Over the years, the Chief Ladiga Silver Comet Skate Challenge has earned it's reputation as one of the most difficult LDP events in world. It's the type of event where most people are just happy to finish! After a three year hiatus, the race is back this summer with a new organizer Carlos Montalvo at the helm. We asked him about the history behind this event to set the scene for the participants heading to the Atlanta-area this June.
What is the Chief Ladiga Silver Comet Skate Challenge? How and when did it start?
The event started because of Marion Karr back in 2011. I attribute all of the success of the event to him as well as Chadd and Georgia Hall who took over the event after Marion kicked it off. Marion used to take the train over to Weaver, AL by himself and then skate from Weaver all the way back to his car in Smyrna with a 50 lb pack. It’s insane. He did it completely self supported. He calls himself the energizer turtle or at least I like to think of him like that. One day back in 2011 Marion sent out a message on the Longboard Atlanta group chat and said he was planning this insane event. I wasn’t in a physical condition to attend that year but 22 riders did and 14 finished. If you want more history about the event you can check out this website here.
Tell us a little bit about the trail/route? Why is it considered challenging?
The obvious answer is the mileage but there are a lot more issues than just miles. The first day is typically the most easy going day. 38 miles sounds like a lot to people who spend most of their days on the couch watching Netflix but if you’re an athlete like most of the people who ride this trail, 38 miles takes anywhere from 2.5-4 hours. The first year I completed day 1 in only 3 hours. Since the event starts at 9am on Friday, most people are done with riding by lunch time. Day 2 is really where people start to drop out and the challenge begins. Day 2 is super remote in many areas. After 13 miles on day 1 the trail turns from asphalt to brushed concrete. There’s this 10 mile flat pain cave that you have to endure on day 2 after the Cedartown depot. Getting to the Cedartown depot though puts you through the biggest hill called “Trash Mountain” as well as “The Chicane”. So many riders have absolutely wrecked themselves going down this chicane. Ask Marion Karr or Jeffrey Vayne what it was like going down the chicane. I won’t be specific since it’s not my story to tell but many riders have lost skin going down the chicane and some people have even ended up in the hospital. I buttboard down this thing. Chadd Hall taught me how a few years ago. I can't stress enough how gnarly this thing is.
Buttboarding Trash Mountain in 2017
Rider Interviews From 2018
What’s the skate scene like in the Atlanta area?
So just FYI, I live in Mobile, AL now. I grew up in Alpharetta, GA and went to college in Atlanta, until 2014. I then graduated college and moved down to Mobile. I was part of the Atlanta skate scene from 2009-2014 and there’s so much I could really get into but basically Chadd Hall started Longboard Atlanta way back in the day and made so many different events like. He planned the Gwinnett Invasion, the Longboard Scavenger Hunt and even took over the Chief Ladiga event for a few years with his wife Georgia. Chadd has had so many skaters stay at his house to spend the night or just party. He’s got so many longboards in his garage it’s pretty cool. Mason “Mayday” McNay also planned a ton of freeride competitions. I think he peaked when he planned the “Skateday Bloody Skateday” events.There’s also like over 5 to 6 skateparks in the Atlanta bubble so if you want to hit a skatepark or bowl you can. I used to be a flow rider for Jati Skateboards before they went out of business and I made a quick highlight reel video showcasing what you can do in Atlanta. That video isn’t my most popular video on youtube but it’s definitely my best work. I published that video 8 years ago right before I moved away so I’m not sure what the skate scene is now. Hopefully it’s not dead and someone new took over Longboard Atlanta.
Btw, I wrote a lot about Longboard Atlanta back in the day if you want to read about it.
How did you end up taking over and rebooting the race? What motivated you to take on the challenge?
I hate to blame things on COVID but COVID really screwed us. The last official event was in 2019. 2020 and 2021 events were cancelled. We just couldn’t plan the whole thing logistically. Chadd and Georgia had basically gotten tired of planning the event. Tired may also not be the right word. You’d have to ask them why they stopped planning it. The point is that Marion planned the event the first couple years and then Chadd and Georgia took over. At some point they handed the reins back over to Marion and then COVID hit.
I remember Marion calling me in 2020 saying “Hey dude, there’s no way we can put on this even this year”. That went on 2 years in a row. In 2017 and 2018 I had a knee injury I couldn’t avoid and ended up going behind the scenes. I love this event so much and it absolutely holds a special place in my heart. I told Marion in 2017 that I’d love to run support instead of ride and he was all over it. I knew the landscape of the event like the back of my hand so I was really able to help get to aid stations and pick up any riders if they needed it. One year I even skated over 50 miles on day 3 just running water and general support to riders on various parts of the trail. So when COVID finally ended and it came time to plan the 2022 event Marion looked to me to take over. Marion called and asked if I would do it and I said yes. I called Chadd and Georgia for advice as well as talked to Marion about it. I really wanted to make sure that I respected what they’ve built and make sure I do the event right. In my mind there was a lot of pressure to do the event right and so I canceled the 2022 event as well. I didn’t want to rush putting the event together so I posted on Facebook that the event was under new management and that the event would finally resume in 2023. The awesome thing is that technically 2023 is the 10 year anniversary. Although the event started in 2011, the 2023 year is the 10th time the event has been running so I’m hoping we have a great turnout.What are you going to do differently than the previous race organizers? What are you going to keep the same?
Like I said before I really want to respect what the previous organizers have put together. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the structure of the event itself like having the longest day be last but I don’t want to switch anything up especially since we have times for all previous years and I don’t want to mess up any records by changing the nature of the event. So the event will largely be the same. The differences really lie in the details. This is the first year that we’re allowing camping at the Chief Ladiga Trailhead at the end of Day 2. Many hotels have either closed their doors or are just booked with no availability so we’re staying at different hotels. I’m also changing up the volunteer logistics with printouts, signage (especially at that Cedartown turn) and stopwatches for timekeeping. I’m also an engineer so event results will be tabulated and posted on the event results page.
Tell us about your personal experience competing in the race?
This is another really hard question to compartmentalize into a short answer. Some facts are that I attended and completed the event in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2016 my son was born in June so I missed the event and in 2017 I had that knee injury. Also, I don’t consider myself a competitor nor a racer. The Sk8188 Challenge is a group ride and I’m just there to have the most fun. In 2012 I completed the event with a really good friend of mine Meghmet Dogu who was 30 years older than me. At the time I was 23 years old and just wanted to finish. For me the event is not something I want to finish quickly. There’s a bamboo forest along the trail, really nice shady spots to take naps and one year Jansen Paumier found wild strawberries for us to eat. If you skate by as fast as possible you miss that. You don’t get any trophies but there’s also no prize money in this event. I love being outside and love being on my longboard. If you ask many riders who attend this event or the Ultra they call themselves the skate family and I totally agree. I’ve got friends in almost every state across the US because of this event. I’ve traveled to Chicago and Colorado just to see some of skate friends on the off season because we miss each other that badly. It’s a 3 day skate-cation and on Sunday when we all go to bed it’s bittersweet. The miles are over but we also understand that we won’t see our skate friends for another year. The miles really just tick by but what stays with me are the relationships that I’ve created over the past 10 years.
I also wrote a much longer blog about my first experience on my personal blog if you want to read more.
What are some memorable moments from the earlier races?
So the tornado year. In 2013 on Day 3 a tornado or a couple of tornados ripped through the Silver Comet trail. All of the riders were just crossing the stateline when the storm hit so no one got hurt but the trail was absolutely wrecked. Not to mention it basically rained on us for 94 miles. The temperature dropped like 10 degrees, the winds picked up and the rain fell. It was insane how much water came down. When we got to mile marker 20 (Tara Drummond) Chadd Hall was spooked. Lightning had hit a tree like 20 feet from his car and he was calling Marion saying we might need to cancel the event. Chadd told us that there were multiple downed trees from mile marker 20 to mile marker 0 and when he said trees he meant TREES. Like big oak trees across the entire trail. Again you can get an idea of what we went through if you watch my video from 2013.
Other than that we have a “Best Trail Story” award and there are tons of hilarious stories of puking and shitting on the trail as well as Joe Mazzone’s dirty toilet paper roll which was just covered in mud because he wiped out. We’ve got see through pants stories and tons of wrecks and trips to the hospital.
The most memorable moments though are bonding with people I just met. I can’t stress enough that some of my best friends were met on the trail. It’s like a long distance road trip with some of the coolest people you’ll ever meet.
With equipment advances, bigger wheels, etc do you expect to see faster finishing times?
Ha. This is such a loaded question. I’ve seen every type of board cross the finish line. Big wheels. Small wheels. Top mounts. Drop through. CNC trucks. Randal IIs. Paddlers. Pushers. Pumpers. I’ve seen Paul Kents absurdly light and low foam core deck as well as Wesley Williams’ 52” top mount cruiser. The top 10 riders all basically have a similar style. They are light, low and can pump a bit. Jeffrey Vayne’s company Pantheon will probably have the podium spot if not the entire top 10. If it wasn’t for my Jati decks I would probably have a Pantheon myself. Expect to see Don’t Trip trucks with the spherical bearing or Delirium brackets and a few G-Bomb trucks with the TTX bracket. For wheels the top 10 riders are usually using Seismic Blastwaves or whatever is newest Orangatang wheel like the Dad Bods. When I was riding we had the Otang Kegels and In Heats with ceramic bearings for water resistance. Back in the day we all used Skanunu lubricants. Other than that it’s really about the rider. You’re basically doing over 100 quarter squats on one leg per mile or like 20,000 quarter squats over 3 days. I’ve seen some riders use the same leg for all 3 days. Pushing both feet and pumping as well as coasting the downhills is really where you start getting faster finishing times. Of course I was never in the top 10 so you’d have to talk to Paul Kent, Jeffrey Vayne, Andy Andras or Joe Mazzone.
Joe Mazzone Competitor POV Ladiga Video
What is your best advice to someone thinking about hosting a skate event?
In college I was the Georgia Tech Surf Club president and put on a ton of events. Road trips to the beach and longboard dance competitions on campus. My best advice is to start early and ask for permission. Do not ask for forgiveness because in the real world you will get shut down. This event in June is over two states and 5 counties. The logistics are difficult and I started planning this event in July of last year. I have a spreadsheet with dates and times and phone numbers and budgets and everything you can think of. I’ve got permits in certain counties and emails of approvals as well as informal phone calls with many city officials to make sure we have everything we need to kick off this event right. You can’t cram an event like this and I guarantee you that something will go wrong this year because it always does. I just hope we get every rider across the finish line safely.
Tell us how people can get involved in this year's event.
All you gotta do is head to the Register page on our official website!
If you want to volunteer you can also post on Facebook.
Or send me an email: email@example.com
Blood Sweat Stoke!!!!
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Edited by @szieg