Summerland’s Giant’s Head Freeride: going downhill fast in the Okanagan

At speeds of up to 60 kilometres an hour, longboarders at the Giant’s Head Freeride in Summerland are going down hill . . . fast.

“If you don’t know how to skateboard and you come here, you leave knowing how to skateboard,” said Ken Leigh-Smith, one of the event’s organizers.

“There’s a course here that’s got three hairpins, is 2.1 kilometers long and drops 700 [vertical] feet,” added Leigh-Smith.

It’s little wonder why the event, now in its 11th year, is a fan favourite.

The three-day freeride is more of a festival than a race, though it does attract numerous, dedicated downhill skateboarders from across North America and parts abroad.

“The Giant’s Head Freeride is the best longboard freeride event in the world,” said Leigh-Smith. “We get about 150 to 200 riders from all over.”

And it’s the camaraderie, not the competition, that keeps competitors coming back year after year.

Cullen Arbuckle is a longboard veteran of the Giant’s Head Freeride. He’s been taking on the Giant for eight years.

“This isn’t competition focused; it’s focused on having fun with your friends,” Arbuckle said.

“You’ll see when they come down. Every single person is off their board the second they’re stopped; they’re looking for the people in their run, there are high fives, there are hugs, there is, you know, close encounters.”

While there are prizes — there are two days of training, while the afternoon of Day 3 is a race — boarders love the Giant because it’s billed as a no-pressure event.

In order to understand what it’s all about, you just need to stand at the finish line and watch the riders cross it.

“It’s just smile after smile. It gives us the best feeling in the world. That is what this event is really about,” Leigh-Smith said.

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