On August 12th, Harvard, MA hosted the 3rd Annual Central Mass Longboard Competition. Organized by Mike Girard, Loaded and Orangatang ambassador and G-Form rider and employee, the event brought in competitors from far and wide. 247 total riders from over 15 states participated in the event, competing in downhill, freeride and flatland disciplines. With spectators and staff included, total attendance approached 500.
After several months of planning – securing road closure, police detail, insurance, permitting, board of selectmen approval, ambulance services, rider surveys, shuttle bus and more – registration was conducted through the ticketing service EventBrite. Insurance snags delayed the final release of registration, but this didn’t hold back the scale of the event. Within 10 minutes, over 70 racers and sliders had locked in their spots. The 128 person open and 32 person grom downhill brackets filled quickly, with 12 female downhillers and roughly 150 total freeride competitors rounding out the bunch. Riders could register for both DH and freeride, making it hard to estimate a final tally, but staffers and riders alike knew to expect at least 200 participants.
In an eerily similar fashion to last year, Mother Nature met these hundreds of guys and gals with a heavy dose of rain in the morning. Even before the scheduled check-in start time of 8:00AM, a long line of soaked and stoked registrants snaked away from the rider check-in tables. With soggy entry tickets and waivers in hand, staff processed the registrants and placed them in their relevant brackets. The weather did little to dampen the spirits of the crowd however, the first 200 of whom received a free event t-shirt. After checking in, riders also received free bagels, bananas, nutella, peanut butter, Gatorade and others snacks to help get them fueled for the day.
At 9:00AM the road fully locked down, and checked-in riders began their practice runs. An hour and a half of shuttled practice runs allowed racers to familiarize themselves with the unique course layout. Unlike most downhill races, the Central Mass course features two downhill portions linked by a flat middle section. While momentum can carry the fastest riders through the flat, most racers (especially during the slower rainy portion) push through two designated zones approaching the final bending drop. Three coned gates increased the course’s technicality, and 150 haybales protected riders against rocks, telephone poles and the more crash-prone sections. Near the end of the warmup runs, roughly 30 riders participated in a “Chinese Downhill” race. At last, it was time to announce the brackets and send the first bus of 72 riders to the top of the hill.
The course remained quite wet for the first few rounds of heats. Some early bails on the slippery course sent riders to the hospital, and police and ambulance members strongly pressured organizers to call off the event. Instead, the organizers increased the width of gates (to reduce technicality), urged racers to ride within their abilities, and convinced the concerned policemen and medics to allow for some test heats to race and demonstrate their ability to ride safely. Fortunately, increased precaution coupled with diminishing rain led to minimal crashes and happy campers all around. Police and ambulance staff allowed the race to continue. As the rain slowed and course dried, speeds increased and the top racers began cresting 40mph. For each 4-person heat, the first two finishers would advance. Despite periodic snags, racing progressed steadily through the day. Between heats, riders would pick up tasty hot dogs and burgers hot off the grills of Enthuzed Daily Online Magazine (check Enthuzed out at www.enthuzed.com – good people!). Those who were eliminated could take freeride runs between heats throughout the day.
As heats advanced a blend of expected and lesser-expected riders made their way to the top. The talented Floridian Paige Marsicano took first in the ladies division, beating out LA-based Riviera rider Amanda Powell and Bustin she-redder Cordelia Welch of Florida (2nd and 3rd respectively). Brett Ciabattini of Original had two paid DH registrations, competing in both Open and Grom divisions. He advanced sufficiently far in both that organizers forced him to choose one, in order not to slow down the racing. Brett chose to remain in the Grom division, which he would go on to win by a large margin, followed by Tucker Bishop (2nd), David Yang (3rd) and Philip Skar (4th). In the heated Open division, Luis Marrero and Dane Webber duked it out right to the finals finish line, with Dane edging ahead of Luis by a board length to take the win. All around NYC gem Steven Sanchez took home 3rd after a day of consistently strong finishes and clean racing, and Stephan Vaast impressed the lot with an unexpected 4th.
During the race period, riders were allowed to session the unused, closed portion of Old Littleton Rd that has served as the competition freeride hill in previous years. (Some would lovingly dub it the “dickaround hill.”) As the downhill racing concluded, things quickly transitioned to the official slide jam competition, conducted on the steepest final portion of the race hill. This was the first year in which the jam took place on this part of the hill. Hard wheel, open soft wheel, grom soft wheel and ladies each competed in separate slide jam divisions. Albeit a bit pressed for time, 20 minute open jam periods allowed the more motivated riders to lay down a handful of runs to impress the judges in a bid to advance to the finals. Spectators lined the road and did their best to avoid any carnage on the hill.
Women and hard wheelers took the stage first, judged separately but riding the hill together. In the women’s division, Molly Lewis impressed with her technical, well rounded bag of tricks and smooth style. Amanda Powell laid down some beautiful, fast lines with a healthy (and impressive) dose of switch. Molly and Amanda would go on to take first and second respectively, with local Laura Nocka’s blend of fast soft- and hard-wheel freeride earning her the third spot.
The hard wheelers’ division offered an equally impressive mix of riding, with the NYC-based Earthwing crew throwing down hard as always. Connor Ciuzio packed a man-sized bag of tricks into an 11-year-old’s body, grabbing and spinning every which way. Thomas Meehan’s fast and creative slides caught much attention, as did fellow Massachusetts rider Norman Plante’s smooth, frequently-switch slides and signature lengthy toesides. Southern Jati ripper Mason McNay brought a new and talented style to the scene, with big blunt checks and an assortment of long slides and spins. In a battle for the top spot, EW core members Ed Nieves and Steve Kong threw down frighteningly fast big standup spins, with nose blunt checks and 360s, toeside checks, seamless 5’s and 7’s sprinkled in to take the cake. In the end, Nieves won out by a hair, followed by Kong and McNay. Thomas Meehan earned an honorable mention, just missing the podium in a tough final decision.
The grom slide jam division showcased some up-and-coming talent. David “steezy” Yang’s greasy slides and steezy style slipped him into 2nd. Not far behind, Hughie Allan’s well-sorted style and deep bag of tricks brought home a well-deserved 3rd. However, the true standout was Jordan Billingsley, a NH-based shredder who demolishes with ease. Jordan would mob past slower riders into monstrous slides, often switch or toeside, powering his way into a declarative first.
Due to time constraints, the larger open freeride division was not split into separate heats as planned. Instead, nearly 100 riders fought for lines and recognition as they snaked through the crowds of spectators and hiking riders. While some struggled to find an ideal strategy, others managed to time and maneuver their way down the hill in a most impressive manner. Eric Roth earned himself 3rd place with his ambidextrous, spin-happy style, soft wheel 360 noseblunts and a hefty slam or two. 2nd place went to “Team Tangy’s” Chris O’Brien, whose blend of adept tech tricks and fast toesides combined with panache. Earning top honors, Brett Ciabattini never failed to look composed, well-rounded and generally fulfilling of the definition of “steez:” Style with Ease.
As the town’s church bells tolled 5:00pm, the 8-hour road closure came to an end. Riding concluded with a mass migration to the center of town for the podium awards and gear giveaways, with stoke oozing from everyone as they shared stories from the day. Top podium finishers brought home $2,000 in cash prizes, along with custom-printed XVD trophy boards, G-Form pad kits, various sponsor decks, trucks, wheels and tees. Original Skateboards generously sponsored the $300 first place freeride prize. Here are some photos of the beautiful winners, followed by a full podium list.
PODIUM (prize winnings indicated in parentheses):
1st – Dane Webber ($500)
2nd – Luis Marrero ($250)
3rd – Steven Sanchez ($100)
4th – Stephan Vaast
1st – Brett Zerø Ciabattini
2nd – Tucker Bishop
3rd – David Yang
4th – Philip Skar
1st – Paige Marsicano ($150)
2nd – Amanda Powell ($75)
3rd – Cordelia Welch ($50)
4th – Monica Mejia
OPEN SOFTWHEEL FREERIDE:
1st – Brett Ciabattini ($300)
2nd – Chris O’Brien ($150)
3rd – Eric Squnto Roth ($50)
Honorable mentions: Norman Plante, Steven Sanchez, Austin Priester
1st – Ed Nieves ($150)
2nd – Steve Kong ($75)
3rd – Mason McNay
Honorable Mention: Thomas Meehan
1st – Molly Lewis ($100)
2nd – Amanda Powell ($50)
3rd – Laura Nocka
GROM SOFTWHEEL FREERIDE:
1st – Jordan Billingsley
2nd – David Yang
3rd – Hughie Allan
1st – Victor Tu
2nd – Norman Plante
3rd – Stefan Kaiter-Snyder
(I had to clean up the center of town after the road closure ended, so I was not able to run the freestyle competition hosted at the HES basketball court. However, a good handful of people made their way over to compete, and Steven Vera apparently killed it with great style and a bag of tricks deeper than the Mariana Trench.)
After this special event, I must extend a very special thank-you to: the Town of Harvard and all the committees, departments and citizens who offered their acceptance, guidance and support; the hundreds of riders that filled out the pre-event feedback survey; everyone who came out to compete, ride, help and spectate; the STAFF who helped ensure smooth event-day operations; the SPONSORS who provided such exciting prizes and helpful contributions; and most importantly, my parents and sister for their untiring love and support before, during and after the event. We all look forward to an even bigger and better event at next year’s “Central Mass 4.”
p.s. These are the wonderful companies that stepped up to sponsor Central Mass. Next time you have the opportunity to support one of them, do it!
Loaded Boards www.loadedboards.com
Orangatang Wheels www.orangatangwheels.com
Push Culture www.thisispushculture.com
Original Skateboards www.originalskateboards.com
Caliber Truck Co. http://calibertruckco.com
Bustin Boards http://bustinboards.com
Earthwing Skateboards http://www.earthwingskateboards.com
XVD Longboards http://xvdlongboards.com
Passion Skate Decks & Cockblock Footstops https://www.facebook.com/nargle.fordenborg
Last Caress Tattoo Studio https://www.facebook.com/pages/LAST-CARESS-TATTOO-STUDIO/370900664554
Lifelong Longboards http://lifelonglongboards.com
Eden Racing http://edenracing.com
Phat Deanz http://www.phatdeanz.com
Circus Weasel http://www.circusweasel.com
California Bonzing: http://www.californiabonzing.com
Hillside Gear: https://www.facebook.com/hillsidegear
Boarding House http://bit.ly/LZQ2d1
More media on the event: