ARLINGTON – Longboarders and skateboarders from around the globe rolled into Arlington last weekend for the 6th Annual Centennial Sk8 Festival’s two days of races.
Haller Park served as the event hub featuring vendor booths, food, DJ music, lawn games, a Kombucha Garden, and longboarders hanging out, relaxing and priming their rides for the next race.
Angela Kuhn of Arlington, whose husband Chris and their four children organize the event and are regular riders on their home Centennial Trail, said this was the race weekend’s biggest turnout to date.
“This year was mostly West Coast racers; they’ve been supporting the growth of the sport, and we had lots of sponsors at the event, too,” Kuhn said, adding she was hoping for more local spectators to check out the six-year event.
The festival features an 8.5 mile uphill/downhill sunset race, a 5k sprint race and a 14.5 mile countryside race. Racers compete for a $1,500 prize purse, gear giveaways and podium awards.
Kuhn said they want to grow the sport among young people, which is why they offer a free one-mile kids race that draws its share of first-timers.
Surprisingly, though, it’s the “50-plus geezer group out in force” where longboarding is making the most inroads.
People like Brian Sterling, 54, a longboarder from Palo Alto, Calif., and former competitive cyclist who placed fourth overall. He placed first in all three races in the Men’s 50+ age division, finishing with a time of 33:13.26 in the 8.5-mile race, and crossing the line with times of 10:22.53 and 58:45.62 in the 5K sprint and 14.5-miles races.
Sterling said he looks forward to coming up to the Sk8 Fest each year.
“The camaraderie is amazing – the skate family is very encouraging and accepting of new riders,” he said.
Sterling called this year’s competition intense, while also positive and encouraging.
“More than once, I was barely hanging on to a group of fast, young riders,” he said. “They would shout encouragement to me.”
Among other noteworthy older ambassadors were James Peters, 50, of Seattle, “The Godfather of LDP (long distance push)” runs, and the weekend’s senior-most participant, 65-year-old Stephen Fernald from West Seattle.
The weekend’s top finishers featured Colby Cummings of Portland, Ore., who led all men in his three races to end in first overall, setting a course record in the 5k sprint Sunday with a time of 10:10.24.
Among the women, Hope Jackson of Issaquah won her three races, but didn’t better the record course times she holds in the three races. She finished Saturday night with a time of 46:29.91 in the 8.5-mile race, and 13:10.14 and 1:18:49.95 in the 5k sprint and the 14.5-mile races.
The races got a safety boost this year from members of the electric skateboard community. The skaters rode ahead of the packs to alert trail users that the racers were approaching.
“The event raises awareness on how fortunate we are to have this gorgeous, well-maintained Centennial Trail, and just helping people realize how close we are to an active life with trails, the river and sports like bicyling and longboarding,” Kuhn said. “Whether it’s longboarding or something else, find your sport.”