A few weeks ago, Max Ballesteros told me he had been invited to China to race in the Yuping Cup and I decided I wanted to tag along. The next morning, when I arrived at work, I walked straight up to Les and asked if he would also give me the following week off so I could go. Being the legend that he is, he was more than happy to lose his two best staff members (sorry Jack) for a whole week so we could go race skateboards down a Chinese mountain.
Since I booked my plane tickets at the last minute (with quite stressful last-minute visa issues), I wasn’t travelling with Max. However, for some reason, my flight was landing before Max’s. When I arrived there, I grabbed my 20kg board-bag and started the 1.5km walk to Max’s terminal. Once Max landed, we got in different cars with these people we didn’t know and started the two-hour drive to the hotel. When we got to the hotel, we met up with the other three internationals: Cameron Hancock and Davis Lanham, also from Australia, as well as Billy Bones from Oregon USA (who later made me eat a rooster testicle).
Our hotel room was something different! The beds felt like they were made from plywood, the walls were rotting, and the toilet was in the corner half a metre away from the shower head, but I was having too much fun to care.
The next morning, we woke up and headed to the hill. We were greeted at the hill by a swarm of Chinese people taking photos and filming everything we did (which made it hard to change to your leathers!).
The entire mountain was literally inside a cloud so even though there wasn’t a whole lot of rain, it was wet, cold and very foggy. We couldn’t wait to drop in for the first run! Seeing as I had very little experience with rain skating I was quite nervous but dropped in behind the other four international boys and followed them the whole way down. After the first run, I was feeling much more confident, which was good because we only had one more practise before the timed qualifying runs. We had two qualifying runs and I managed to crash in both, so my times were not great… I was still keen for racing though.
My set up, being as perfect as it is, almost stayed the same. My Landyachtz Osteon with 124mm Ronin Katanas as usual but because of the crappy weather I didn’t need any of the fresh Cuei Killers that Les hooked up but instead used a set of Biggie Hawgs with homemade poorly cut grooves in them.
Between each run we would all go into the building at the top of the hill and crowd around a stove we set up on the floor of the bar to try and stay warm while we waited for our heats. That night Billy had the great idea to walk into town to buy space heaters, which meant we had some hope of putting on dry leathers the next day. On race day we managed to overload the power point with our heaters and caused a blackout on top of the hill!
First day of racing:
My first heat was only me and Max, so we took a chill run together because we automatically went through to the quarter finals. In the quarters, I ended up kicking out in front and holding the lead the whole way to the finish line and securing my spot in the semi-final while Max unfortunately crashed out behind me and didn’t make it through.
They weren’t going to run the semi final and final heats until the next day, so we all walked down to hangout on the first corner to cheer on the Chinese homies competing for the National Title. The downhill scene in China is still quite new so the level of racing between them wasn’t quite as hectic as you would find in Australia. But to see them all throwing themselves down the wet mountain with little visibility was sick! Between heats, we had one of the Chinese volunteers start filming us while playing music so we all just danced awkwardly while she filmed with a straight face.
Final day of racing:
We made our way to the hill, took a few warm up laps and then it was time to race. My Biggie Hawgs were okay but Davis was kind enough to lend me his spare set of rain wheels. They were some 76a Venom Cannibals with more grooves than contact patch. The difference in grip and control was amazing.
I had no idea what was going to happen and the pre-race nerves were killing me. In the semi-finals, I pushed out into second place behind Billy Bones and had Cameron somewhere behind us. Around the first little turn, I somehow lost traction and fell onto my hand and managed to recover and get back into Billy’s draft and put some distance between me and Cameron. I tucked close with Billy the whole way down the straight and tried to mimic his drift for the first big corner but slid into the back of him and took him out. I felt terrible, tried to kick in, but my body decided to stop working and I finished last.
Thankfully, Billy caught up and made it through to the finals, but I unfortunately was eliminated. Being eliminated, I still had the consolation final to try my luck in. This time I powered past everyone on the push and tucked the whole way to the first drift. I managed to build a solid lead and then kooked it and crashed, allowing one of the Chinese dudes to catch up. I got up and started pushing only to blow the final hairpin, lose all my speed and let the Chinese homie sneak around the outside and bump me into an overall 6th place.
As soon as I finished my race, I started running up the hill to watch other boys cross the line. I saw Davis come around the last corner followed by Billy and Cameron with Beast (one of China’s best skaters) not far behind. I was bummed I didn’t make it to the finals but seeing 3 homies fill the podium will make anyone stoked.
The next morning, we left the hotel and headed to a freestyle jam closer to the city. They had a big section of this tiled surface roped off right in the middle of a busy park for the competition. My board was packed away under the bus, but a Chinese dude let me borrow his Rayne Exorcist to enter the hippy jump competition in which I ended up coming 3rd!
The Chinese longboarding scene is growing and I’m super keen to see where it ends up. The event organisers were absolute legends and asked us five internationals to provide feedback. They also took some of us to go look at other potential hills they would like to race. Hopefully, we will see more Chinese events pop up and join the IDF circuit in future years and I’m excited to see the scene there grow further.