buffalo Bill event. For two days out of the year, a steep, twisted mile and a half of South Lookout Mountain Road is closed to car traffic and opened to skaters donning leather speed suits, body armor and full-face helmets for head-to-head competition in one of only three legal skateboard races in the nation.
It's a far cry from the tradition of "outlaw" racing the clan is accustomed to, with the benefit of hay-bale safety barriers and U-Haul shuttle rides providing skaters some 50 laps on the polished pavement overlooking both the Coors Brewery and the Continental Divide.
And the showcase of the state's seemingly endless assortment of steep mountain streets has captured the attention of longboarders throughout North America.
"I'm a racer myself, and I felt like there was good demand for a race like this in Colorado," event organizer Justin DuBois said Sunday. "There are a lot of kids that want to race and don't have a place to go besides outlaw races, which are super dangerous and you can't really get away with it. The sport is growing. There are just more and more fast people out there. Every year the kids keep getting faster and faster and more capable of skating gnarlier roads, and the courses just have to advance with that."
Despite appearances to the contrary, the Buffalo Bill downhill course does not fall within the upper levels of the gnarly scale that can see skaters reach rolling speeds of about 75 mph on the aforementioned unmentionable street. Still, the Jefferson County race course is considered a gem for its total package of tuckable straightaways combined with half a dozen tangled turns demanding the utmost technical skill.
Adding to the adrenaline mix, racers share the two-lane street with three other leather-clad speed freaks, jockeying for slots through a combination of drafting and "drifting" that places riders precariously close to one another as they skid through hairpin turns at 40-plus mph.
Bear in mind, skateboards don't have brakes. So the experts-only sideways skid is about the only way to check speed going into a tight turn.
"I wore out some pants learning how to slide to a stop," said 54-year- old masters division champion Tad Drysdale of Kirkland, Wash.
After buying his first longboard more than 20 years ago, Drysdale didn't find the courage to ride it until age 47. Now he's a sponsored racer.
"Every time I get on that board, I feel like I'm 13 again," he said.
In its second incarnation, DuBois' downhill race saw a doubling in registration that reached its 96-rider cap nearly two weeks before the event. Skaters came from Vermont, Rhode Island, California, Washington and Vancouver, with dozens of freeriders tagging along to simply sample the goods.
The word is out on our downhill skateboarding scene, and devoted riders are eager to see it for themselves.
"This event puts Colorado on the map, absolutely," said 2009 champion Zak Maytum of Boulder. "Last year was our first year, and a lot of people didn't really give us a chance, but there were enough of us from Colorado who had been to the big events and knew a lot of the top riders that they trusted our word that this was an unbelievable course. The location is great and the hills around this area are great."
As the owner of a skateboard parts company, Venom Bushings, the 18- year-old Maytum has seen what he terms "exploding" growth of downhill racing on longboards firsthand. And thanks to the abundance of quality riding terrain, he said Coloradans are leading the charge.
"Colorado is on its way up really, really fast," Maytum said. "The hills that we practice on around here are so much more difficult and so much more advanced than what people in other scenes have that we just have to learn fast."
Maytum finished second to reigning International Gravity Sports Association (IGSA) world champion Kevin "K-Rimes" Reimer of Vancouver in a tight final race that Maytum led nearly the entire way Sunday. Bolstering the Colorado clout, Golden's Kyle Wester, 22, finished third.
Wester has skated since he got his first longboard in seventh grade, but he took up racing only two years ago. He's been addicted ever since.
"I just love longboarding," Wester said of his decision to pursue the sport's rootsy speed discipline over the more glamorous park and vert ramp events showcased in televised contests such as the X Games and Dew Tour. "Sliding, racing, hills — I just like going fast."
Reference: Scott Willoughby, Denver Post