The Skate Hog Hill year kicked off with The Crackling a few weekends back. Robbie Stevens and Jason Woodall share their stories.
From our Roasting Reporter – Robbie Stevens
The Crackling was a hot and humid affair for me this year. In fact a hot, burning, roasting, sizzling experience
That will stay with me for the rest of my days!
Rocking up to Redbridge Cycling Centre on Saturday to the bemused looks from our Lycra-clad bicycle racing enthusiasts we unloaded our various whizz-plank contraptions, ramps and other skate related gear and the rather eclectic looking UK Gravity Sports crew reacquainted ourselves.
This event is the first of three held here during the year and last year celebrated its 10th anniversary, making it one of the longest running Gravity Sports events in the UK.
Photos : Darrelle Smith
Being a cycling centre, there’s great facilities including showers and a cafe with Sheila and her fellow staff providing us with refreshments and toasted sandwiches to fuel our weekend of fun-filled action. I, myself, drink about five of her coffees and a eat cheese and tomato toastie before I do anything.
The events at Hoghill cover many disciplines from Slalom, Giant Slalom, Slidejam/Tech Sliding, Dancing, Flatland Freestyle, Longboard Downhill Racing and the increasingly popular Luge Racing, Electric Skateboard racing and, new to the scene, Streetsledge racing which is perfect for the young ones and those young at heart to get a taste of going downhill in a racing atmosphere.
In fact, any Gravity Sports related genre is welcome although I haven’t seen any Trikes or Scooters there … yet. It really has something for everyone in a safe and controlled place. The track has great grip so even if it rains it’s still possible to use the track and its various routes provide separate areas for each style of skating.
Photos : John Nicholas
Saturday sees the Slalom crew set up with their starting ramps, electronic timing equipment and what seems likes hundreds of cones! These people are seriously well organised! I watched with interest the different styles of wiggling though the multiple cones at speed and the intense concentration needed to get a clean run. Everyone there seemed to be involved in running the thing together. The UK Slalom Crew (UKSSA) are a close-knit community, and a very friendly bunch too.
Photos : Alec Brown
I was asked if I’d be having a go but, as it was the first day of the event, I declined. I didn’t want to burn up my energy or injure myself doing something new. Instead, I went over to the flat area where the Dance Jam was being held where some of the UK’s best Dancers were showing people their spinning, flipping, ‘what was that?’ moves – and trying to out do each other in the nicest possible way. The competition is heated but at the same time warm and friendly. I really want to learn to cross-step – it looks so much like walking on air, not kicking along, but gracefully gliding. Dancing is a skill I very much respect and enjoy watching.
Photos : SlidePerfect
As more people were arriving at the event I got to talk to people I hadn’t seen since 2018 Hogtoberfest and a chance to look at new gear on sale from several well known UK skate shops that had set up stalls by the track.
Now I felt it was time to get some race practice in on my Sp8Boards Luge as I’d seen more and more people tuning up to lay down. It was looking like there’d be a crowded field for Sunday’s Luge racing.
The Crackling is the first of The British Open Luge Championship which takes place at each Skate Hog Hill event. Paul Davies, who set the Championships into motion 4 years ago, has attended every Skate Hog Hill event since it’s inception and even though he is now in his 60s, his enthusiasm is undimmed.
The Championships comprise three rounds, one at each of the three annual Skate Hog Hill events, with the best results from two of rounds taken into the account. This means that even if you can only make two events, or you have a bad day, you’re still in with a shout. At each round, there are heats and a final, with points going to the five top riders, from 5 for the winner, down to 1 for fifth place. There’s also a trophy for the winner of each round, and a trophy for the champion at the end of it all – all supplied and engraved by Paul.
Photos : SlidePerfect
At last year’s Hogtoberfest event, I managed to take 3rd place on the podium. I thought I may be in with a chance of getting on the podium again until I started counting … 8, 9, 10 people on Luges. By the end of the day there were almost 20! The heat was being turned up for Sunday’s racing so it was time to get serious and see what lines people were taking and who had the speed. I’ve not seen so many people on luge or buttboards at this event before and, with the Street Sledges in the mix as well, things were going to be very interesting!
Again, this is why this location and the Skate Hog Hill events are so good. You can experience racing at close quarters on a hill which is not too fast and, with the chicane to shake things up a bit, it’s not as simple as it may appear. Anything can happen when you’re in a pack of five or six racing for that elusive gap.
Photos : Matthias Leute
All too soon it was getting close to the end of the day’s freeriding and was time to head to the campsite a few miles down the road. Three bands had been organised for the evening’s entertainment in the large hut and, of course, a camp fire was the focal point outside.
Unfortunately, the fire and I became well acquainted early on in the proceedings. While talking in my animated fashion, well known at UK meetings, I stepped backwards and tripped into the fire! Luckily, I was pulled out almost immediately by two of my friends but not before my right elbow sank deeply into the burning embers! Someone dusted off the burning coals from my back and I tried to hide my embarrassment by acting like it was nothing!
The rest of the evening just got better and better. The bands were awesome and I hope will be returning at later events. It really does make the whole thing. I’m not sure what time I crawled into my van but I was one of the last few up – as is standard for me at these things, it would seem!
Photo : Jason Woodall
Now, due to my injury (not my hangover, honest!) I decided not to race the next day and sadly left early to head to A&E in my home town to get my arm seen to, so Jason Woodall will now take over and tell you about his experience of the event and report on Sunday’s racing.
Next time, I’ll make sure I keep away from anything hot and go to bed a little bit earlier!
A View from a Newbie – Jason Woodall
I am a complete novice when it comes to racing downhill on a skateboard or a street luge, so when I was invited along to The Crackling by a friend I jumped at the chance to gain some experience and generally have a fun weekend racing. On the way down I was full of trepidation and nerves, but excited and up for the challenge.
We arrived on the Saturday morning and were greeted by an array of people parking up and pulling various types of danger planks and equipment from their vehicles and making their way up to the course. Everyone was on a high and super friendly as is usual at skate events.
Photos : Doug Wilson
After a mooch around to see all sorts of disciplines set up from Downhill, Freeride, Slalom, Street, E-board, Luge, Streetsledge, we decided to get our gear out and get ready for some practice. I was in awe of the track because I’m used to skating open road so having no traffic and no potholes made my mouth water.
Photos : Jason Woodall
The track was as lovely to ride as it is to look at. Really smooth under the wheel and over 30mph easily reached standing up, but with big grassy run offs to each side which gave a feeling of comfort as we are used to dry stone walls and sheep fences at our usual hills.
Practice day was great fun. None of our group crashed or burned and we all got to ride lots of runs on our longboards – and on luges which were on tap thanks to Andy Speight who laid on a load of ready-to-race luges for anyone to try out. We had so much fun it was brilliant. Although a chair lift would have been much appreciated for the uplift.
Photos : SlidePerfect
After practice, lot’s of us went on to the campsite just up the road to get fed and rested for race day. Well that’s what I thought was happening but apparently amazing live and loud music from The Fractured, South Circular and Two Men Down (the band formerly known as The Squeaks) and bonfire dancing is standard for Skate Hog Hill campers. We had a crazy night, met loads of cool skaters from all over the country and still managed to get about an hours worth of sleep. Plenty if you’re Twenty, but I saw Fifty come and go a while back…
Photos : Darrelle Smith
On race day, after breakfast and such, we got back to Hog Hill for morning practice and prep. We all signed up for Longboard B group as we are all new to racing, and we all signed up for luge even though none of us owned a luge. Again, thanks Andy for the loaners. Luge doesn’t have a B group so it was pros and newbies all in together.
When the racing started it was full on race-down, walk-back-up for hours. No sooner had we got to the top, we were being hailed to line up for another race. It was the most exhilarating and tiring afternoon imaginable. I was doing alright with my results so I was running on adrenaline. My mates were both doing well too, so we were racing against each other and having an absolute blast.
When it came to the stand up final, I can only describe it as carnage, but my mate was awarded 1st place and I was awarded joint 2nd with another friend of mine so it was the absolute icing on the cake for the whole weekend. Longy won a beautiful Downhill deck, I won some Otand Presidents, and Josh won some trucks so we were all on top of the world.
I’d like to say thanks very much to all involved with organising and taking part. So many friendly and helpful people all in one place. I can’t wait for the next one!
Many thanks to Robbie and Jason for sharing their day, Paul for explaining the luge Championships, and to Alec, John, Darrelle, Matthias, Doug, Street Sledge, Slide Perfect and Sp8Boards for images and videos.
For more images and videos of the weekend go to the event page.