This is one of our most iconic downhill skating photos.
It features some of Cape Town’s oldest and finest downhill skaters hauling full throttle into the drop of arguably Cape Town’s gnarliest hill. The image was captured on 35mm film by Marishka Diebold with the grain giving the photo a timeless, textured feel. The rays of sunlight pouring into the frame (much like the skaters) and the glistening of the rock face give a hint of the early morning hours at which this photo was taken. We tried to fully capture the feeling a downhill skater experiences and illuminate what emotions reside behind such a photo.
Tackling a heavy hill is a process. It is all about confidence and people go about achieving this in various ways. Some will meticulously go over their gear the night before checking and double checking that everything is right as rain. Others will keep to themselves and quietly wait in anticipation. Still others will knock back a few beers and keep the anxiety at bay by through slight inebriation and shit talk. Hell, there are even those that will go on all night benders and rock up at the top of the hill in the early hours with a whole cocktail of dubious substances revelling in their bloodstream, tottering around unsteadily on their feet. But it does not matter, because mentally they are ready. The confidence is there. Nervous smiles flicker between riders as they pop out of their cars and quick greetings are exchanged. The air is cold and the first rays of sunlight are peeking over the mountains. The uneasy sleep is immediately forgotten and the grogginess replaced by the growing gnawing in your stomach. I’d imagine this is what it feels like to go to war.
Last minute checks are made and trucks are over tightened but once that helmet is strapped on and you’ve pushed off, it goes strangely quiet. The only sounds you can hear are the labouring of your breath, your heart pounding in your ears with the wind rushing by and the steady hissing of urethane on tar. Through your fogged up visor and the blinding morning light you see riders around you jostling for position. But other than a vague spatial awareness, you care not for them. You are on your own now and there’s no turning back. There’s only one person that can get you down the hill; and that’s yourself. As you pick up speed the fog on your visor clears and the sun averts its rays as you turn into the drop. And with a sickening beauty the hill lays itself bare in front of you along with the breath-taking scenery. It is a surreal feeling. The noise of the wind picks up and drowns out your anxiety. It is instead replaced by focus. It’s fucking go-time. This is why you barely slept. This is why you got up at godforsaken hours. This is why you drank too much coffee and subsequently shat your guts out. It is all worth it.
You adjust your tuck and tense your muscles. Everything needs to be watertight. It’s time to hunt; where are these other fools? You look around trying to find the nearest rider to slipstream. You pick up on his draft and quickly get sucked in. You come up close behind him and give him a push. He motions with his hands… it’s all good, it’s all under control. It’s never felt this good to have your face within inches of another man’s arse. The first corner comes up. You look ahead, watching closely what the person in front does. Gingerly he breaks his tuck and starts air braking. Everybody follows suit. You take note of your heart pounding again. Everybody is dangerously close coming into this corner. Is there enough space? There should be; if everyone holds their line. But will they hold their line? You sweat bullets. And so does everyone else. And even though that sweat might have dangerous levels of alcohol content, dripping out of a body that hasn’t slept in 24 hours, this isn’t their first rodeo. If there’s one thing they know how to do, it’s holding their line. There’s some frantic clapping and last second adjusting of positioning and everyone hurtles into the corner together. You exit with a feeling of elation. From here on out it’s piss and before you know it you reach the bottom of the hill.
Helmets pop off revealing face stretching smiles. Everyone hoots and whistles. Fist bumps, hugs…all kinds of affection are shown. Everybody bundles into the van and the run is analysed in detail on the way back up. Everyone has their own perspective, their own sketchy situation that needs re-visiting. The anxiety is over. Now it’s time to skate. Like I mentioned earlier: From here on out it’s piss.
Written by: Yoshi