Wheels and Fins Beach Festival Slalom Comp 15th September 2012

Boom! At very short notice the UKSSA was invited to take part in the inaugural Wheels and Fins Beach Festival at Joss Bay on the Kent coast. Put together by Nic Powley of Vans in conjunction with Loz Brown and Dave Melmoth, this event is planned to develop into a multisport festival, similar to the Paddle Round the Pier bash at Brighton. With a mini ramp on the beach, and soap box derby and stand up paddle board racing on the agenda, a slalom comp was the perfect fit to complete the compendium of board disciplines.

We were given the hill that descended from North Foreland Lighthouse to Joss bay. It’s a great natural drop that lends itself well to GS, but is wide enough to hold a dual hybrid. We plumped for the latter because of the greater visibility for public interest. They can see who is winning and we get to race head to head.

Stridey placed the Octane Sport ramps half way up the hill. This position gave us plenty of consistent gradient on the straight section of the road and enough stopping space before the car park at the entrance to the bay. Didn’t want to end up as an integral part of a Dubfest. More importantly, the road surface has a Jurassic abrasive tongue that would lick your flesh off from a couple of feet away. Louis slid out on a training run and felt the lash. The rest of us padded up and gingerly took straight lines down the hill before trying a few carves. Even the foot braking surface was erratic, unpredictable and fighting back.

The tarmac condition held no sway and the race went ahead. With just six riders daring to take on the vicious course, the qualifying rounds put Louis ‘Slipa’ Selby in the lead with Paul Price in second, followed by Michael Stride, myself, Harry Phelps and Tiago Fanha.

We had just an hour to race before the road closure was lifted so the rounds were pushed through quickly against a strong sea breeze backdrop. Just as Louis and Paul were lining up on the ramps to battle out the final, the local Council and organisers called TIME. They meant it. In a trice haybales were removed, timing cables wound in and ramps dismantled. There was a sense of both disappointment not to race, combined with relief that the course would not grasp another victim.

We may never know the outcome of the 2012 edition of the Wheels and Fins slalom final, however ISSA rules that Louis has the jump on qualifying and so history gives him the victory to go with his road rash momento of Broadstairs.

We may not have completed the racing, but it was certainly worth taking part. Live bands and a beer tent combined with the sporting events make this a very promising festival. Nic Powley was a great organiser to hang out with and we gave him the ammo to approach the Council to consider repaving the road. If this happens, and with Vans watching over us, then next year could be awesome.

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