A Downhill Battle by Brian Lee
When I interviewed cover boy Bricin Lyons in recognition of the 10th Attack of Danger Bay longboard race, we had a chuckle about one of the first times we met. It was about 11 years ago and I had just moved back to Pender Harbour. Before that I had only casually rode my roommate’s longboard around the side streets of North Burnaby.
One evening I was at the Garden Bay Pub with a couple of friends for dinner and on our way home we ran into Bricin. He had a stack of boards that were nothing more than huge planks with wheels. Bricin wanted to hit some hills but needed a ride so he convinced us to go for a tour north to Egmont.
We all rode a few small warm up hills along the way and by the time we reached Egmont Road, Bricin had us convinced we were ready to tackle the hill leading down into the Earl’s Cove ferry terminal. He assured us that if we didn’t feel comfortable going all the way down, we could just pull off on one of the roads at the top. I was the only taker but had no intention of going all the way into the terminal. Instinctively, I knew that hill was much too steep and confined for my skills.
But he assured us in that trademark all-caps voice of his that if we did keep going, it was a piece of cake. “Once you reach the bottom of the hill, all you have to do is to carve a hard right uphill and coast to a stop.”
His absolute assurance and the three caesars I had at the pub gave me just the right amount of confidence to consider it — and besides, if I wasn’t comfortable I could just “pull off at the top.” I should also mention I was wearing shorts and Birkenstock sandals. And maybe it was six caesars.
Anyway, Bricin went first and stopped at the top to make sure the coast was clear. He needn’t have bothered because by the time I reached him, I was wide-eyed and fully committed. Unable to turn and already battling speed wobbles, I just flew past him down the steep hill into the terminal. Bricin gave the ecstatic “whoop!” of a sadist who’s about to see some carnage and hopped on his board to follow.
The next few moments are crystal clear as I picked up even more speed and the board threatened to shake me. I remember trying to hang on while preparing for the only thing that could save me — that swooping 180-degree bottom turn. But as I rounded the bottom end of the concrete dividers, I realized I was only going to be able manage 60 degrees of it and quickly reassessed my options.
The first was to continue in the direction I was on. The picture of that path is still imprinted in my mind: a narrow gap between two concrete dividers offering a tragically small strip of grass and a chain link fence. At the speed I was travelling, the chain link fence was like a cheese grater and as it rushed at me I took option B — I bailed on the asphalt.
I busted off a big toenail and shredded my left palm and all the skin on the right side of my leg. As I lay on the ground mentally surveying my injuries, our buddy Andy, who was following in the car, rolled to a stop right above me.
Laughing uncontrollably, he hopped out of the Jeep Cherokee and came running over as it kept rolling — right on top of me. As I tried to scramble out of the way, he hopped back in and managed to put the brake on, barely saving me from further injury and humiliation.
I missed work for a few days and after that, when I’d go skating with Bricin, I was happy to just take photos.