18 Jan 2019

New Zealand longboard racing champ Elissa Mah cheers rise of women competitors

12:06 pm on 18 January 2019

New Zealand's four-time Asia-Pacific champion Elissa Mah says it's awesome to see more women taking up longboarding, ahead of Kaikōura's international festival.

Elissa Mah racing in last year's Kaikōura Longboard Festival.

Elissa Mah racing in last year's Kaikōura Longboard Festival. Photo: Supplied / Elissa Mah

The 2019 Kaikōura Longboard Festival, kicking off tomorrow, is an international event that will see competitors racing down 1km of smooth asphalt, navigating six sweeping corners at jaw-clenching speeds.

Christchurch-based Mah, 28, took up the sport in 2010 and has entered the women's and open events.

She told Summer Report she had not trained as much as she should in the past year, but Christchurch offers some good training grounds.

"It's been quite a hectic year in my life personally, but yeah ... we've got quite a few good hills around Christchurch."

The Port Hills were particularly good for drilling, she said.

"Like having corner sessions, where you'll just practice going around a certain corner."

She said more women were getting into the sport.

Elissa Mah's competitor ID for the Arirang Hill event in JeongSeon-gun, South Korea.

Elissa Mah's competitor ID for the Arirang Hill event in JeongSeon-gun, South Korea. Photo: Supplied / Elissa Mah

"Which is awesome - in the past there haven't been, women have always been outnumbered by men in downhill skating. A lot of people are scared of getting hurt, and I don't blame them but yeah, it's growing.

"Interestingly there is a lot of females in the scene in Asia, which is something that surprised me.

"Not all of them are competing but there's actually a lot more I feel in places like when I went to China, Korea and the Philippines - there's a lot of girls over there, which is really cool."

She said skill and technique were important for racing.

"It depends on the course - so straighter courses, weight will give you an advantage since it is a gravity sport, but skill and technique plays a role in it as well.

"Understanding how to take good racing lines around corners, same kind of thing as, you know, any kind of racing; understanding the lines to take; understanding how to drift around corners.

"Drafting people as well, you can hop into their draft to try to gain a speed advantage when you're racing."

She said the "tuck" could play a role as well.

"When we want to go fast we sort of crouch down and fold yourself into what we call a speed tuck - so obviously eliminating all of the air pockets will make you go faster.

Drifting, or cornering, was something she said she needed to work on.

"That's something I still have a lot of work to do on in terms of how long to hold the drift out for because that relates to how much speed you're shaving off."

Elissa Mah drifting in the Philippines.

Elissa Mah drifting in the Philippines. Photo: Supplied / Elissa Mah

"A lot of it is to do with your mental state as well, you have to be not scared to do things."

The sport requires a fair bit of protective clothing.

"Bare minimum is full face helmet and we wear special gloves with thick, high-density ... it's sort of like a high-density plastic material, so they allow you put your hand down on the ground when you drift.

"I wear kneepads as well - not all the guys wear kneepads because sometimes it can interfere with your movement, but I do - and sometimes I'll wear elbow pads."

"For racing I have a full leather suit."

Despite all that she had experienced plenty of wipeouts - but never broken any bones.

"Touch wood, I haven't, but I have gotten a lot of road rash. I tend to be a bit more cautious these days but road rash is quite common, we all get very used to treating it."