By Ashley Mackin
La Jolla resident Jimmy “Rad Train” Riha recently took first place at the Whistler Longboard Festival in Canada.
The festival, which invites downhill skateboarders and lugers from around the world, took place July 4-7.
Riha, 21, has been competitively racing for just four years, and called the Canadian course “probably one of the world’s most technical tracks” for downhill skateboarding.
That’s why world champions Kevin Reimer and James Kelly (considered the first and third best skaters in the world, respectively) also came out to participate. However, Riha said he was unfazed by skating with the best.
He said he knew Kelly and they used to skate together, adding that, as a whole, the Downhill Longboard scene is a tightly knit one. “We all keep in touch,” Riha said. “We all get to skate together — whether it be at an event, a free ride or whatever.”
In past years, Riha watched Kelly and Reimer battle it out for first place in an aggressive back- and-forth. This year, he said he noticed the same thing during the early races. When it came time for the final race, as the two front-runners were focused on each other, Riha managed to slip into first and win.
The final race was the culmination of a long and exhausting weekend, Riha said. The days leading up to the final race involved practices; press conferences and qualifying races, not to mention the time spent catching up with other skaters.
On the first day, skaters got to practice and free skate, just to get familiar with the track. Riha said on the second day, skaters participated in timed qualifying races to determine the brackets.
He joked, “When race day comes up after free rides and qualifications you’re like ‘wait, we’re racing now?’ It’s an intense test of who can last
the longest.” His way of lasting is to “just roll the dice.” He said one can try to have a strategy, but he just goes with the flow.
That attitude may carry him to the possibility of skating for a career. He said if the opportunities were there, he would take them, but that he knows the challenges of making it as a professional skateboarder.
In fact, Riha said he only makes enough money to pay for the next race. He used the $3,000 he won at Whistler to pay off the credit card he used to pay for travel expenses and registration.
Riha said he would continue to race for as long as he can.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I wouldn’t have the friends I have today and wouldn’t have gone the places I’ve gone, if I hadn’t figured out how to go down a hill fast on my skateboard.”
On the Web
■ VIDEO: Watch Jimmy Riha skate the hills of La Jolla