If Ernest Hemingway were alive today, we believe he would rethink his list of the three sports worth doing. He’d definitely keep mountaineering on there, but he would most likely drop bull fighting for downhill longboarding. Leaning into speeds of up to 120km/h while maintaining control takes both skill and excellent gear. Innate caught up with Lee Cation, one of the early proponents of longboarding, to learn about where the sport is going, the importance of design to longboarders and the soul behind his motivation.
Innate: Tell us about the path that lead you to downhill longboarding around the world, plus participating in organizing and judging events.
Lee Cation: Back in 2005, I was new to Vancouver and just trying to find my way to and from work. My roommate had an old longboard, so I started pushing to work every day. With time, I realized that if I got up enough speed on the downhills, I didn’t have to push so much. As I improved my riding, I realized I was in need of a better board. I went in search of what was locally available and became connected to some of the local companies who lead the world in longboard design. From there, I saw so many opportunities to get on board with this growing and emerging sport. I started by working part-time at a local longboard production company and produced my first legitimate downhill event, the Britannia Classic, in 2007. In 2010, I expanded my event portfolio by starting the Whistler Longboard Festival, which just completed its fourth year as a World Cup Downhill race. In 2012, in partnership with a group of the top athletes and event organizers around the world, we created a new body to govern downhill skateboard racing world-wide, the International Downhill Federation. I’m currently involved as the Events Director, which gives me the opportunity to travel to events around the world and assist with timing and scoring. Next up are Colorado and California this fall, followed by South Africa in the winter.
Innate: Can you give us two examples where key advancements in gear design have helped downhill skateboarders push the envelope?
Lee Cation: The first example of innovation in our sport that really changed the game would be 3D skateboard molding techniques, the second would be precision trucks and wheels and the third would be advances in urethane. The foot pockets created by the molding techniques are big improvements in helping with grip and control. All of these advances allow us to go faster and down steeper roads with more control.
Innate: You recently became a viral sensation when you and a policeman were shown in an exchange of views on downhill skateboarding. Tell us what happened and what your thoughts are on downhill skateboarding in urban areas.
Lee Cation: A group of advanced riders and I were cruising down our most popular run on the North Shore. The police officer approached us on his way up the hill by pulling into our lane. His actions resulted in all of the riders employing emergency shut-down and heavy braking techniques. Luckily everyone escaped with only minor injuries; however, the entire situation could have been handled a lot better. At the end of the day, we prefer mountain roads in non-urban settings, but those are not as accessible or plentiful. What the general public may not understand from viewing that video is that we scout all locations before riding, ensure that spotters are at corners to prevent accidents and employ proper braking techniques that have us stopping at the same speed as a cyclist would.
Here’s an example of braking.
My goal is to partner with forward-thinking municipalities and resorts to create permanent, safe downhill skateboarding facilities, similar to what we’ve just seen built in the city of Kamloops. The closed-road events that I will continue to produce are another means of ensuring riders have a safe location to enjoy the sport.
Innate: Please tell us a bit about the soul of downhilling and what keeps you motivated.
Lee Cation: I’m motivated by the thrill and the exercise first and foremost. I love spending time outdoors and in the mountains. The friends I have made and the travel opportunities this sport has provided me have really filled my bucket over the years. It’s super inspiring to be a part of a scene that’s so progressive and trying to push the envelope.