By Will Isern
More than 100 racers broke the speed limit at the University of West Florida over the weekend. But rather than ticketed, these speedsters were cheered.
And instead of steering wheels and roaring engines, these guys (and two girls) did it all on skateboards. Long, specialized (not to mention pricey) skateboards.
It was all for Carnage on the Coast, the annual longboard race now its third year that has grown to become the largest such race in northwest Florida boasting a prize purse of $1500.
“It’s at least four times the size it was the first year, 40 percent larger than last year and it just keeps growing,” said Michael Harrington, 26, who’s coordinated the event since its inception.
More than just a race, Carnage on the Coast is a opportunity for members of the longboarding community from all across the Southeast and the nation to meet up for a two days of camping, gear swapping, and camaraderie, with a little friendly completion thrown in for fun.
“I like hanging out with the people more than anything,” said 24-year-old Pensacola resident Aaron Conley “It’s more about chilling with your friends that you haven’t seen. longboarding is just a big family, we travel around and see each other and just hang out.”
Like Conley, many of the racers were from the greater Pensacola area, but a decent number came from out of town as well. Two even came from as far as California. By car. Other racers were counted from Colorado, Texas, New York, Tennessee and North Carolina.
Emalee Cherry, 20, came with a group from Alabama and was one of two girls to race on Saturday in the weekend’s first event, a “Sidewalk Showdown” that snaked from top of the greenhouse terrace at Building 58A to the finish line behind Crosby Hall.
“I had a lot of fun, had a good couple races,” Cherry said.” Busted it into the hay bails a few times in the practice rounds and enjoyed it.”
The weekend’s main event, a high-speed downhill race, was on Sunday and drew roughly 100 spectators to Campus Lane in front of Martin Hall.
With the roads closed to traffic, racers began in the parking lot of the Center for Fine and Performing Arts before descending down the largest hill on campus and around the sweeping right turn onto Campus Lane at speeds approaching 40 miles an hour.
Onlookers cheered and clapped as the skaters jockeyed for position coming out of the turn and gasped as the occasional racer was hurtled from his board into and, in two cases, over bails of hay lining the side of the road.
At the end of what all acknowledged was a very hot two days, there were just two things everyone talking about: the great weekend they just had, and how they couldn’t wait ‘til next year.