Chances are, if you are a surfer, skater, or snowboarder, there was a time in your youth when you chased bliss standing atop the decks of all three types of boards-switching from surfboard to skate deck to snowboard depending on the season, the weather, and the availability of a ride from Mom or Dad. Unfortunately, staying devoted to the three disciplines seems to get more difficult with age, forcing you to ignore their cross-pollinating powers. For example, how can you bail to Mammoth for a fresh-powder mission when the same storm is wrapping six-foot west swells directly into Rincon? How can you paddle out when you broke your wrist trying to clear a staircase at City College?
You end up sacrificing one for the other, telling yourself it’s quality over quantity, but keeping a skateboard by the back door, sneaking up to Tahoe for a long weekend, or bailing out on work on a winter’s day to get reacquainted with the Queen.
Enter Tim Hoover, a 36-year-old Goleta native with a vision. A longtime devotee to the holy trinity of board sports, Hoover wants to close the gap on the cultural and competitive disconnect between surfing, skating, and snowboarding and celebrate that stoke we had as kids when we surfed during swells, skated during flat spells, and rode snow waves during winter. So Hoover has launched Ultimate Boarder-a week-long competition featuring amateur and professional athletes of all ages that kicks off in Lake Tahoe this weekend with a slope-style snowboarding contest and wraps up in Ventura April 19 with skating and surfing contests. Hoover put it simply: “It is a triathlon for a new generation.”
With phones ringing in the background and sounds of hustle and bustle all around him, a stressed-out Hoover reminisced from his Hollister Avenue office last week: “When I was a kid, all summer long, we’d surf Sands or Our [Haskell’s] beach in the morning, eat lunch, jump in someone’s swimming pool, and then go skate the Wall all afternoon. That’s it. That was our life.” And he knows he and his crew weren’t alone. “The big industry corporations don’t really advertise it but all the pros were that way too and still are,” Hoover said. “Tony Hawk is a surfer and snowboarder. Terje Haakonsen is a great surfer. John John Florence is famous for being a young Hawaiian surfer, but he loves to snowboard. Todd Richards is a legend for snowboarding, but he started out skating.”
While the idea of a crossover contest is nothing new, there has never been one as ambitious or complete as Ultimate Boarder. With 50 athletes, including Florence, Haakonsen, Richards, and people like pro surfer Nathan Fletcher and teenage skate star Tosh Townend-as well as 805-based board-sport standouts such as Robert Curtis and Miles Wallace-mixing it up for $50,000 in cash prizes based solely upon their ability to ride skateboards, surfboards, and snowboards equally well, the action is guaranteed. Add to that the fact that Hoover has brought in ESPN X-Games guru Don Bostick to run the snowboard and skate events-the latter features a custom-built 50-foot-long mini ramp feeding onto a street course-and longtime surf event organizer Darren Brillhart to oversee the wave-sliding portion and you have three distinct contests that could easily stand on their own.
The real magic, however, comes from two things. First is the scoring system, which simply ranks athletes at the end of each competition 1 through 50. They then carry this score over into the next contest where they earn another 1-50 score. At the end of the three competitions, all three rankings are added up and the athlete with the lowest score is the overall winner and recipient of a $30,000 first-place check. Next is the fact that all the competitions are going down in a six-day span starting at Squaw Valley on April 13 and then moving to the waters of C-street in Ventura from April 16 to 18 (the surf contest will be held on whichever day has the best waves). The contest wraps up on April 19 with an all-day skate event at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.
Explaining both the grueling nature of the Ultimate Boarder gauntlet as well as expressing his hopes for what his contest might come to mean to the board-riding community, Hoover said, “When you ask someone if they just competed in an Ironman triathlon, you don’t ask them if they won or lost. You just say ‘Wow! That’s awesome, man.’ I think the same is true of Ultimate Boarder. Just to compete and finish all three events will be a feat in itself.”
Now a father of two sons-with a third on the way this summer-Hoover (who joked that he will have the “ultimate boarder family”) explained his motivation for hatching the Ultimate Boarder idea three years ago: “I was just looking for a way to come back home and bring my life full circle. I wanted to do something for the whole family. To me, when this thing is over, if the athletes walk away from it having had a good time and kids are motivated to come out and do it next year, then I’m stoked.”
To Hoover, the highlight of the competition is that he has groms as young as 14 competing with surf, skate, and snow legends in their forties, just simply “riding together.” As for spectators, the entire thing is free. Amtrak has kicked in free train tickets for kids traveling to watch just as long as they are accompanied by an adult, and there is a virtual circus of activity swirling around the contest venues including concerts every night in Ventura, a Red Bull skate park set up on Main Street in Ventura, and a shuttle bus courtesy of Bill’s Bus from S.B. to Ventura for the closing night award ceremony shenanigans at Club Karma. “It is more of a Fiesta-type thing than your typical contest,” said Hoover. “A party for all. God willing, I think we are going to set Ventura on fire.”