Gripsteeze Flash Race

Gripsteeze Flash Race Longboarding SA Steepways 12

Gripsteeze Flash Race

Written by: Craig Harvey
Photos by: Graham Gerber

We had spoken about a Steepways race for a while and after the Wheels-On-Fire series and a couple outlaws on that hill – it had to be done again! Being busy in Johannesburg means few have time to organise races , and I guess because of my stubbornness, I took it upon myself to organise a race at Steepways. – my absolute favourite hill in the world!

Because of the technicality of the hill and the hard walls-dictating the path of the road, Lloyd and I were wary of inviting too many people. Due to those steep ‘learning curves’ that we all experience on a challenging hill, we decided to keep invites to only the Flash racers from previous events! Skating a hill every week leaves one thinking it‘s an “easy” hill to skate but, for anyone going to ‘Steeze’ for the first time, it can be intimidating.

The previous Flash Races held by Elster and Lloyd allowed them to give me advice and the ball finally got rolling just a week before the race!

So get it done!

With little less than a week before the race, there were still a few things to arrange. A lack of parking space meant we had to arrange alternative off-site parking and shuttles to the hill. Thankfully Linksfield Primary allowed us the use of their facilities, despite it being their school holidays. William, the caretaker there was very helpful and the school faculty was very accommodating, considering the short notice.

Walkie-talkies, marshals, shuttle, foam, food, drinks, race format, entries, safety, logistics and funding! All of these mean one needs a team! Thank goodness Lloyd from LSA and Elster from PinoeerDJI, had the experience and the advice to help me finalise everything. It takes being in someone else’s shoes to realise what they have done previously. I learnt this and have to say that all race organisers are amazing! It is stress and utopia muddled into a great ball of froth! Sagra, First Nature, Elster, Ricki, Keith, Greg, Koffie and all of you able to do this, are awesome and deserve some Bells!

Time to do this!!

Sunday morning bore the light of a sunny winter’s day and gave me hope. The day before was cold and there was rain!! In winter, in Joburg? Climate change ain’t raining on our parade! Yet, thirty minutes later the clouds and mist darkened my hope of a good turnout and actually being able to skate in the dry.

Loading up I couldn’t help but feel a certain trepidation as this was a last-minute, desperate attempt at getting a decent session going. Confirmation from the Black Sheep crew buoyed my enthusiasm, however, and made me drive faster to the hill. The race was on!

Getting to the hill at 10 I saw Elster and Bernie, Jason Smith and his dad, and there was even a local skating the hill who knew nothing of the race! It was still pretty gloomy and I should’ve realised it then, that skaters will always be late and that I had time to chill and gather my thoughts. Alas, there would be no chilling as there was work to do and a bit of cleaning up needed. Thank you Flip, Jason and Victor for the help. Bernie and Elster were brilliant in getting entries in and gave me the chance to shuttle the first riders and marshals from the school.

By this stage Lloyd had started making the hill look like a race venue. Gazebos were up, flags fluttered and riders were almost all checked in and shredding the hill already.

And now for some steeze.

Start times mean nothing to skaters. I guess that makes us awesome in a way. But when you are trying to organise things and want to keep to a time schedule, it can be frustrating. Despite this there were many practice runs with marshals in place, stopping the skaters when the odd renegade car came up the road. I have to say thanks to my mom, my sister and her friends for marshaling for us. Races don’t happen without marshals and it’s not an easy job when you have to deal with rude, impatient drivers who can’t wait 5 minutes and would rather risk an accident.

Fortunately there were no serious issues and there was stoke all round!

Despite a slightly late start practice runs and some corner sessions gave the riders the time to figure out the lines. SFO crew did their bit to help the groms and Alex Meyer showed off his stylish grace on a board with tricks and sick lines. (Don’t tell but he used micro-hawgs all race and was faster doing standies than most of us doing puck down!!)

with a total of 19 riders, we ran round robin heats with three people in each heat to seed everyone for the finals. After three rounds we stopped for a boerie-roll lunch break. After lunch we had a couple more practice runs and then began the final heats. The format was 2 man heats with a double elimination racing bracket. This meant that you had two chances to lose before you were knocked out of the race making it a lot of fun for everyone! It’s a complicated format but Lloyd managed to run things smoothly while racing and then working on his laptop between rounds to figure out the next heats!

The racing is tight at Steepways and the first corner makes or breaks your run since it’s not easy to overtake if the rider in front doesn’t make any mistakes. So getting up to speed in the “push zone” is important and sandbagging is a poor strategy on this hill. A Monster kick can change the race.

The favorites for the day were: Alex Meyer who must have the biggest kick in the animal kingdom and was always out ahead; Danilo who showed all the steeze we have come to expect and Lloyd with his tight lines and smooth control. Elster hadn’t skated the hill in two years yet still had sweet lines and was the top qualifier from the round robin.

Thanks to the foam supplied by the Black Sheep crew, we were all able to push our limits a little harder than normal but we had to dial our lines a bit tighter since the foam made the road a little narrower. It was awesome to see a good show of groms! Most of them hadn’t seen the hill before but kept improving with every run, frothing on the advice from the more experienced guys.

Time to Race!

With the complicated racing bracket, it was Danilo who made it to the final without a single loss. Elster made it through to the Second Chance Final having only lost to Danilo at this point. The other 4 riders who were still in the race who had to fight for their place in the Second Chance Final were myself (Craig), Lloyd, Alex and Nick Simic. Lloyd and I would dual it out first, followed by Alex vs. Nick. I had beaten Lloyd in an earlier heat but this time he didn’t make the same mistake and won cleanly. It was a close heat between Nick and Alex with Alex pushing out in front but crashed in the 4th corner and his board got in Nicks way making him crash too. Nick set off first after the crash with Alex close behind. Alex made a pass in the 5th corner but highsided allowing Nick through for the win.

It was then Lloyd vs. Nick for possibly the most closely contested heat of the day! Lloyd was just in front after the first corner but scrubbed too much in the 3rd allowing Nick to catch up and pass in the 4th corner. They both had perfect lines in the 5th and 6th corners with Lloyd gaining on Nick but the positions would not change. Nick was through to face Elster in the Second Chance Final!

Elster had been having a blinder of a day on the hill, having won all of his round robin heats and losing only to Danilo in the elimination rounds. Unfortunately it was not yet his day for a win. This day would belong to the Serbians! Nick took the win in the Second Chance Final to face Danilo in the Ultimate “All Serbian” Final.

All the skaters gathered with the spectators and waited for the final run. It was an epic display of Serbian Supremacy on these planks of wood and urethane wheels! They were so close into the S-bend and melted some tar while they gripped it towards the left hairpin. Even on this technical section of the hill, they were tight as can be and both nailed their checks. The right hairpin gave Dan a slight lead going into the final sketchy left as Nick may have slid just a bit too far letting Dan have the win.

Danilo does skate Steepways like Marquez rides through chicanes and he was just too fast the whole day despite an injured toe! This was a much deserved win after placing second in all of the first 3 Flash Races of the year.

No Paws, No Pucks!

S.F.O. represented to the end as after the puck-down race we had two 3-man heats and a 4-man final in the No Pucks race. A few skaters were knackered after the days racing and trekking up the hill so there wasn’t the full line-up of racers. (to give you an idea, Nick had a total of 11 race heats in the day, including the round robin heats. When last did anyone race that much in one day?)

Alex M, Alic, Victor and I snuck through to the final after a couple of bails and some steezy standies. The final was insane with 4 guys trying to be first through the corner. Alex M accidentally dropped a puck disqualifying himself and let us pass him; well I might’ve bailed slightly, which gave Alic and Vic a slight lead. Alic lead Vic through the S where I managed to catch up and overtake Vic, but then I panicked when Alic bailed in the big left doing a fast toey. Alic and Vic scrambled for their boards and set off for the right while I was still locating my board.

In a moment of awesomeness, Alic was first to the final left, bused out a massive 180 and hit the corner switch! He even slipped in a little switch check in the corner and crossed the line in first position! Victor was second and me third.

Racers… Take your seats.

At this point I was exhausted but some were still keen for a butt-board race! 8 skaters went back to the start line and sat on their boards in a grand prix style grid. There would be only one heat with all 8 racing at once! Elster being so quick lead from the beginning and was chased by some interesting wobbling from the normally-stand-up guys! The race was more fun for everyone and it was a great way to end the day! Elster winning with Alex taking second and Lloyd got third.

Time to get ready for the next one…

After the first Flash Race held earlier this year, I think I have caught a bug. I will plan better and more in advance and because of the crew up here getting tighter, I think races will be even more epic in the future.

Dookie Downhill is around the corner and the froth will keep building for this event! We are underway with organising a two day race there on the 8th and 9th August and an event at Steepways on the public holiday – Monday 10th August. I am confident that, with the team we have here in Jo’burg, we can make races here a worthwhile reason for the national skaters to visit our smoggy city.

Thank you to all who attended our inaugural Gripsteeze event! To the riders, marshals, spectators and residents; it was a success because everyone made it epic! Thank you!

See you on the hill!


Full Results:
Puck-Down Race:
1. Danilo Deletic
2. Nick Simic
3. Elster Pieterse
4. Lloyd Clark
5. Alex Meyer
6. Craig Harvey
7. Alic Mabie

No-Pucks Race:
1. Alic Mabie
2. Victor Peenz
3. Craig Harvey
4. Alex Mayer
5. Danilo Deletic
6. Lloyd Clark

Buttboard Race:
1. Elster Pieterse
2. Alex Meyer
3. Lloyd Clark
4. Danilo Deletic

Raw Run Video of the Final Heat between Danilo Deletic and Nick Simic:

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