Getting the story right the second time around
We rely on sources in this business, informers who can tell us a story we weren’t there to see ourselves.
The problem is, with daily deadlines and story quotas, there is rarely time to corroborate accounts of past events or double check what people pass off as fact.
These aren’t professional sports here in Summit County, and there is no record book to consult. The history of the sports we deal with here are inscribed only in the memories of the people who lived them.
Therefore, we get burned.
A recent story I wrote about the history of skateboarding in Summit County wasn’t so much wrong in fact as it was wrong in spirit. Working with information I got from the sport’s old-timers, who have recently revived slalom skateboard racing with a tour that stopped in Breckenridge last weekend, I wrote that a man named Peter Camaan was responsible for the popularity of skateboard racing in Summit County in the 1970’s.
This pissed off, understandably so, the locals who apparently put their hearts and souls into the sport and were allegedly ripped off by Camaan.
So I got a call from longtime local Geary Ritchey, who told me I’d been misinformed and pointed me toward Jim Bowden.
According to Bowden, Camaan is the villain in the story of the rise and fall of skateboard racing in the county. The heroes, the men who started skateboard racing locally by forming a race series called Another Roadside Attraction (ARA), are Ritchey and Bowden, both of whom still live in the county.
“Honestly, it’s an ego thing,” Bowden said. “We just want credit.”
Bowden and Ritchey led a group of locals who sped down the steep mountain roads in the area on skateboards. They were mostly skiers who used skateboards as a speed and turning fix in the summer months.
“There was nothing doing in the summer then,” Bowden said. “It’s not like now. There weren’t that many cars.”
They got suited up in helmets, speed suits and goggles and pushed 70 miles per hour down Vail, Freemont and Hoosier passes. Some stood straight to better simulate the ski turn (this was before snowboarding). Eventually, they started making their own boards because they couldn’t find any to handle the type of speed they sought.
They also eventually started Another Roadside Attraction, which toured the region putting on slalom, downhill and freestyle competitions.
Said Bowden: “We started it from scratch for the kids. It wasn’t about money or trying to sell anything. We were just having a good time. We thought the kids would like it, and they did.”
Then Camaan came along. A promoter with ski racing experience, he successfully recruited corporate sponsors, which created prize money, which attracted professionals from skating hotbeds such as California. At its pinnacle, ARA hosted a race on Swan Mountain Road with $10,000 going to the winner. That’s 10,000 in 1970’s dollars.
“We started getting money, and the pros came in and took over,” Bowden said. “That’s the kind of thing that ruined it.”
Camaan slowly usurped power from Bowden and Ritchey, eventually voting them out of the organization. Then, according to Bowden, Camaan horded the organization’s finances and skipped town. That was the death of ARA, and effectively, skateboard racing in Summit County – until its revival last weekend.
“It was something we did for love,” Bowden said, “and someone came in and screwed it up for money.”
The other nail in the coffin was the law, as local police began to crack down on skaters riding down mountain roads. Many skaters spent time in jail before finally realizing they were fighting a losing battle.
Of course, Bowden could be lying about all of this. There’s no way for me to know for sure. But the collection of vintage skateboards he keeps and the fire in his eyes when he talks about the old days is proof enough for me.
Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998 Ext. 231 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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