With lockdown unwinding, albeit slowly, some of the UKDH skate community got into Wales for a much awaited event. For many, making the journey is as much part of the experience as the ride itself! Thanks to Sam for sharing his experience.
Before I dive into the joy that is skating Welsh hills, a little about me: I’m 20, live in London and have been committed to downhill longboarding for two years.
Living in London, we can be a little starved for big hills; by ‘we’ I mean me and the rest of London Longboards. There have been many who have helped me learn but Ben Stainer, Brandon Fanthome, Ryan Boroughs, Mo Osman and Jed Chapman have done the most to help me pick up those essential slides. None of them ever charged me a penny, a favour I hope to return to an ever growing number of new skaters.
I wish this Mazda Bongo was my own but it was kindly lent to me by my dad. As is the way with campers, there are always a few little tweaks that need to be made before a big trip. It already had solar but had never been fitted with an inverter. My good friend, Kevin, lent me the tools to get to work on wiring up the van’s electrics to make them a little better and, more importantly, much safer.
My dad currently lives in West Sussex. I had to drive to London to collect my things (and Mo and Jed, I guess) before the long drive to the Welsh town of Rhayader. This drive may seem long but I cannot stress the importance of skating with others in the UK; only through meeting others and trying bigger hills can you progress your skating and develop your style.
With the cost of fuel and the world getting warmer, if you aren’t giving your mates a lift to skate events and splitting the fuel you’re doing it wrong. This trip wouldn’t have been half as much fun if it weren’t for Mo and Jed.
With our every move now being shadowed with COVID-19 precautions, we did not want to be those “3 Londoners storming through every convenience store in Wales” and bring down the reputation of longboarders in Wales. Stopping at a large supermarket in London, we bought nearly twice what we thought we’d need. Water, utensils, fruit and vegetables and enough ramen noodles to feed the skate event. We masked up, of course!
Having powered on as far as I could into the depths of the winding Welsh hills, I called it; I could drive no further. We pitched up on a quiet corner to set up the van for the night. It just isn’t worth driving tired on those roads. We were down to skate Sheepy the next day and, being only an hour away, we weren’t worried about time. We set off in good time the next morning, after coffee and some snacks.
This being the first skate trip I have ever done in a camper, I was eager to prepare as many meals as possible. Between us, we managed to pull together some tomatoes, avocados, mushrooms, spinach, ciabattas and – of course – cheese.T hat, and a good English brew, set us up in the right mood to skate.
Part of what makes Sheepy one of the most enjoyable hills in the UK is the view. You’ll find yourself staring across the rolling valleys mid-run, in between corners. Hairpins, sweepers and a tight bridge section add to the thrill of this gem. I don’t think it will ever get old; it’s been skated since before 2010 which, in a sport this young, is impressive.
It being the day before the event and no one else was skating, I decided to have Brandon film my first ever raw run. As the sun set over the valley, I pushed off and captured one of my favourite runs on this hill.
The Raw Run
We then drove along the valley and found a very tucked away car park; whilst what we were doing was entirely legal, none of us wanted to disturb the locals by driving through in the evening. I cooked up some tuna and peppers with harissa for a Tunisian style of pasta for the three of us.
The following morning, we packed up and drove out of the valley to get a mobile signal before returning to the hill and finding the party corner full of cars! We parked on the top straight, laid out a yoga mat and began the day’s stretches. It was so good to finally catch up with everyone we’d not seen since the COVID-19 outbreak. All though no hugs were exchanged, it was great to do runs with people from all over the UK.
It was amazing to be back skating with friends on a legend of a hill and to see so much stoke and progression.Mo
Having tractored the poor Bongo through the Welsh mountain roads (one’s called “Devil’s Staircase”, which sums them up) we set up at another tucked away spot just as the sun began to set.
It was great to get out of the city for the first time since lockdown. Seeing so many new faces amongst the old was really encouraging – the UK scene is still alive & kicking!Jed
Starting the day at Bleek, the racers spent the morning getting into leathers and blasting fast runs. However, due to an odd series of events, we managed to get completely lost, ending up at the end of the valley where we finally got a signal and were able to put a location into the GPS. We did manage to catch the end of some runs, though, before moving to Telephone Box.
These two corners into a steep drop off have kept longboarders entertained for years. No surprise when you take into account the surrounding beauty of the Welsh valleys and the noise of cascading rivers. After having had a few relaxed runs, a dip in the river and a cup of tea, we decided our legs couldn’t take anymore; the journey for home was set.
Despite these new times, it was amazing to see the UKDH community could still make the best of the opportunities before them.Sam
I would like to thank those who helped throw this event together.
If you are looking to join us, keep your eye on the Thrill calendar, I look forward to seeing you on the hill.
- Words & Images by Samian Trollope
- (unless otherwise credited)
Date for your diary: Sat 8th August – Freeride is Still a Thing – Vol. 8