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Downhill racers 'live on the edge'

Alpine Skiing

TEMECULA, Calif. -- A downhill skateboard racing league in San Diego tests the limits of speed, courage, and intelligence.

“I’m a little bit crazy, a little bit on the edge,” said racer Brian Ward.

Crazy and on the edge appropriately defines the group of guys who throw all caution to the wind as they bomb down hills on skateboards.

“It’s like accelerating in your Camaro as fast as you can,” said league founder Tye Donnelly.

Donnelly and his crew constantly search San Diego and Riverside counties for streets with steep inclines, with little traffic and few homes. They walk to the top, make sure no cars are coming, and take off in an aerodynamic stance to reach speeds over 50 miles per hour.

“It’s kind of like freedom I guess,” said the 42-year-old Ward. “You pay the price sometimes. I`ve got many wounds to pay for it.”

As he said that, he pulled off his elbow pad to reveal several layers of scrapes and cuts from crashes, too numerous to count.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, the racers visited a spot in Temecula where they will hold their next race on Sunday. As they sped down the hill, and around the corner, neighbors came out to watch.

“I love it,” said resident Janie Drinhaus. “I do because my kids-they're 18 and 15 and they really like the sports and stuff.

“It's their risk. If they want to take the chances and they're not going to sue, I don't see any problem with it.

Donnelly, 40, said SDDRL’s organized races, and their practices, are legal and the police encourage them to ride safely.

He said they emphasize safety as much as possible, using helmets, knee pads, leather suits, gloves with hard plastic pads on the fingers and palms and boards specially made for speed.

The sport even has a governing body known as the International Gravity Skate Association.

“In the last two years, it's exploded around the world,” Donnelly said. “When we started five years ago, we couldn`t find anyone that could do it. Now, through the races and to the videos, it`s spreads like a virus.”

Donnelly not only races down hills, he and his friends also scream down parking lot ramps on Sundays and evenings. Basically, anywhere they can get gravity to work for them, they will.

“If you're a skier or snow boarder, it's like having endless ski resorts all over your back yard and it`s just the fun of finding them and testing them out,” Donnelly said. “They look un-ride able and it`s just a great feeling of racing and feeling the speed, testing your limits.”

The SDDRL also provides instruction for beginners and they say they will provide lessons for those who arrive early to their next race on Sunday.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun