Downhill Corral draws skaters from all parts
Brandon Tissen led the pack onto Broadway Street in the championship heat of the 2014 Cathlamet Downhill Corral Downhill Race. Following were 2. Louis Pilloni, 3. Billy Meiners and 4. A.J. Haidy. Haidy, left, took the lead going into Coffin Corner, but lost traction and slid into the hay bales, leaving Tissen a clear path to the championship. Meiners slipped by Pilloni to claim second; Pilloni finished third and Haidy fourth.
Skateboarders from the Pacific Northwest and different points in the US, a European and a South American traveled to Cathlamet to compete and socialize at the sixth annual Downhill Corral during one of the hotter weekends in memory. Rising temperatures, a touch of humidity and an unforgiving sun made the hours on the asphalt a trial, unless you were riding.
There were rumors of Germans and Australians as well.
Tibault Parise came all the way from France. "I'm from Nice, which is nice," he said. He goes by "Tibs" or "Mr. Tibs" as in "They call me Mr. Tibbs" a famous Sidney Poitier line from The Heat of the Night. TIBS also stands for something else, but it can't be printed in the newspaper.
Tibs was limping on Friday. He'd arrived with one bum knee and had just hurt the other one. He was wandering around the competition and talking with old friends, easily making new ones.
Injury or no, he was back in the action trying desperately to land a 360 degree trick on Saturday and competing in the downhill race on Sunday. With each attempt frustration and fatigue increased and likelihood of success decreased. Nevertheless, bad knee or no, he kept trying.
"Ca va?" I asked him, a living remnant of my high school French.
"I'm okay," Tibs said, "I'm just sorry I couldn't land the trick."
He tackled the downhill race on Sunday with the same determination. His expressive eyes that held a lot of mischief and joy, showed his determination.
Grant Benesh, 16, and his brother Camden, 13, came from the Portland area. Grant managed to overextend his fingers while making a landing on Friday and quickly got to know a few of the local EMTs. He was clearly uncomfortable but they took good care of him, securing his hand and wrist with a splint and ice and wrapping it carefully. Still his hand was obviously swollen.
"I don't think it's broken," Grant said, "but I think I'm done."
He wasn't. The splint and wrap were gone the next day and the swelling was almost gone. On Sunday, like Parise, he was in his leathers, flying down the hill, living the dream.
His little brother Camden wasn't far behind. He was the youngest competitor this year and murmurs of his talent followed him around.
One father had traveled from Hawaii to see his son compete. It was the one and only time he ever planned to visit Cathlamet. It's hard to be impressed when you live in paradise. He wasn't too worried about the big storms hitting Hawaii, but he wasn't missing it either.
Mel, 52, competed in the slalom last year but said he was too old now.
"I haven't been on my skateboard since last year's event," he said, "but it's still in my car."
He might feel too old, but he obviously isn't ready to give it up. Especially the family that he has gained along the way. That's why he's back to volunteer this year-for the sport and the moving party.
Alicia Fillback, a well known name amongst the women, had been the only female skateboarder during the first year of the Downhill Corral, but this time she was one of at least six and thrilled to see more girls embracing the sport.
Brandon Tissen stayed on his board in Boarder Cross competition. Tissen's overall placings earned him the title of King of Cathlamet.
The $600 purse raised by a local group for the women's downhill race might have had something to do with the turnout. Still the women didn't limit themselves to competition amongst themselves and frequently mixed it up with the men in the downhill race and during the Slopestyle event on Friday.
It was hot outside, but it was even hotter in the racer's leathers. Her mom was certain the very lean Alicia would be losing five pounds that day.
Those leathers are hot," Deb Fillback said, "and you can tell where they take the most wear, as the bottoms rip out."
More than one skateboarder had tried to duct tape the seat of his or her suit, and still the seal had come loose.
"The longboarders exchange their wheels for new ones after each heat of the race," Deb Fillback continued. "That's why it takes so long for each heat to begin. They're on skater time."
Skater time. It was a constant refrain this weekend.