The number of riders from all over Canada taking part in Shake the Lake’s action sport competitions Aug. 10 and 11 was another indication of the festival’s nationally growing appeal.
Registrations for 1664 BMX Bonesaw Jam and Vans Lake Jam skateboarding competition were accepted from as far as Quebec and New Brunswick.
The BMX competition was filled to capacity, with just under 100 riders participating at the multiplex Aug. 11.
Its popularity proves that it is quickly becoming a go-to event for riders of all ages and skill levels from across the country, according to festival co-ordinator Sean McIntyre
“You can really tell that the BMX industry is taking notice about what’s happening in Sylvan Lake,” he said. “We can tell that as well with our sponsorship. We’ve got larger companies now getting on board wanting to have their name recognized as being associated with this competition. That’s really cool.”
Registration for the BMX competition is capped at about 100 riders to allow each participant adequate time on the course. With people travelling from places as far as Vancouver Island, Yukon and Eastern Canada specifically for the competition, ensuring participants get the most out of their registration fee is important, said McIntyre.
“They all pay to register, and we want to make sure that they’re getting their money’s worth. We want to get them as much time on the course as possible.”
A large part of the competition’s appeal, according to McIntyre, comes from its park format, which is similar to competitions such as X Games and Dew Tour.
Though the competition has been park-based since it was first held in Shake the Lake’s 2008 inaugural year, its judging and competition format has evolved throughout the years to give spectators an enhanced viewing experience, and to ensure the competition’s pace remains steady.
“We used to have one person on course, and then we had two people on course. Now we’ve got four people on course,” said McIntyre. “It keeps it interesting for the crowd, and also for the riders.”
McIntyre credited the success of the event to the judges and organizers who run it. He also reserved special mention for the parkitects who designed the park at the multiplex.
Shawn Lee and Kyle Wachter have been part of the Shake the Lake team since 2009, and once again impressed with their setup, according to McIntyre.
“They’ve been working hard on dreaming up new layouts and better features, and I think this year we got a really great mix of what we wanted to see. We’ve always got a balance in mind of amateurs and pros and people who are just starting, and I think that we were able to realize most of that this year. The riders were definitely happy.”
Unlike BMX, this year’s skateboarding competition underwent a major format change. Previous years saw it held in a park setting similar to that of the BMX competition.
This year, organizers decided to try something new, and limited the competition exclusively to the mini ramp.
Doing so allowed them to hold the competition at the festival’s new downtown location, directly beside the music stage as performances took place.
“I think more people were able to enjoy it that way,” said McIntyre. “I think it was better suited to the festival.”
He added that future Shake the Lake skateboarding events could make use of the town’s skatepark at the community centre. The festival’s new location at the corner of 50 St. and Lakeshore Drive, however, he feels is ideal for both live music and skateboarding.
“As far as Shake the Lake goes, that downtown location is ideal for us. There’s no better location in Sylvan than where we were.”
The festival experienced a first of a different kind this year, when a BMX rider suffered a serious head injury.
Joe Pineau, 18, of Whitecourt, landed on his head following an attempt to land a trick, and was immediately treated by medical staff before being transported to hospital.
McIntyre said members of Pineau’s family say he is now doing well and is expected to make a full recovery.
While the incident was a “scary thing” for all who witnessed it, McIntyre said he and the entire Shake the Lake team were relieved to hear good news from the Pineau family.
He was also pleased with the way in which the event’s medical team handled the situation.
“We’ve never had something like that happen before, but we were ready. We were prepared for it,” he said. “It’s a big credit to the staff and to the medical staff that they responded well. They were calm under pressure and I was really impressed with them.”
McIntyre said Pineau was participating in his fourth Shake the Lake, and referred to him as part of the Shake the Lake family. McIntyre has been in touch with members of Pineau’s family every day since the incident occurred, and is tracking his progress as he recovers.
“His mom says that he can’t wait to get back on a bike again, and that we can expect to see him at Shake the Lake 2014.”
Returning to full health first, however, is a priority, he added.
“When you get a head injury, you’ve got to be careful and very calculated on the way that you go back, and so we’re still praying for him. He hasn’t made a full recovery yet.”
Despite the seemingly dangerous nature of the sport, serious injuries, such as the one suffered by Pineau, are actually somewhat rare in BMX, according to McIntyre.
He acknowledged that, like many activities, BMX does present risks to those who participate in it. Safety, however, is an important consideration in the sport.
“When a serious injury happens, it’s serious for all of us, and we’re really happy to hear from (Pineau’s) family that he’s making a recovery.”
Competition results will be available on Shake the Lake’s website at www.shakethelake.ca.
Those who were unable to attend the festival may view highlights online at www.facebook.com/shakethelake.