Dragon Race: Skating for a Cause

The radio chatter is mixed in with static and long beeps of low battery warnings. The hay bales at the bottom of California Avenue are all stacked up and ready.

“These radios fucking suck,” grumbles Daniel Navarro, one of the many Beta Theta Pi fraternity members setting things up. A call comes over the radio, broken and inaudible.

Daniel laughs for a second. “Someone’s gonna get killed.” He isn’t serious – rather, he jerks his head up to the top of the hill. “Watch, he graduated three years ago, he’s fucking crazy.”

A few seconds later, a figure flies down the hill, his chrome-silver helmet glistening in the sunlight. For a moment, he seems to slow down. Then he slams into the hay bales, sending the hay-bricks flying left and right.

He flips head-over-heels to a chorus of shouting and laughter. He looks around, utterly unfazed by the destruction. “It doesn’t need to be so wide. Who’s controlling the hill?”

Travis Chamberlain sports the Hindu Ohm symbol on his left shoulder blade and his monster tribal-pattern long board. For him, this event is fun – but it’s also a strong cause. “In ’06 or ’07, we raised, like, $6,000, and bought 20 or 30 [prosthetic] limbs.”

The project now encompasses wheelchairs, with the proceeds being donated to a project that buys wheelchairs for the disabled in Africa.

Right now, Travis has his eyes set on the bottom of the hill. Another test run is needed to ensure the hill is safe. But beyond safety, his mind is blissfully clear.

“I think the whole point is nothing. I think that’s the whole point of this. That and maybe, ‘yay!’” He gets the all-clear over the radio and flies down the hill on a mission for duct tape and adrenaline.

As the day continues, more bodies go flying through the hay bales, human torpedoes on a mission of destruction and philanthropy, healing the world one spectacular crash at a time.

The DJ throws on AC/DC as a rider cannonballs through the hay bales. Spencer, 17, gets up and throws a thumbs-up, then lies down on the sidewalk. “I didn’t think that they were that hard,” he says with a winded grin.  He echoes a common thought as he approached the hay bales at top speed – “Oh shit.”

Rider after rider goes flying through at top speed, with nothing more than a wall of hay bales and 10 feet of hay cushion between them and asphalt.

The brave board warriors attack the hill in quick succession. Thomas, a boarder from Huntington, launches  into the wall at full speed.

“I did a barrel roll,” he says with a satisfied laugh. “That’s the only way to do it. The follow through is the most important part.” There is something poetic about risking disability for a charity that buys wheelchairs. The message is clear – “Bomb hills, not countries,” says Travis.

As the cannonball runs continue, the atmosphere stays warm and filled with an almost palpable energy.

It’s as if the whole crowd holds its breath as the racers come downhill, just hoping that one of them might have the stones to blow through the rapidly disintegrating barrier.

It almost makes one want to try it. What say you, Daniel Navarro? “Fuck no, these people are nuts!”