The 2012 Catalina Island Classic was, hands-down, one of the most epic downhill skateboarding events we have ever been a part of. Not just because we were a media partner, but more so because it was an epic weekend of skateboarding and chilling with the homies. The Island itself is such a magical place, with a rich history and an undulating, inexplicable beauty. The rolling, 22 mile long island’s colorful past is filled with native tribes, Spanish explorers, pillaging pirates, Chinese slave smugglers, roving Russian otter hunters, grimy goldrushers, Hollywood starlets, and fat-pocket tycoons. And, oh yeah, we can’t forget to mention that back in 1977, Catalina Island, California was home to one of the first downhill skateboarding races ever: the original Catalina Classic. That was 35 years ago. Much has changed over those three and a half decades, yet much has remained. One thing is for certain and that is that downhill skateboarding has made a huge comeback and is alive and thriving. Which brings us back to the here and now and the Riviera Skateboards presented 2012 Catalina Island Classic.
The 2012 Catalina Island Classic was definitely a tribute to the original race held back in ’77. That being said, the 2012 event varied in many ways from its predecessor. For instance, there was a mini ramp demo held on the first day of the event this year and featured skateboarding legend and Elephant Brand Skateboards owner, Mike Vallely. Saturday’s ramp demo and subsequent hush-hush Ben Harper concert was designed as a celebration of Mike V’s 25 years as a professional skateboarder (congrats, Mike!). As for the race itself, the 1977’s downhill race was held on an entirely different road as this year’s event. The ’77 race was ran on a short strip (250 yards) of road on Marilla Ave, while this year’s race was ran on an almost mile long strip of Wrigley Road, atop of Mt Ada, winding down into the city of Avalon and overlooking it’s bay. We had the chance to speak with Roger Hickey who competed in the race back in ’77 and he made an interesting assertion regarding the two events. He said, “no one from ‘77 could have won the 2012 event, and no one from 2012 could have won the race back in ‘77.” We’re not entirely sure exactly what he meant, but we’re pretty sure it had to do with cornering, sliding, small banana boards, and maybe even the aero dynamics of the 70’s porno ‘stache donned by each and every one of the original racers—some food for thought, if nothing more. Ha ha!
No matter any differences between the two events, the main focus of both was definitely downhill skateboard racing. Although the first day of this year’s event was filled with some serious miniramp jammin’ and a Ben Harper concert/party that ran into the wee hours of the night, all of the 70 plus racers were at the top of the hill early Sunday morning and practice heats began promptly at 9am.
Some of the first runs of the day looked a bit slow and the event’s announcer, Canadian downhill legend, Striker, voiced this opinion during the first couple of practice heats while picking out his jet-black and bulbous, new afro/perm. Once the riders warmed up to the hill’s 7 wriggling and back-to-back corners, their speed increased along with the action and intensity. Packs were tight and riders railed the corners and mobbed the straights. Some riders shaved speed by foot braking while others predrifed. We even saw a couple dudes (Byron Essert & Kevin Reimer) opt for the intermittent stand up slide. All the action made for an interesting race indeed. This year’ race saw 64 competitors in the men’s class, and 6 in the women’s. All these riders raced hard, but in the end the podium went to the day’s most consistent and determined skaters. Congratulations to these rippers:
Men’s Podium: 1st James Kelly, 2nd Patrick Switzer, and 3rd Alex Tounge.
Women’s Podium: 1st Tamara Prader, 2nd Christin Gregersen, and 3rd Pam Díaz.
The Riviera Skateboards presented 2012 Catalina Island Classic was awesome! The event brought together a grip of skaters and enthusiasts from a broad rage of global locales as well as disciplines. It was organized with respect for the local community, for skateboarding in general, and to the art of downhill racing. When we asked race organizer and downhill vet, Dubes Eldorf what his feelings were after the event, he replied:
“The 2012 Catalina Island Classic went off without a hitch. Racers from all over the world arrived in Avalon with smiles on their faces and boards under foot. Every heat was stacked, every rider held it down and James Kelly rose to the top! Next year will be bigger, more time on the hill, more riders and hopefully even more stoke!”
Kudos to the Riviera crew for doing it well. Thanks to all the supporting sponsors, the Catalina Island community as a whole, as well as to all the skaters who came out and put on an awesome show. Appreciated. California downhill racing is making a strong and vibrant comeback; we are excited for the future! Stay tuned and stay rollin’!