“I’m the only redneck mountain boarder in Costa Rica,” Chad Crow said one windy afternoon in the hills above Heredia, north of San José. Shirtless, with dirt smeared across his back, face and tattered jeans, he lugged what looked like a small snowboard with shocks and rubber tires under one arm as he trudged up a groomed earth track carved into the hillside.
Minutes later, his feet strapped to the board with snowboard-type bindings, he was tucked headfirst into the wind, plummeting over rolling mounds of dirt, popping lofty jumps and leaning through large, banking curves. With his center of gravity dropped low and most of his weight over his back leg, Crow’s body mechanics looked much like those of a snowboarder.
Mountain boarding, a relatively new sport that has yet to land in the mainstream, is a cross between snowboarding and skateboarding, and is easier to pick up than either of those.
“This is the workingman’s equivalent to surfing or snowboarding,” said Crow, who is pushing with all his redneck might to get the sport up and rolling in Costa Rica.
Tomorrow, barring bad weather, his efforts will bear the fruit of the “first Central American mountain-boarding contest ever,” sponsored by mountain-board company Ground Industries, Red Bull and others.
The competition will be Crow’s third attempt, after his previous two contests were canceled because of weather conditions. Not that it rained on anybody’s parade.At his last attempt, in mid-February, precipitation the night before had dampened the track so that it wasn’t fast enough for a real contest, but riders, press and spectators arrived anyway, spirits were high and dry, and the track was busy into the late afternoon.
The 27-year-old from the U.S. state of Montana said he used to snowboard, and missed the sport after he moved to Costa Rica.
“I like it down here; I like the people, I love the weather, but man, there’s no snow,”Crow said.
He tried out mountain boarding on a visit to California, and decided to bring a couple boards down to Costa Rica.He and two other buddies began swapping out the boards, quickly fell in love with the sport, and founded their crew, the Costa Rica Dirtriders.
“It’s way more accessible. With surfing or snowboarding, you’ve got to be at the right place to do it, and it’s more expensive,” Crow said, adding that riders don’t have to drive to a mountain or the coast, or wait for good snow or the right swells. All a rider needs is a hill.
Crow, however, has much more than just a simple hill. At the track in Heredia, which was both a motocross and mountain-bike track before he got hold of it, he and a few friends have invested thousands of dollars and days of work into getting it just right for their sport.
“Last year, we put in three days with a backhoe and three weeks of physical labor; this year, it was 70 hours of backhoe and four weeks,” Crow said.
The track – which Crow classifies as intermediate – runs downhill and overlooks a picturesque valley of forest and farmland.
“It has a roll-in, nine woops, four berms, three quarter-pipes and two gaps,” Crow said. Those familiar with BMX or snowboarding terms may recognize those features. Otherwise, it means some bumps, some turns and some jumps.
According to Paul Johns, 18, a mountain boarder from Colorado who says he has ridden in Oregon, Kansas, Nebraska,Wyoming and Utah, and came to Costa Rica for the cancelled contest, the Heredia track is the best he’s ever been on.
“This is amazing. It’s the sickest track I’ve ridden, even better than the track at the national competition,” Johns said, referring to the annual U.S. Open Mountain Boarding Championships, held in Snowmass Village, Colorado. “I wish we could get something like this in the United States.”
The day of the cancelled competition, Johns and other riders of all skill levels made their way down the track and over the jumps, some with more speed and flair than others. Beginners focused on just getting over the rolling humps and around the corners without taking tumbles into the dirt –which is usually what happened. More advanced riders took advantage of the bumps to launch into the air, pulling grabs and spins like in skateboarding and snowboarding. Corners became chances to exhibit a little style and gain speed before barreling into the next features of the track.
In tomorrow’s contest, riders can enter two categories: those who have their own boards, and those who don’t. Participants will race down the course in pairs. There will also be a freestyle contest, based on tricks off a selected jump. The winner of the withboard division gets new wheels and hubs, while the winner of the no-board division gets a brand-new, entry-level set up.
“Basically, we just want to get somebody new to ride with,” Crow said.
For more information on mountain boarding in Costa Rica, see Crow’s Web site, www.ridecostarica.com.