Not only is the underground alive and well, but this weekend it is going street legal. For two days in the hills above Santa Barbara, some of the world’s best downhill skateboarders will be testing their mettle against each other and the scenic slopes of East Camino Cielo during the Santa Gnarbara Downhill, a one-mile, high-speed race risking life and limb on the way to skateboard glory.
“In the past, this has been an underground and un-permitted event, but this year we have gone legit and secured all the necessary permits from the county and the [Los Padres] National Forest. Really, they have been nothing but helpful and supportive from the beginning,” said event organizer Thomas Flinchbaugh late last week as he ramped up for the main event. With the race open to a maximum field of 128 competitors, Flinchbaugh, who is a Santa Barbara High alum, fully expects all the spots to fill up with an assortment of both area and international riders. “Last year we sold out, and we were an outlaw event with zero publicity,” he said, adding that the timing of the event couldn’t be better as it falls in between the two largest International Downhill Federation (IDF)–sanctioned events happening in California this year. “Santa Barbara is already on the map as being a destination for downhill, but now [thanks to the permitting], it could really turn into something big. We have world-class roads here.”
A one-mile road closure on East Camino Cielo just east of Gibraltar Road will be enforced as contestants get a full day of practice runs on Saturday and then the main event on Sunday. The contest will pit racers against one another in four-man heats, with the top two across the finish line advancing in a bracket-style fashion. Winners will be crowned in two divisions, Groms (17 and under) and Open, by being the first person to finish in the final heat of the day. Besides bragging rights, the top-place finishers should also expect a share of a pretty fat cash purse that Flinchbaugh estimates will be in the $3,000-$4,000 range. “I just hope that people come up and watch,” said Flinchbaugh. “It is going to be great event, and everybody is welcome.”
The event takes place Saturday-Sunday, September 20-21. For more information, see the Santa Gnarbara Downhill Event page on Facebook or contact the Arbor Collective Snow and Skate Shop (14 W. Anapamu St.) at (805) 845-1022.