How to host a longboard event?
The first event I ever hosted was Skate the Cape Shred Festival, in Cape Henlopen State Park, DE on November of 2012. I choose this location because it was where I grew up learning how to longboard and slide on using the smoothly paved dune trails for bikes, pedestrians and us skaters. I teamed up with the local surf/skate shop, Liquid Boardshop, they helped me convince the board at Cape Henlopen to let us host the first skate event at that State Park.
After the success from Skate the Cape, I added new events each year with most of them becoming annual competitions. Don’t get me wrong, I had some flops, like Alpine Fest, but I took it as a learning experience and kept pushing forward. The good and the bad helped me develop this successful formula for hosting skate events-downhill longboard/skateboarding specifically. I am moving from the East Coast to the West Coast this Winter and a lot of friends have been asking me how do you organize a skate event? So here you go!
The Simple Steps
Find a hill
What are the risks?
Plan the event
Promote, Get Sponsors, Set Prices
Plan again, reserve infrastructure, finalize details
Event Day! Have fun.
Recap, follow up, Thanks & Praise
The Detailed Steps
1. Find a hill, start with your local knowledge of hills, last thing you want is to blow up someone else's spot. Now ask yourself these questions...What kind of events does the hill offer and will it attract skaters? Who owns the hill and surrounding location? Does it offer easy parking, are there bathrooms nearby and can you camp? From my experience, State Parks and Small Cities have been the easiest to work with. Closing major roads requires a lot more paperwork, time and money.
2. What are the problems? Every event location is unique and have risks that you need to prepare for. Safety for the riders and spectators is top priority. What can the riders possibly run into? Now eliminate those risks with straw bales or altering the hill. For the spectators, there needs to be clearly marked areas of where to watch and where they can’t go. Next top priority, is protection of the event venue. This would include where people park, eat and dispose of trash.
3. Plan the entire event from start to finish with a schedule for the riders, yourself and volunteers. Having a realistic schedule really helps the event run smooth and the Property Owners of the Venue will want to see a well planned event schedule. Most events like Slide Jams, Hippy Jump Contest, Longest Slide, Big Air can be easily scheduled as timed events. For example, we would do 30 minute heats for Slide Jams. Downhill racing events require more logistics and are more difficult to plan so you need to do some research. Time how long it takes to race to the bottom and how long it takes to get back to the top of the hill. Now double that time because on event day it won’t run as fast due to falls, injuries, transportation issues and communication lag.
4. How to Get permission? Whether that is going door to door with a survey to ask the residents, going to the State Park Headquarters or meeting with the local government branch in charge of that roadway. The key here is to make a plan on how to present your event to this audience. They don’t know what a longboard event is and will have a long list of concerns you need to address. You have to explain to them what it is, how it will run and how you are going to keep everyone safe. Your longboard event is not going to be on the top of there To-Do list, so be “Consistently Persistent” and politely follow up via emails and phone calls until you have the agreement. Using your longboard event as a fundraiser for a good cause always helps your chances of getting approved.
5. Insurance and Waiver. The owners of the hill you are using are going to require a Certificate of Insurance (COI) which is liability insurance with their name as additional insured. The best place I found was http://www.cphins.com/special-event-insurance/ they charge $175 per special event. To protect yourself at the event you will need to create a waiver for every participant to sign.
6. Okay, you pulled it off and got permission to have a skate event on a hill! Now you have to spread the word and get people to the event. Create a Facebook event page, flyers and website (if possible). Start local and go to the closest skate/longboard shop near the hill and let them know about the event you are hosting. This is also a great idea at the start of this process b/c local shops are more connected with the local government, community and can really help make an event happen. Create a sponsorship package and email all the major longboard/skate brands and local businesses that might be interested. The more professional you are the better response you will get, they want to know what they get and what you expect from them.
7. How to set prices for events? This is crucial to ensure the success and future of your event. First, you want estimate how many riders you expect to register for each event. On your Facebook event page you can expect half of the number of people “going” to your event to actually show up. Next, you need to add up all your current and future event expenses. You want to make sure you cover your cost so you can continue to grow your events and have them annually. There are still a lot of other factors that go into pricing out events like the quality of the hill, shuttle rides to the top, cash prizes, etc. that add value to your event and should be reflected in the prices. Put yourself in the rider’s shoes and ask yourself... Would I pay for this event? What am I getting out of it?
8. Plan, Prepare, Plan again. As the event date closes in run the event day through your head so that when the day comes you already know where things go, when events should start/finish and what tasks to give to your volunteers. You are only one person, you can’t run an event by yourself, you need volunteers that know their jobs beforehand. Maps are always very helpful for rider parking, where sponsors are setting up, where start/finish lines are, where straw/hay bales go, etc. You also need to be organized if you are handling money, have a cash box, spreadsheets to help organize the riders as they sign up, waivers and pens. Book the rental/box truck for transporting straw bales, ramps, product, riders, etc. Check in with the event venue to make sure everyone is up to speed on all the details, last thing you want is to deal with road closures and unhappy neighbors the day of the event.
9. Event Day! Wake up early and eat your Wheaties, it’s gonna be long day! Do your best to stay on schedule, always be ready to adapt to any situation and stay calm. It’s a fun day so make sure you have fun too! People are going to be coming up and asking you for anything and everything. Don’t be afraid to say NO to people and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
10.After the event, make sure you clean up and leave it how you found it so that you will be invited back next year. With your first event, start small and build on it each year adding a new event or making another one better. After the event day you should recap the event, posting photos, announcing the podium winners online and coming out with an event video to send out to all the sponsors, riders and event venue to thank them for a great event. Lastly, create a Facebook event page for next year's event and invite everyone who came to the first one.
If you are interested in hosting a new longboard event or take over hosting one of my longboard events please contact me for more details on this process. I can help you every step of the way to make sure your event is a success! Spread the stoke and start hosting skate events!
Events I hosted:
Skate the Cape 2012-2017
Rip the Elwood 2013-2018
Bethlehem Slide Jam 2014-2018
Alpine Fest 2016
Kings Gap 2015, 2017
Red Bull Pagoda 2014
Bethesda Garage Races 2018 (2)
Skate for Peace 2013-2015