WORDS & Photos Jake Grove
The first weekend of every May hosts a unique and scenic skate event like no other: the Catalina Island Classic. Off the pacific coast of Southern California sits the small Island town of Avalon, with a mere population of 4,000 residents, a tight-knit community, and winding roads going every which way out of the valley town. This year the sixth annual Catalina Island Classic went down, and although it was one of the smallest to happen, it still made for tight racing, community lurking, and all around good times.
Although this is only my second time trekking out to Catalina shooting on behalf of Wheelbase, the island feels like a kind of second home; the vacation rental condos are full of skaters on every corner, a trip to the store means high-fiving countless familiar faces along the way, and the surrounding residents all share the welcoming island vibes. It’s in a way a “family vacation” for the downhill community to a local, yet hidden, paradise.
After driving up from San Diego to Wheelbase Headquarters in Long Beach early Friday morning, the ferries boarded to Avalon, where I found a few familiar faces, and a few new ones headed to the event. Friday began as practice runs, and shifted towards qualifying later in the afternoon, and as the day progressed so did the competitiveness. With no plans or hotel yet, I wandered along the hill with all my weekend’s gear strapped to my back, and began scoping out angles for the coming race day.
The community of riders on the island proved to be close, as mid-heat and lunchtime lurking commenced, and held a diverse range of skaters; all different ages, hometowns, styles, and sponsors. When skating wasn’t going down, it was either hacky sack, kendama, or the weekend-famous rubber shark being thrown around with laughter, high-fives, and shakas. Downhill skateboarding is at a really interesting point right now, but this event signified that no matter where the industry is at, skaters are still going to come together and make rad shit happen!
As race day morning arrived the roads proved slick and wet, but as the sun began to show racing was delayed until the patchiness was gone. With a now dry course, riders could go all-in and grip the tightest lines and closest passes with ease. The first half of the day transitioned from heated practice runs into even tighter race heats, and held a friendly competition and a need for speed.
After lunch and racers were refueled, the real heats began and went by quicker and quicker, as the top two advanced and bottom two riders of each heat were knocked out. That said, the top riders were hauling ass and had the right lines on their mind and under their feet, the perfect passes in place, and a perfected form and setup to match the style and demands of the course.
When it all came down to the last few heats, spectators were rooting for top riders like Max Capps, Zak Maytum, Jimmy Riha, Mauritz Armfelt, Micah Green, Bryce Brady, and Riley Irvine, and friendly bets began to form over who would take the champion.
The finals heat sped half way through the hill before the walkies at the bottom shouted “all four riders down”, and apparently a competition over the perfect line led to a full heat pile-up. With riders up and out as quick as possible, Max Capps pulled out in front of Zak Maytum and led the way to the win! It was a highly anticipated and emotional finish line result, and a well deserved win for Max..
With race day done and won, the event wasn’t quite over. Riders reunited Sunday morning for a patchy, slippery when wet, freeride day. Back to back shuttle runs, tight pack runs, and sketchy setup challenges sum up the day, and I’ll let the pictures conclude the weekend from here:
1st: Max Capps
2nd Zak Maytum
3rd Bryce Brady
1st: Emily Pross
2nd: Marie Wester
A very special thanks to the presenting event sponsors Sector 9 and Muirskate for making it happen once again, also a shoutout to Scott Lembach specifically for his role. This couldn’t have happened without the volunteers, corner marshals and local city members as well.
Justin Reynolds, Dubes and company held it down and made this event happen, and we cannot thank them enough for all the energy, hard work, and collaboration they invested into it. It was extremely rad to see this event continue to go down regardless of industry standings, and harness a close group of shredders! The Catalina locals were also amazing, and their hospitality, high-fives, and island vibes made us feel right at home. Thanks all!