Streaking downhill like the rainbow-coloured offspring of the Stig, the audacious bravery of the competitors at Hot Heels 2012 was something to be marvelled at.
An annual skateboarding competition, this year marked the event’s 10th anniversary. The competition is comprised of Downhill Skateboarding, Street Luge and Classic Luge and boasts several divisions, from female skaters to under 14s. Reaching the speeds they do and displaying balance so adept it would make Nadia Comaneci hide her face in shame, it is quite a shock to see many riders pull off their helmets to reveal the tousled hair and flushed face of an excited teenager.
Sweeping along the glorious coastal road through False Bay, the panorama of cobalt blue and majestic mountains only increases in intensity as one nears the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, where the competition was held. The reserve is a glorious slice of nature, revered as one of the Cape’s best kept secrets and the crowning glory of the Cape Floral Kingdom.
The roads winding within the biosphere, with their sharp declines and twisting turns, make for a location that is not only breathtaking, but challenging and exciting for the competitors. Make no mistake, what these athletes do is not something to be taken lightly. The sport and the course, tricky enough as they are, were worsened with Sunday’s powerful gusts of wind. More than once the smell of burning rubber charred the air as riders swerved through dodgy corners, and serious injuries were sustained by some competitors.
The rocks and grass of the biosphere formed natural grandstands that were dotted with a colourful array of spectators, some of whom seemed to be blithely immune to the danger of ambling across the course mid-race. Considering that constant and explicit warning was given, there was no excuse for this utter dim-wittedness that could so easily have caused a dire wipe out of both competitor and pedestrian.
The music pumping through the air added to the good vibe, but was quite surreal considering the usual tranquility the area experiences. With hamburgers and hot dogs on sale – and naturally a cold beer or two to enjoy in the hot sun when the wind decided to stop blowing – rubbish was an issue, and though everyone was encouraged to clean up after themselves, the few black bags provided could have been improved upon.
But this was in fact a world event. Competitors from across the globe, from far-flung places like Canada to countries closer to home such as Zimbabwe, came together to compete in the final leg of the world championship endorsed by the International Gravity Racing Association (IGRA).
Top honours went to Brazil, as Douglas Silva won the World Cup Series finale for Downhill Skateboarding. South Africa also proudly featured as Gabi Murray-Roberts took third place in the Women’s Downhill Skateboarding while Andries Haasbroek and Glen Philips were placed in the Luge categories and the South African juniors all dominated in their categories.
A dangerous pastime to be sure, Gravity Racing is nevertheless exhilarating to watch. It is an underappreciated and underrated sport and events such as Hot Heels will hopefully help to edge it a little closer to the limelight.
Hot Heels ran from 6 – 9 December at the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve.