7Gnarathon: a weekend of gnarly crashes, epic passes, out-of-town magic and blades from hell. Greg Noble tells us how this event is exactly what its name promises.
“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Mark Twain
This famous Mark Twain quote seems appropriate for our beloved sport, given the greatly exaggerated reports of struggling manufacturers, waning interest, poor event attendance/cancellation. One might start to believe that the longboarding and racing scene was dying but, this clearly is not the case – The reports of the death of the longboarding racing scene have been greatly exaggerated… As showcased by the evidence in exhibit Gnar.
All anyone needs to do to see that the racing and longboarding community is still alive, thriving and well, is to attend an event like Gnarathon in Waco, Texas. This year’s event marked the 7th straight year of this Gnarly congregation of some of Texas’ finest riders.
Over the years, this race has not only grown in size but, also in format. One thing which has never changed has been Gnarathon’s vibe; aggressive and stoke-ey. Much of the reason for Gnarathon’s staying power and its growth is the lies in the commitment of; the event’s head honcho Ryan Richbourg, of Team NoBull, the local skateshop Gnarly’s (hence the event name) and, of course, the strong support of the city of Waco and the Texas longboarding community.
This year, we got to see the up & comers in the Texas scene and also got to witness an unusual “hostile takeover” of Texas’ downhill racing event by none other than the state of Missouri. More about that Mizzou magic later.
Gnarathon is known for producing vicious rivalries that span years, spectacular crashes and a competitive spirit. Every year produces a story which we’ll be talking about for a year. This year’s race was no different. What happens at Gnarathon sets the tone for the year ahead.
Every veteran has their favourite Gnarathon story – whether it be the infamous “Angelus Pass” which Dave Angelus made to capture Gnarathon 4 or last year’s ridiculous final where bodies were strewn just feet from the finish line.
This year, there was a shift in the top qualifying ranks and, some may say, a “changing of the guard” as the rough & tumble Adams brothers did not race and, last year’s race champion, Waco’s very own, Nicholas Hopper was unable to compete, due to an injury. Hopper did show up and even attempted to race on his “Knee-Scooter” (must’ve been the pain meds).
Without question, one of the biggest stories of the event was Kameron Denman’s epic wipe-out (think, “Stop, Drop & Roll”) captured on film by Scott Barron. Kam’s crash will forever be remembered a public service announcement for helmet safety and, a de-facto advertisement not only for Gnarathon and Dave’s Hippy Oil.
As Gnarathon has progressed, so have the weekend’s events. This year was a full weekend of racing which included an impromptu freeride in-between qualifying runs on Saturday. Ryan Richbourg has formed his own event powerhouse under the name Radbourg Ventures and he always does it right, down to the food, the swag, the U-Haul and the blaring music at the start line from DJ Scratchwen.
The spectators at this year’s race were rowdy and did anything to get a view of the carnage, including hanging from trees. All the shenanigans were recorded not only via my Facebook Live Stream but also by local news crews (see links below).
Any race lives or dies based on two things:
(1) the race course
(2) event organisation
Gnarathon came up all 7’s on these two metrics of success.
The Gnarathon race course has a little bit of everything and is just long enough to make drafting, setting up for turns, positioning and strategy a serious part of the racer’s gambit. This track has the much needed Texas prerequisite crash corner (see Kam’s Crash), a nasty chunder start and, a sharp turn to the finish line, which makes race day interesting.
Down the centre of the course lay the most debilitating feature – the yellow stripe lane dividers. They are mini-landmines or blades from hell – these reflectors, although perfect for cars, wreck havoc on downhill longboarders… and they did their job again this year.
Ryan Richbourg (Radbourg Ventures, “Radbourg” kinda like a Cyborg but “Rad”) of Team NoBull had the event running like clockwork. Being an event organiser is a thankless task, powered by a love of the sport and, a passion to spread stoke.
A recent study by the Psychiatrists Organisation Society (P.O.S.) listed the most stressful jobs in the world as follows: (1) Air Traffic Controller
(2) President Of The United States
(3) Downhill Race Event Organizer.
Given the stress of running an event, combined with cat-herding skills needed to pull it off, Ryan was fucking Yoda. “Well Run Race, It Was”.
Gnarathon ran well, yet not without controversy. It would not be a Texas race without some. This was centred around a “He said, He said” incident between Zac Sharp and Caleb Zealous of Team NoBull which resulted in an outcome that was not perfect and certainly left high emotions well after the official’s decision.
An exchange of words ensued and as always there were shouts of “If It Aint Rubbin, It Aint Racing!” being heard (keep in mind this is Texas home of the full contact garage race). I’m certain that another chapter will play out the next time Zac and Caleb race each other.
Thank goodness for the newest trend at events of live feeds because, much of this was captured via a Facebook Live Feed provided by Greg Noble (me) of Team NoBull. Definitely opened up an entire new window into what goes on behind the race scenes. Feel free to review the live feed of the race and the controversy on my Facebook – the feed was posted as public. The race looked like a paparazzi rave with photographers everywhere including one of the scenes best, Erick Barrandey.
The race was split into two days qualifying on day one and finals on day two. All classes were covered; Groms, Masters, Women and Open with over 90 registered riders, making it one of Texas’ biggest events.
During the qualifying heats, it became clear that there were some new faces to contend with, beyond the usual Texas shredders. Apparently Missouri has something in their water which produces an unusual cadre of downhill shredders with a next level speed quotient.
The Missouri Magic could be seen almost immediately as the Whites (Isaac & Silas) and Chase Hiller were dominating qualifying on Saturday. Beyond their speed, what was truly appreciated by everyone was their stoke and humble attitude. Qualifying on Saturday was a mix of competitive intensity and ridiculous, riotous fun. In-between the racing on day one, there were pack runs, suit runs (coat, tie, briefcase – Aaron Hopkins with the initiative), naked runs and crashes galore. Sunday was set up to be a showdown with Texas trying to keep the podium away from the Missouri speed demons.
On race day, the usual Texans were advancing quickly in the “top two advance” format – Ian Ybanez, Stephen Dumaine, Zac Sharp, Jargh Hammons, David Laurent etc. It soon became clear that, in order to make it to the late rounds, the Team Texas would have to summon gnar from within to match the speed of Chase Hiller.
It is a pleasure to watch the competitive fire burning within the youngsters in the junior division. Beyond racing in their own division, all of the finalists went far in open class. The Grom finals included some of the biggest names in the “up and comers” category – Alex Ferguson & Caleb Zealous of Team NoBull as well as Eric Finlayson and Luie Pang. Alex is a quiet, unassuming dream killer in the race scene and, Caleb was somehow able to shake off the controversy with Zac Sharp and pull it together in time to grab a Grom podium spot.
The women’s division was once again dominated by Kacey Moon. Kacey is a giant in the DFW scene with multiple podiums, including last year’s Bayou Battle crown. This year’s women’s final had her making an epic pass at the last corner to beat out Hannah Matetzschk of Team NoBull with newcomer Jessica Contreras coming in 3rd.
The Masters division is always the highlight of any race in Texas because these “OG’s” fight for their lives as youth is quickly escaping their grasp. There is something a little more scrappy and nasty in a Masters race, compared to Open.
This year’s Masters class was deep and full of big names. (I know I need to be objective but, “Masters” should be 40… maybe even 50 years old and above… Just saying!). In the Masters class Isaac White and Silas White were a force all day. These bruiser brothers captured the top two spots with Kaspar Heinrici of Team NoBull getting 3rd. Chris Egan hung on and kept in the hunt up till the end.
Surprisingly Daniel Jardine of Team NoBull did not make it to the finals but was seen sucking a PBR and cursing at the Masters finals group as they passed him on crash corner. Daniel was sporting a “homeless motif” beard which we are sure affected his Aerodynamics. Oh well, Daniel, you always have the garages of Dallas to claim as your kingdom.
The Finals of Gnarathon 7 emerged as Texas Versus Missouri, unexpected before the event but apparent to the attentive. Another surprise were those who didn’t make it to the finals even after riding their souls out: Kam Smith and Aaron Malone. If there was a podium for coulda/shoulda/woulda, those two would be be on it. Joining them would have been David Laurent and Jargh Hammons of Team NoBull.
It’s amazing what a sport of inches downhill racing is.
The final heat was a blockbuster: Missouri Vs Texas. The face-offs between the two states are numerous: Anheuser-Busch Vs. Shiner, Bad BBQ Vs. Good BBQ, Jazz Vs. Country, to name a few. Missouri is known as the “Show Me State” and show us, they did.
Interestingly, the author of the quote which started this race recap, Mark Twain, was originally from Missouri – how bout them apples! The distance between Texas and Missouri is 700 miles and, the fact that Chase Hiller and the Whites drove 10 hours to compete, speaks volumes to how committed they were to Show Us what they were all about.
Holding down the Texas turf were two of the state’s finest Team NoBull members: Stephen Dumaine and Ian Ybanez. Stephen was thankfully able to remain uninjured and un-bricked all the way to the finals, his style and knowledge of the race course kept him close all day. Ian’s aggressiveness and speed were enough to knock out several of last years contenders.
The final was a story of who would take the 2nd and 3rd spot on the podium rather than who would win – cuz Chase Hiller had the top spot locked all day. Chase’s style, demeanour and humble attitude spoke volumes to the Mizzou skating culture.
As someone (ME) was trying to stoke the flames of rivalry between Stevie D. and Chase all day, it was perplexing (yet rewarding) how Chase would have none of it, he let his racing do the talking. Both Chase and Stevie have a long history of swapping podium spots and this race was the ultimate “grudge match” – this was the story within the story. There were GoPros and phones on the finish line to capture even the tightest finish.
The amateur finish line officials were heard discussing whether it was when the wheels crossed or touched the line – ultimately none of this debate was needed as it was clear who won. Chase passed the finish line well enough in front of the herd to pull a move which thankfully was captured in a photograph – in racing lore this picture will remain a signature photo of victory.
The next one to go over the orange tape (not as dramatically as Chase) was Isaac White, also of Missouri.
So there it was, the one, two punch, Mizzou 1 Texas 0.
Stevie D. was right behind Isaac capturing 3rd with Ian Ybanez close behind capturing the 4th spot.
As much as was made about the rivalry between the states and, the rivalry between riders, the outcome was embraced and enjoyed by all. The beauty of our sport and the competition which exists at events like Gnarathon is that races bring us all together and do not separate us. What is certain is that the door has swung wide open to the rest of the Missouri crew to mob Gnarathon 8 – they will need to defend their grasp on this Texas race and certainly the Texans will be eyeing the next Missouri race.
1st: Chase Hiller
2nd: Isaac White
3rd: Stephen Dumaine
4th: Ian Ybanez
1st: Alex Ferguson
2nd: Caleb Zealous
3rd: Eric Finlayson
4th: Luie Pang
1st: Kacey Moon
2nd: Hannah Matetzschk
3rd: Jessica Contreras
1st: Isaac White
2nd: Silas White
3rd: Kaspar Heinrici
4th: Chris Egan
Thank Yous by Ryan Richbourg:
As always, I couldn’t have organised Gnarathon this year without my rock star volunteers, especially my family!
Shout out to our event partners: Waco Parks & Recreation, McLennan County Sheriff’s Office, and the IDSA.
Huge thank you to the top tier sponsors: Gnarly’s Skate Shop, Canaan Longboards, Crouch Fasteners, Insanity Boardshop, and Created SkateShop.
Additional thanks to the other companies that supported this year’s event: Ahmyo, Arsenal, Atlas, Cloudride, Carve Skate Shop, Dave’s Hippy Oil, DB Longboards, Fritz Chairs, Gullwing, Loaded, Moonshine Sweet Tea, Orangatang, Original, Pantheon, Powder Wheel Co, RAD, Sector9, SpeedDoctor Bearing Co, Subsonic, Sugar, and Team Nobull.
Thanks from Greg:
Team NoBull, for keeping the Stoke alive and keeping me involved & focused on recovering – till we skate again!
Rachael, for all you are
Gbemi, for spreading our fun & our story
Darin, for showing an old guy new tricks
Dave Angelus, for being a confidant & an inspiration
All The “OG’s” & StokeMasters which keep the event & scene torch lit and continue to pass it forward by example – Bricin Lyons, Ali & Deano (keepers of Nirvana), Marc Dean, Les Robertson, Nate Blackburn, Marcus Bandy, Jonathan Strauss, Kyle Ramsey, Justin Rouleau, Josh Davis, Mike Girard, Joe Lehm, Robin McGuirk, The Max’imum’s – Max Capps, Max Dubler & Max Vickers, Dan Furrer, Ehren Mohammadi, Dylan Greenbaker, Kevin Reimer, Lee Cation, Scott Lembach and everyone else that keeps pushing the scene.
Gnarathon Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/398223870519026/
The IDSA: www.theidsa.org
Insanity Boardshop: www.insanitybs.com
Canaan Longboards: www.canaanlongboards.com
Gnarlys Skateshop: www.facebook.com/gnarlys.shop
Created Skateshop: www.createdskateshop.com
Crouch Fasteners : www.crouchsales.com
Daves Hippy Oil : www.DavesHippyOil.com
Local News Stories:
KWTX (Channel 10)
By Greg Noble, Team NoBull