Memorial race for longboarders takes place in Abbotsford

The event, being held Saturday, Aug. 29, is designed to promote safety and awarness

Longboarders Jonny Lachapelle (front) and Michael Bridge practise on Discovery Trail for the Yardwaste Downhill Memorial Race. Looking on in the background are (from left) Wade Saint Ange

Wade Saint Ange, 14, was devastated when his close friend Marcus Larabie was killed after being struck by a car on Dec. 26, 2014.

The two had shared a love of longboarding, and earlier this year, Wade began talking about having some kind of event to memorialize his friend and other fallen longboarders.

“I just don’t want any more kids to die,” he told workers with In It Together, a gang prevention and intervention program at Abbotsford Community Services.

Over the next several months, that idea flourished into what has become a sanctioned longboard competition and race.

The Yardwaste Downhill Memorial Race presented by Landyachtz Longboards takes place Saturday, Aug. 29 on the portion of Discovery Trail that is located off Homestead Crescent in west Abbotsford.

Registration begins at 10 a.m., and racing runs from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The trail will be closed to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In It Together has partnered with Yardwaste Downhill – an Abbotsford-based group of longboarders who promote safety and awareness – to organize the event.

Jonny Lachapelle and Michael Bridge of Yardwaste said the group hopes to debunk the negative misconceptions that some people have about longboarders.

They said skaters have the right to be on the road – following the same rules as cyclists, for example – and are in control of their board, but they are often labelled as nuisances.

On the flip side, they understand that some longboarders could use education about road safety and the necessity of wearing helmets and other equipment.

Events like the memorial race in Abbotsford help educate the public and skaters alike, they said.

Stephen James of In It Together said longboarding is a means of transportation for many of the young people he comes across, and also provides a positive form of recreation.

“I work with youth, and I want to see them getting hooked to this kind of stuff because it’s, by and large, very positive,” he said.

Alison Gutrath, community co-ordinator for In It Together, said the groups hope to provide more races and other events – such as safety clinics and school presentations – throughout the year.

Young people will longboard regardless of the potential dangers, and the idea is to educate them to do it more safely, she said.

Another component of tomorrow’s event is remembering Marcus and two other longboarders – Dustin Mackenzie and Dakota Leslie. Memories will be shared by family and friends during the event opening from 1 to 1:30 p.m.

Marcus, 14, was struck by a car on Dec. 26, 2014 while he was in the area of Bourquin Crescent West and Mill Lake Road. He passed away in hospital a few hours later.

It has not been confirmed whether he was on a longboard at the time. The matter is still before the Independent Investigations Office, which is investigating the incident because the driver was an off-duty Abbotsford Police officer. If the IIO determines that the officer might have committed an offence, a report will be filed with Crown counsel to determine whether any charges should be laid.

Dustin, 11, was longboarding downhill along Bevan Avenue near Cascade Street on May 31, 2014, when he took a spill and hit his head on the pavement. He was not wearing a helmet.

He died in hospital two days later.

Dakota, 19, died in hospital on May 1 of this year, a few hours after he was hit by a vehicle at McCallum and Marshall roads. A longboard was found at the scene, but it has not been confirmed whether he was riding it at the time of the collision.

The incident is still under investigation with the APD.

For more information about the memorial race or to make a donation to future longboarding safety initiatives, call Alison at 604-853-1582 (ext. 227) or 604-309-8643.

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