The Drink Water Rat Race Went off at Mt. Hood and Raised Over $20,000 for Water.org
Video: Tyler Malay
Few events in snowboarding are as dynamic the Drink Water Rat Race, which now in its fourth year, has turned from a grassroots summer shred-off, to a gathering of snowboarding elite, for one day of rowdy ripping on a gnarly course all in the name of fun and fundraising.
A heavy line-up of over 100 invited riders made the annual summer pilgrimage to Mt. Hood and snaked their way down the creative, banked slalom course which was built in four days by Drink Water’s Austin Smith, Bryan Fox and a few dedicated volunteers. Due to limited snow on Hood this summer, the course was in a new location above the Palmer snowfield and was about half the size of last year’s course. Despite this, the consensus was this was best course to date because of the overall flow and technical obstacles. It started a few hundred feet below the iconic peak of Mt. Hood, and weaved together tight turns, bumps, banked walls, and culminated with a set of double death whoops that made for cringeworthy-carnage at the end.
Harry Kearney took 1st. Photo: Nick Hamilton
Young gun, Harry Kearney, who has been to all but one of the past Rat Races, but never stood on the podium, blasted past the field of seasoned riders and took the win with a time that was .5 seconds faster than second placer, Blair Habenicht. Austin Sweetin clocked in with the third fastest time, just ousting Curtis Ciszek from the podium, a place he’s stood in every other Rat Race.
For the women, Hailey Langland, 14, was easily youngest and smallest competitor in the field (aside from Red Gerard) and commandeered the win with smooth style. Spencer O’Brien won last year’s event, but took second this year, and Julia Marino blasted into third.
The action throughout the day was heavy as some riders had a good handle on the course, while others fared far less fortunate, which made for solid entertainment that was accompanied by cheers and jeers from the swelling sea of notable onlookers.
Photo: Nick Hamilton
The event wrapped with a BBQ hosted by Bryan Fox’s and Austin Smith’s family at Frog Lake, where top riders were awarded handmade awards, custom Nitro decks, and surfboards meticulously sculpted by Chris Christenson. Nine Rat Trap Awards that ranged from the “Temple of Style,” to “Bubba Scrubs,” “Eat Shit or Die,” “Dead Last” and “Hot Dogger” awards were dispersed to those that didn’t clock the fastest time, but still held it down in for snowboarding. There was even a “Fuck Ya Chris Roach” award given to Chris Roach, because, Roach.
Over $20,000 was raised for Water.org, a non-profit that has pioneered safe water and sanitation for over twenty years, and a supportive chunk was also given to Pat Malendoski, who has previously helped build all the Rat Race courses, and has been huge influence on Austin and Bryan, but unfortunately had to miss out on things this year.
Photo: Nick Hamilton
The event bridged together a smattering of uber pros, for a solid day of awesomeness that was more about bringing everyone together and celebrating summer shred and stoke, than posting up the quickest time.
Read on for the highlights of the 2015 Drink Water Rat Race from a slew of pros, from those that won, to those that hucked their meat and barely made it over the finish line all in the name of water.
This was my favorite course of all the Rat Races I’ve been too, and I’ve been to a total of three. It was the best because the turns were the flowiest, quickest, and tightest. The whoops at the end were freaky– they were definitely scary! I talked to Blair [Habenicht] at the top and we both agreed not to check into the whoops. I wanted to, but I knew Blair wasn’t going to, so I just had to point it… The Summer time vibe of the Rat Race is so awesome. It was hot at up at the race, and now I’m in my swim trunks by the lake, and it’s just rad. I don’t know any other snowboard event like this. —Harry Kearney, 1st Place
I thought the course overall was very intimidating, but it was so fun to actually get on the course and just snowboard with friends and go fast. The bottom doubles were definitely the gnarliest part of the course– those were tricky for my small body to get over! I’ve never hit anything or done anything like that, so it was new and different, but fun! The overall vibe of the contest was just so laid back and mellow, and everyone is just having a good time. That’s all that matters.– Hailey Langland, 1st Place, Women
Austin Smith. Photo: Nick Hamilton
This was my first time riding in the Rat Race. I saw it going on last year and it looked like something I would like to do. Today’s course was super fast and flowy and I really had a great time. I think that having a technical course was good, and I think it would be even better if it would have roughed up like a motocross track. But it was sweet, I liked the double doubles at the end. Clearly, [the Rat Race] is what snowboarding needs right now, we need to focus on things that are good for snowboarding and these dudes are doing whats right for snowboarding. Thats why I’m here, not only for all the fun slush, but to support the positive growth of snowboarding.– Chris Roach, 24th Place
I think this is the best [Rat Race] yet because of the new course location and because of all these amazing people that are here. It’s all my favorite people in snowboarding all in one place. Last year, we had too many people, which made it super stressful for us, and this year, we have the perfect amount of people. Everyone got to race, everyone got to have fun. There’s been a crew of us up here working on things for the last four days, and we’re thankful and grateful for our friends that came out and have done a bunch of shitty manual labor with no pay, no nothing, just to make it happen. Obviously the whoops provide the most carnage, so that’s been getting a lot of focus, but I think my favorite feature are couple of the weird bumps that Scotty and I built one morning that everyone was complaining about. I like features that people complain about.– Austin Smith, Drink Water
Blair. Photo: Nick Hamilton
I’ve read about the overall contest before and I was just psyched at the timing for me to come up and check it out. The summer vibe out here is amazing. People are still competitive, but are more stoked just to be on their snowboards this time of year, than say at the Baker Banked, which is mid-season and people seem to be a more agro then, but not this time of year. This course is actually really tech, though. The start was one of the cruxes, you had to make it out and get going, and then the finish was tough. There was just enough to keep you on your toes, where you’re a little nervous in the gate and then as soon as you cross the finish line you want to do it again. For me, it’s just been so awesome to ride with guys like Gigi [Ruf] and Nico [Muller] and the Drink Water crew, it’s been rad.– Alex Diebold, 9th Place
This is my first time doing the Rat Race, and the course is super fun. I’ve been lucky enough to do a bunch of these slaloms, like the Baker Banked and the Dirksen Derby, and this is a nice mix between the both. It’s got some high speed jumps and turns, and these funny eccentricities to the course which makes it really fun. I only ever do banked slalom events, and the vibe is always good. The vibe overall is mellow and that’s why people like these events. Look at Harry Kearny, he’s like the best banked slalomer in the world and the kid’s barely getting paid. To me, that’s like the most fucked up thing of snowboarding, like some kids that can do all the tricks on rails, but can barely make a turn, but they still get a paycheck and he [Harry] doesn’t. So the vibe here is actually good because we’re actually friends, and it’s not like some end all if you win this thing. It’s not like you get ejected to stardom or anything. This is actual snowboarding.–Blair Habenicht, 2nd Place
Gigi. Photo: Nick Hamilton
This is a really rad course, the berms are super well shaped, and the pump jumps are insane. It’s sketchy, but smooth at the same time and there’s tons of sick snowboarders out here as well, it’s rad. Everyone’s just out here lapping, having fun. It’s the best summer contest.– Ben Ferguson, 16th Place
This is my fourth year, so I’ve been here for all of them. This course has been way less confusing. In years past, I’ve missed so many gates because they were like really tight turns into a mogul field or something, and this one is a bit more self-explanatory. It’s more fun, less thinking, more ripping. The whoops are definitely the scariest. You gotta be flat-based or else! The event is grassroots and everything is just basic. Like that Quicksilver sign was just spray painted, and all the prizes are handmade, and Bryan [Fox’s] family does the BBQ, so it’s just really laid back. But it’s awesome because there’s like real snowboarders that show up for this. We were talking about that when we were building the course. Like, this event is fun and funny, but these riders are here to snowboard, so we really wanted to make the course rad for all of them. Tim Eddy, Crab Grab Best Grab and Hot Dogger Award, 46th Place
This my first time at the Rat Race and first time at Hood in six years. So it’s cool to be up here for the summer ride thing. I’m stoked to be here, this is like the best kind of contest. Super fun, great style of banked turns, using your edges– it’s really cool. The course overall is great. I’m a little squirrelly on it, but it flows really well from the top to the bottom doubles. Eric Messier, 21st Place
1st – Harry Kearney
2nd – Blair Habenicht
3rd – Austen Sweetin
4th – Curtis Ciszek
5th – Temple Cummins
6th – Josh Dirksen
7th – Nicolas Muller
8th – Jake Blauvelt
9th – Alex Diebold
10th – Ralph Kucharek
1st – Hailey Langland
2nd – Spencer O'Brien
3rd – Julia Marino
1st – Alex Horgan
2nd – Cale Meyer
3rd – Dave Reynolds
4th – Chris Luzier
5th – Chad Chomala
6th – Kevin Nimmick
Check out a full list of all rankings here: WeDrinkWater.com
Photo: Nick Hamilton