HARVARD — It’s certainly not an everyday occurrence. But some fleet-footed young people took to Littleton Road’s curves and hills for a free ride and downhill longboard competition last weekend hosted by Nashawtuck Longboards.
Feeling a bit old, it seems longboards are extended skateboards. Who knew?
But dozens showed up at noon to sign waiver forms and get assigned a race number at a table on Harvard Common.
“OK, it’s one o’clock. We have brackets and we need to get everyone here,” said 20-year old Michael Girard of Pinnacle Hill Road over a bull horn.
Girard, a third-year student at Colgate University majoring in economics and French, did his homework. He secured clearances from the selectmen, Police and Fire departments for the vision he had of Littleton Road longboard racing. Event staffer Garrett Cosgrave said prizes that day included longboards, replacement wheels, T-shirts, gloves equipped with ‘slide pucks’ to maneuver with hands on the ground, and stickers. Also the hope of topping the results board for a mention in Concrete Wave or Skate Slate Magazines, both devoted to skateboarding.
The throng was assigned race numbers on tape slapped on the right side of their helmets. The racers then headed to cars to be ferried atop Littleton Road, their raceway for a day.
They strapped on their protective helmets, knee and elbow great before pushing off to begin their high speed descent down the town artery towards the heart of town.
Girard’s mother, Michaele Girard, said her son has ridden for years, honing his skills in the parking lot at Cisco Systems in Boxboro. “Cisco has been very accommodating,” she said. Best friends Graylon and Cameron Stone were often along for the rides.
But the hobby grew more serious and Girard wanted to bring brought the sport to his hometown. The weather cooperated nicely.
Competitors came from all around. Some amateurs. Some professional longboard riders.
“I called shotgun. Get outta there,” said 23-year old Jeremy Ross of Dartmouth. He made the trek from UMass Amherst for the Harvard event. He was miffed to find another rider slid into the front seat of the car he was headed for a lift to the top of Littleton Road before the junction with Pinnacle Road. Patrolmen blocked through traffic for the four hour event.
Ross was anxious to go, and never took off his full-facial black helmet to talk.
A semiprofessional rider, Ross tours the East Coast for longboarding events. He’s sponsored by the manufacturer of his longboard, The Soda Factory of Bristol, R.I.
“We make really great local skate boards. Handmade and everything,” Ross said. He helped design the board he rode on Saturday. The model is called the “lamb chop.”
“It’s a great board. It’s probably the best board made in the United States today,” Ross pitched.
What makes the Littleton Road course attractive? “Oh it’s long. It’s easy. It’s great for beginners and intramurals of all sorts. Because it’s closed down, it’s just excellent,” Ross said.
But the locals like it too. 15-year old Ryan Williams is entering his sophomore year at The Bromfield School next week. While he’s ridden the longboard for about three years, he’d never competed before, “It’s great. It’s a weekend hill. It’s a local hill so it’s great that they’re having a race on it.”
Half way up Littleton Road standing off the road were Nick and Deb Kontrovitz of Keene, N.H., there to watch their 15-year old son Jon in this, his first competition. As we awaited the first heat, the two kicked falling acorns off the street to keep the course free of hazards.
Other than a distant whir, one had little advance audio notice of the next bracket of four racers turning the corner at speeds of about 30 mph, causing some spectators to jump off the side of the pavement and onto the poison ivy-lined soft shoulder.
“He’s been doing it steadily for about two years and has gotten progressively better so he’s taking on bigger hills. He likes the speed and the challenge of a fast run,” Kontrovitz said. The rain free summer afforded extra days to ride, she said.
She said she’s becoming more comfortable watching her son speed down roadways on his longboard.
“I go through spells. Once I see him do a run, I’m more comfortable with it. But it makes me nervous because I see him going faster than I’m used to seeing him go. But I also know he has good physical abilities,” she said.
Kontrovitz says her son trains on a 1.5-mile downhill road in Keene, “We’ve seen him go 40 mph. We go behind him the car with our flashers on to make sure cards don’t come up behind him.
Then, as if on cue, and without notice because Jon was incommunicado with his parent from the starting point well out of sight and uphill, a pack of four longboarders rounded the corner. Jon, No. 21, was keeping pace.
The long and the short of it is — the longboarding event went well in the eyes of Police Chief Edward Denmark.
“One participant did suffer a broken collar bone from a fall. Aside from a couple of minor abrasions, that was the only mishap. The event was well run,” said Denmark.