While he was inquiring weather he had reached the end of the first stage of the 2011 Chief Ladiga Silver Comet Sk8 Challenge, he could have easily been wondering about the reputation the race had garnered among longboarding enthusiasts.
If any indication was given by the pedigree of participants or the response received by organizers, the answer was a resounding “yes”.
“They’re all watching it,” Marion Karr said of the long distance skateboarding fan base. “This is getting Rockmart on the map. People all over the world are watching this to see how it goes.
“There will be twice as many next year. I’ve been getting e-mails from people kicking themselves who want to be here and we’re only a third of the way through.”
For the first-ever event of its kind, the Sk8 Challenge tested around 20 riders’ endurance as it stretched along the entire Silver Comet Trail in Georgia and Chief Ladiga Trail in Alabama for a three-day trip totaling 188 miles.
Karr was instrumental in organizing the race and was ecstatic by both the contestants and the response the race received in Rockmart.
“Everybody has been great and it couldn’t have gone better today,” Karr said at Friday evening’s dinner provided by Redmond EMS. “We want to thank all of the volunteers and people here who have shown us so much hospitality.”
As the first stop on the course, the City of Rockmart allowed riders to camp out Friday night on Hilburn Field and use the showers and facilities that are part of the Rockmart Municipal Complex.
The Rockmart Business Alliance hosted a reception at The Depot at Richardson Field for the contestants after they completed the first 37.68 miles of the race and local business owner Jeri Purdy, of Sew Purdy Embroidery and Printing, made T-shirts for all participants.
Charity was also involved as 30 percent of all of the proceeds from entry fees went to www.charitywater.org, which provides clean water to people in countries who need it.
“The intent was for this to be good and fun,” Karr said. “The idea next year is to get a budget big enough to hire local EMS in each county along the way to manage the feed stations as a fund raiser.”
Kent, who took the first stage of the Challenge with a time of two hours, 27 minutes and 15 seconds, decided to come down from Calgary, Alberta, Canada to take part in the event after talking with Karr about the details.
“This sounded like super fun and I definitely wanted to be a part of it,” said Kent. “This is really big in our community and everyone has been talking about it.”
Part of a distance skateboarding team in Canada, Kent holds the world record for most miles covered on a longboard in 24 hours – 250.4 miles.
But he wasn’t the only longboard celebrity in the race.
Jeff Vyain, New York City, came in second Friday. He holds another longboard world record – finishing a marathon (26.2 miles) in 1:40:58.
"They’re the top in the world and some of the best in the sport,” Karr said. “It’s insane the quality of riders in this.”
Rockmart resident Bryson Bell, 10, came out to the Silver Comet trail-head at Seaborn Jones Park to watch the riders finish stage one.
Bell said he owns a few longboard-style skateboards and has been interested in them for about a year.
“This is very cool”, Bell said. “These guys are professionals and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
“The thing I like the most about this is that I don’t have a real athletic background but I can still be competitive with the best in this sport because there’s just not that many doing it,” said Joshua Rosenthal, a rider from New York City.
“And it’s simply a lot more fun than biking or running long distances.”
Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue member Any Andras drove up from South Florida last Thursday to be at the starting line in Smyrna Friday morning.
He said he enjoyed the scenery along the part of the trail they covered on the first day and was tempted to stop and take photos at the threat of losing time.
“I wanted to check out the west side of Atlanta and all of the nice, cozy towns along the way,” Andras said. “There’s no better way to check out a trail than to punish yourself with a 188-mile ride.”
The race got going again Saturday morning as the contestants set off from Seaborn Jones Park and headed towards Cedartown and Weaver, Ala., the final stop before covering the entire course on Sunday back to Smyrna.