Two daredevil skateboarders from the Tournament Capital will be representing Canada on the world stage next month as they plunge down hills at break-neck speeds.
Downhill skateboarders Elycia Finch and Emily Pendlebury, both from Kamloops, have been named to the team that will represent Canada at the 2023 World Skate Downhill Championships in Tagaytay, Philippines, from Feb. 22 to Feb. 25.
Finch said she grew up in Aberdeen but didn't start skateboarding until after university. She eventually got involved with the Kamloops Longboard Club.
“Every day you'd have droves of young lads, for the most part, skateboarding from the top of Pacific Way pretty much to downtown — they call it the ‘bus run’ in Kamloops,” Finch said
“I don't think I picked up a skateboard until maybe six or seven years later. I started actually when I graduated university in Kamloops and I just kind of really fell in love with it.”
Finch said downhill skaters equip themselves with full leather suits and motorcycle helmets to race against each other down long, winding hills.
She said athletes in the sport learn to “slide” — a technique in which the rider throws one hand on the ground and pushes the board diagonally in front of them to initiate a turn at high speed without losing much momentum.
“That's usually where most accidents happen, but it's quite thrilling to do and really fun to watch,” Finch said.
“It takes a lot of focus and you need to commit, you can't second guess yourself.”
Finch is dealing with a nagging foot injury that she thinks might never heal. She said she’s seen everything from a little road rash to broken backs. She said many of the top skateboarders in the world are injured but learn to compete within the parameters of their injuries — a feat she said was “inspiring.”
Finch said her interest in the sport comes from her view of downhill skateboarding as a metaphor for day-to-day life.
“It's between me and my skateboard and it's really up to me to navigate through these difficult situations. Occasionally you do fall and you crash and sometimes it's really bad, but the important thing is getting back up and trying again,” Finch said.
“The important part is continuing on and being able to be brave in the face of uncertainty and fear.”
Finch said Kamloops is unique “from pretty much the rest of the world” due to its longboard park. She said arguably the most difficult part of the sport is a lack of designated areas to practice, requiring most to take to open roads.
“We have no choice but to practice on open roads so the learning curve from beginner to being good enough to navigate those situations is quite steep. So it's a difficult sport,” she said.
“Open roads 100 per cent of the time are far more dangerous than any closed racetrack that I’ve be on.”
This will be Finch's second time skating for a world title after competing previously in Argentina in 2022.
Finch and Pendlebury will represent Canada alongside Katerina Hill, Tessa Campbell, Diane Hiebert and Amie Sheppard in February.