The Long (but not) Board Races.

by Debra Chappell

View From the Longboard Races Johnsville, CA:

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Mood Reading:  ZZZ’s (had to get up early to meet tax accountant this morning UGH! —Not my idea of a proper reason to meet the sunrise.)

We took advantage of Spring while it popped it’s perky little head in briefly over two glorious days last weekend.  It has since gone back into hiding but nevermind, we managed to get most of the photo copy 4winter cleanup at the cabin done in all of one day and paid the requisite king’s ransom in Advil and aching (belly and otherwise.)  But on Sunday, sore as I was, I dragged my sorry backside out of bed to the smell of coffee and the promise of a day out at the unique and somewhat quirky annual Longboard Races up in Johnsville, located just a few miles up the road.

No, we are not talking snowboards, surf boards, or emery boards here…we are talking ski’s – long photo copy 13ones…15 feet plus respectively.  And not your composite, steel edged, high tech, high performance variety either. These are old fashioned, hand made, bees waxed, non-edged sliders – the kind most of us criss-cross and mount on wallsphoto copy 9 along with antique sleds, a fishing creel and the odd pair of canoe paddles for that quaint cabin-y effect. To actually try and ski on these things you have to be a.) a superb athlete b.) a little crazy c.) slightly if not entirely inebriated, or d.) any combination thereof. I think it’s safe to say that the most competitive of these special (read that whacko) athletes is all three.

It’s a fun and funky festival, originating in what was once called Onion Valley, situated high in the Eastern Sierra. If you don’t like the action on the ski course, you can find plenty of entertainment in photo copy 6the crowd. An eclectic assortment of thrill seeking folks parade through the snow dressed in photoeverything from the ugliest god awful Bermuda shorts anyone has had the audacity to wear in public to authentic period garb circa 1861 – the year of the inaugural race – with a healthy dose or REI and Columbia thrown into the mix. Complete with a small “skiffle” band (google it) playing old Irish tunes, the atmosphere is festive, sometimes raucous, and altogether good natured — an oddball mix of down home mid-western bar-b-que meets Beachphoto copy 11 Blanket Babylon, only on snow.

The starting gate consists of a couple guys holding the ski’s and skiers steady and passing the flask until the gong sounds (fished out of someone’s attic I’m sure) at which time they let ‘em rip.  The better athletes crouch aerodynamically to gather speed, but many simply hang on for dear life.  With no edges to speak of save for the ones sanded by hand, there is photo copy 3no plowing, no steering, and alas, no slowing or stopping except for the ineffective ol’ wooden-pole-between-the-legs routine or the more popular, widely practised and highly technical maneuver — falling over. Both methods employed are accepted and you don’t earn additional style points by staying upright, so no one seemingly bothers.

photo copy 2About an hour into the festivities the hubby took the dog and hoofed it up to the starting gate leaving me to seek out and take photos for this space.  First order of business for any creative endeavor however is to feed the creative spirit, right? Accordingly,  (and because I live with a ‘quasai- vegetarian’) I made a bee line for the concession stand and one of those fat, juicy cheeseburgers I’d been smelling since arrival.

Suitably satiated, I marched my sore glutes, pained quads and aching sacroiliac region around in the shin deep snow for the next few hours taking photos, enjoying the races, tapping my hiking boots to Irish tunes and otherwise enjoying a spring day out.  But by the time the day was done and we hiked out of the old ski resort, my body was hoping for an encore CIMG0072appearance by old man winter, if only to buy some time to recover before potting any petunias.