Avid snowboarders getting hooked on mountainboarding
Associated Press, Longmont Times-Call
Vail CO, Colorado
BOULDER, Colo. ” The first time Boulder native Mitch Stegall saw a mountainboard, an all-terrain board that’s basically a cross between a snowboard and a skateboard, it changed his life forever.
Stegall belonged to the first group of snowboard instructors ever certified in Colorado and he’d taught his friend Patrick Thomas to snowboard. One day in 1994, Thomas came over with his early model mountainboard to return the favor.
“He threw it down in the front yard and said, ‘This is your future,'” Stegall said.
And it was.
Stegall raced in the sport for years and organizes the annual U.S. Open Mountainboarding Championships, now in its sixth year, where the best U.S. and international racers in the sport gather in Snowmass Village.
It’s easy to understand what got him hooked ” now he could rip downhill year-round.
“The carving aspect of the turns was the closest to snowboarding I had felt,” Stegall said. “It was something really unique. I felt like I was snowboarding, but it was June.”
Whether they’re seeking long, gentle hills on pavement and grass-covered parks, or steep, rocky downhill courses, backwoods trails and dedicated dirt terrain parks, riders at every skill level can venture around town or head into the mountains. Instructional camps for kids have cropped up, such as Gold Hill’s Colorado Mountain Ranch, which will open for boarding in June. Snowmass, Copper Mountain, Winter Park, Vail, Keystone and other ski resorts now welcome mountainboarders as the sport gains in popularity.
Mountainboarding has come a long way since 1992, when Jason Lee and Patrick McConnell started MBS Mountainboards, and the design of the boards has evolved along with the competitions and skills of the elite riders. Beginning humbly as heavy, steel-framed mammoths weighing up to 40 pounds, the boards produced by MBS, a Colorado Springs-based manufacturer and the largest mountainboarding company in the United States, have shaved more than half of their weight and toughened up.
Elite riders today compete in X Games-style events such as downhill, boardercross (where four racers careen simultaneously down a twisted, rolling track) and freestyle big-air competitions. The big cats bust tricks that would make Evel Knievel envious, pulling inverted airs with multiple spins, rodeo flips and 720s, and soaring “over 20 foot gaps, 20 feet in the air at 25 miles per hour,” Stegall said.
All Boards Sports in Boulder carries mountainboards and their kin: kite boards and carve boards.
“If it’s a board and it’s a sport, we’ve got it,” owner Bola Ibidunni said.
Wind-propelled kite boards offer a way to board on flat ground. Regardless of which type of board you want to start with, beginners need to get styled out with a board and pads. All mountainboards come complete with a deck, wheels, trucks, bearings, suspension and bindings. Rear brakes and heel straps are optional.
Elite mountainboarders Justin Dersham of Denver and Evan Carlson of Boulder promote the sport with an enthusiasm amplified by real passion derived from years of riding. Along with their friend Michael Herbener, they founded One 5 Media, a production company dedicated to mountainboarding that aims to put out the first full-length HD movie about the sport.
They strive to make mountainboarding a household word. Dersham sees it as a liberated form of boarding that allows people to ride terrain they never imagined was accessible.
“That in itself is the spirit of the sport, the idea that every single time you go out it can be a different experience,” Dersham said. “It gives you that freedom, and your eyes are opened to new things suddenly. … You’ll be driving your car and you’ll be looking over saying, ‘Let’s ride that’ or ‘Let’s ride that.’ Everything around you suddenly becomes something you can ride.”
Both Dersham and Carlson advocate wearing pads and helmets and want to dispel the misconception of mountainboarding as something only for those with a screw loose.
“Death-defying; waiting for a crash; this is kind of a joke, but eating your scabs and listening to Slayer music: That’s kind of how a lot of people perceive what we do,” Dersham said. “That in itself holds people back from doing it, when, in all reality, we have one of the most safe action sports that there is.”
Mountainboarding is easier for those who have skateboarded or snowboarded, but anyone with a sense of adventure and a good set of pads can pick it up, Dersham said.
“Initially, I had a tough time getting the idea of having wheels underneath me, but it felt instantly like a snowboard in the way that it turned and the way that it felt in the air,” said Carlson, who’s also an avid snowboarder.
They encourage people to get involved or to get answers to their questions about the sport through online communities such as BoardGen.com, which Carlson created.
At the Bolder Boulder race on May 26, Dersham and Carlson will give free demos of mountainboards to the public.
On Sept. 6 and Sept. 7, One 5 Media and MBS Mountainboards will host the first International Freestyle Invitational in Colorado Springs at MBS’s Backyard Park, a tailor-made site for mountainboarding.
“It’s a course that is perfect for mountainboards. All the transitions are really nice, and it shows the world mountainboarding for what it really is,” Carlson said.
The U.S. Open Mountainboarding Championships, a weekend of races and events, takes place from July 24 to July 26 and features dirt boardercross, freestyle big air and downhill competitions. Beginning to experienced riders can attend a mountainboarding camp for all ages with instruction, varied terrain and equipment provided.
Stegall, the event’s organizer and longtime mountainboarder, nicely summed up what the sport is about for him: “The stoke, the adrenaline, the rush, the first time you carve on dirt, or just going out and having the best weekend of your life in Moab and sharing that experience with your friends.”
On the Net:
U.S. Open Mountainboarding Championships: http://www.usopenmountainboarding.com
MBS Mountainboards: http://www.mbs.com/
All Boards Sports: http://www.allboardssports.com/
One 5 Media: http://www.onefivemedia.com/
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