Park City resident to compete in slalom skateboarding World Championship
July 26, 2018
Paul Price, a Park City resident, left for the Czech Republic on Wednesday morning for the International Slalom Skateboarding Association's World Championships in Brno. At 54, he is one of the oldest professional racers, often competing with people half his age, but that hasn't stopped him from keeping his spot among the top 20 racers in the world, and after hip replacement surgery last year, he said this could be one of his best seasons in a long time.
Price was born in London and was drawn to skateboarding by its anti-establishment roots. Even now, Price has something of a punk rock vibe. During a practice day on a hill near Park City Hospital, his elbow pads were lined with zebra-print material and he wore black and white checkered slippers.
Price made his way to the States in 2002, hoping to qualify for the Great Britain snowboard team to compete in the sport's Olympic debut. He didn't make the cut, but he did fall in love with Park City.
He applied for a green card two years later, and to his own surprise, earned one through the EB-1 "Einstein" visa – the same type that Melania Trump was granted, which requires exceptional skill or acclaim within a field.
"I just applied for a joke," he said. But he received a letter asking for more evidence.
"Because I was able to give them TV appearances, articles, race results, I got accepted," he said. "So in 2008 I came back, had my green card for five years, then in 2013 I became a U.S. citizen."
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Now, he works as a snowboard instructor for Park City Mountain in the winter and travels to slalom skateboarding competitions in the summer.
For those not familiar with slalom skateboarding, it is a lot like alpine ski racing. Racers, sometimes competing head-to-head, push off from an elevated starting gate and race down closed roads through rows of cones, which are arranged at different intervals to create either a tight slalom, slalom, or giant slalom course. The different race formats require different board set ups, and Price typically competes on his signature board, the Paul Price roadster, produced by Pavel, with different truck placements and wheel sizes. Sometimes racers will have to navigate more than 100 cones on a course, at speeds up to 35 miles an hour.
On Saturday, during his practice, Paul demonstrated a run that he said fell between a regular and giant slalom. He pushed off from the top of the hill, then started to weave on his board — this is all intentional. Because of the way the trucks are set up, racing boards don't get speed wobbles like street boards do. When he reached the first cone, he was already turning at the appropriate interval, and continued on his path as if the cones were incidental to his course. As he threaded between them, he pumped his arms almost like a sprinter, which he said allows racers to accelerate through the turns.
As one might expect, crashes are frequent in slalom skateboarding, Price said, especially when courses are improperly prepared. But most of the people at the top level, especially those who have been competing for a long time, can avoid falling.
Price's worst injuries came when he was a teenager. Once, he broke both wrists and an ankle.
"But that's all in the teenage years when you are working out what's possible," he said.
He also fell at a race in California while going more than 30 miles per hour – as clocked by judges with speed guns – though a tuck-and-roll maneuver kept him from suffering major injuries.
But competing for so long, including in every World Championship since 2000, has not come without a cost.
Years of pushing a skateboard wore the cartilage off his left hip until his joint was rubbing bone on bone. Not only was it painful for Price, but it made his legs an uneven length, making him limp and throwing off his balance. So in April of 2017, he got hip replacement surgery at Park City Hospital.
"I wanted to have it done here because they have a good reputation, and my friends are here so they were able to look after me," he said.
Now, he's feeling better than he has in a long time. His limp is gone, his balance is better, he is pain free, and he can get lower on his skateboard and snowboard.
"My form has gotten a lot better since I got my hip done," he said. "I'm much more fluid, so I got third overall at U.S. Nationals, beating a lot of people I didn't beat before the operation. So I'm definitely hoping to do well (in Brno)."
He could easily compete in the Masters' division, which starts at age 45, but he's not there yet. The open division is still too good him: He continues to place well, and receives royalties from using his signature board in professional events.
So for now, he has his sights set firmly at the top of the leaderboard.
Price is currently ranked 12th overall, and hopes to move up during the competition on August 3, 4 and 5.
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