Sunday, September 13, 2009

Getting Down and Dirty in Empire

Boom-da-da boom boom! The loud speakers blare hip-hop, rap music to the crowd. The rhythmic beat gets the heart pounding; hips’ swaying as each dirt boarder gets ready to race. Off each one jumps, down, down, up and over, twisting, and turning in the air.

It's a good crowd in Empire for the 2009 Altitude Cup Mountain Board Challenge. This new Board Park is the biggest in the country and an up and coming new sport to match. Standing on the edge of a deep gully, looking down onto a vast vista of dirt mounds, raised lifts, steep dirt ramps, and cones lining an obstacle course, this huge dirt area stretches out football fields in length.

Jason Lee, (or J Lee) is The Godfather of Dirt," a title given him by his peers. "I was always athletic," Lee says with a slight smile. A skier since he was three years old, summers honed his skills as an avid skate boarder and as a Pikes Peak VMX Bike Racer. Later on it was snowboards. The snow season was short and Lee had an idea. "Imagine being able to ride everywhere, anytime, you don't need tarmac, you don't need snow, all you need is the passion of riding."
Credited for producing the first mountain board in 1992, using four fat tires, an independent suspension, and click-in bindings, and co-founding the Colorado Springs, Mountain Board Sports a year later. "With the boards," Lee explains, "you can ride anywhere you want...the whole planet is really open." It is the variety of terrain that makes Mountain Boarding so exciting. So grab you board and hit a trail, BMX course, or just down a beautiful mountain grass hill.
Competition is the name of the game and this sport is International. Lee is a seven time World Champion Record Holder in Pro Boarder Cross events. Another record for Lee was Ripley's Believe It or Not, where he successfully jumped and did a back flip 29' over a pit full of alligators.
Both David Kennedy (or Gonzo) and Phil Sheader (or Yeti) of Altitude Sickness Boards in Empire and a sponsor of the event, stressed the importance of padded rubber body armor and helmets. The equipment is easy to understand. The deck is the base for the rider to stand on. Trucks are the springs and axles attaching the wheels to the deck. Various types of bindings hold the rider on the board. Wheels have pneumatic 8-13 inch tires. It becomes more complication with decisions on how much air goes into the tires for speed, what type of binding to use, steering, brakes... the list continues.
Dust clouds erupt when wheels hit the dirt, and the event continues. Friday: a day of teaching techniques for beginners and for the more advanced. Saturday: the four-person head-to-head racing BoarderX and the Dirt Slalom through gates. For the first time ever the dirt slalom was held as a timed event. Sunday: The Big Air Freestyle, tricks and flip time. From riding rails and over mounds, to a steeper downhill run again over mounds with tricks. The most exciting was the very steep dirt hill for experts doing snowboard type giant flips and tricks.
Empire has paired with the future of the dirt boarder and this huge Mountain Board Park. Starting with skis and surfboard to skateboard and mountain bike then the snowboard and now, the newest adrenalin rush - the dirtboard.