The Long Ride: Q&A with father and son longboaders Mike and Greg Paproski Part 1
Like many twelve-year-olds, Greg Paproski likes to board. But unlike most of those twelve-year-olds, he’s focused on longboarding — and spending the summer competing in races. With the help of his new sponsor, Dregs Skateboards, he’s “hit” (longboard lingo for competed) three races in the North American Downhill Series: the Vernon DH in Vernon, British Columbia; the Grand Prix of New York in Windham, New York and the Maryhill Festival of Speed in Goldendale, Washington. He currently ranks number one in his region and third in the world of the Junior Division ages eight through thirteen of the International Gravity Sports Association.
As Greg and his father, Mike, prepare for Colorado’s big international race, the Buffalo Bill Downhill Bloodspill, we met up with them at one of Greg’s favorite shops, BOARDLife, to talk about longboarding.
Westword: When did you start boarding?
Greg Paproski: I started on a trick deck, like a normal skateboard. That was around when I was five, and when I was ten I started longboarding.
When did you get into the racing scene?
Mike Paproski: This kind of started when he was having issues in school. I told him if he could bring his grades up we could focus more on skating. And he did. He came back with honor role, so I started buying him whatever he needs for skating.
What are competitions like?
Mike: They have two different ways that they do longboard at these competitions. They’ve got downhill races and then they’ve got sliding competitions. It’s more of a trick thing.
What was your first board?
Greg: My first board was an Arbor Blunt. It was just a really big board with a kicktail on the back. It wasn’t really anything too big; I was just riding downhill, cruising around pretty much.
What boards do you use now?
Mike: We just got a new sponsor. He’s working on learning a couple new boards with the new company and we’re gonna see if that’s one of his new favorites.
Who’s your new sponsor?
Mike: Dregs. The guy who owns that, we met him at one of the last races in Washington. After about five minutes of talking to Greg, the guy [Biker Sherlock] came up to me and said, “What do we need to do to work together?”
Biker Sherlock is the winning-est “louge-er” in the world. He’s one of the granddaddys of longboarding. He’s actually coming down here in September for the international race in Colorado: the Buffalo Bill Downhill Bloodspill. That’s his company, so it was pretty cool…
How does that feel, Greg?
Greg: I was just so hyped that whole weekend. One of the best hills, having the funnest time of my life, and I got to meet one of the best longboarders out there who pretty much started it. I was so happy.
You’ve clearly caught some people’s attention. Tell us a bit more about the races!
Mike: We’ve hit three out of four races in the circuit so far this year. We’ve been to Vernon in British Columbia, Canada; New York, which was in the Catskill Mountains; and Mary Hill in Washington, which is where we met Biker. None of those races really worked out for us the way we wanted them to. We had hiccups in each one of those races. The first race was just equipment. It was our first big race. We didn’t know we needed as much equipment as we did.
Greg: I needed new wheels to grip better.
Mike: He had to race against the number-one kid in the world with old wheels. We knew we needed them, but wheels are expensive. It was gas money versus sixty bucks for wheels. The number-one kid in the world gets thirty sets of wheels a month, so we get none. We [flew] out to New York for the second race of the year. I couldn’t really afford to fly out there, but we did. It [rained] and our flight was canceled. We took a different flight and they lost our bags, so we didn’t have any of our gear in New York. We had our skateboards that we’d carried on, but none of our leather suits or gloves or helmets. Greg ended up sitting the whole weekend not able to ride the course at all until the last day when the gear showed up in Albany, which is an hour and a half away, an hour before the race. So we got the gear, drove to the race. He got to race two out of the three races scheduled for kids his age. Those were the first two times he’d ever gone down the hill. Period. This was a gnarly course. They had to shut it off for a while because guys were crashing and getting hurt. They pulled four people off on ambulances. This kid, the first time he went down that course in a race, and he got second place. The very next race, the third out of three races, he got first place and he was going so fast.
Basically what happens is these guys will draft each other, it’s all about aerodynamics, as they go down the hill. The rest of these kids, they’ve been racing for four or five years. Even the little eight-year-old has been racing for five years, so they know to follow behind. Plus, these kids had been riding the course all weekend, so Greg took it easy on the first run. At the bottom of the first race, Greg said to me, “Dad, I got this.” I told him just to be careful because the last turn was hairy. It was flat surface with no bank and a 90 degree turn right after a super-fast hill. These kids followed Greg and got in his draft. They were a lot lighter and hoping to cut on the inside of him in that turn. They were going so fast in that turn; none of them had ever gone that fast. Three kids hit the hay bale right after he made the turn. He got first place on his second time down the course!
Check Out Part 2: Click Here