Onewheel riders take sport to new level at Northstar

The featured competition at Onewheel’s first event at Northstar California Resort introduced a new level of racing to the burgeoning sport.

After four years of racing in Vail as part of the GoPro Mountain Games, the sport, which is contested on single-wheeled, electric boards, got its own platform this past weekend, testing the top riders on the resort’s mountain bike trails.

“Man it is like night and day,” said 15-year-old Dominique Williams, who captured first place in the pro division. “This is more trails and more rocks, and more fun.”

Williams and a field of 15 other riders battled it out through three rounds of boardercross competition down Easy Rider during Saturday’s racing.

“I was stoked, I came out here and was like … will I make it to the finals?” said Williams, who won the Grom race a year ago in Vail. “And then if I make it into the finals, will I have a chance of winning?”

Williams managed to avoid most of the trouble that took down riders during the final round on the course, which presented another level of technical racing compared to past years when riders where confined to a much smaller area in Vail. He said the more than 20 practice sessions in the days before the competition were vital to winning on Saturday.

“ I think it made a lot of difference because the lines, I had all the lines visualized,” said Williams. “And knowing the fastest line that I could take at any moment really helped … the only way that I’d have a chance of winning this, is if I knew the lines better than anyone else.”

Williams would be hard-pressed to find anyone with more knowledge of the mountain than defending champion out of South Tahoe Dave Stewart, but a pair of crashes derailed the local rider’s chances of repeating.

“I’m bummed I didn’t defend the home turf, but that kid Dom, he’s super good,” said Stewart. “I just pushed too hard.”

Stewart, who has been riding since 2017, suffered two spills during the final run on the way to a third-place finish.

“I’ve been a downhill mountain biker the past 12 years. I saw a video for (Onewheels) one day, and thought, ‘that’d be fun,’” he said. “I have a moto-approved trail near my house. The first summer I got my Onewheel my wife would drop me off at the top of the mountain and I’d ride my way home.”

Stewart said he made more than 30 trips down that route before signing up and winning at last year’s event in Vail.

“Last year, I thought I’d go to Vail and see what this race thing’s all about and won it,” he said. “They reached out a few months ago and said they were going to do this here. It’s pretty awesome to have it at (Northstar).”

On the women’s side, Monterey-area rider Angel Cooper competed in her first Onewheel competition and took first place, outdueling a field of about a dozen other female athletes down the slopes at Northstar.

“I snowboard up here,” said Cooper. “I actually go into Onewheeling because of snowboarding. You’re still on your heels and your toes, but you don’t cut in like you do with snowboarding. It’s a similar movement, and it keeps your muscles in tune so you never have that first day of soreness. It’s basically, I’d say, the closest thing to snowboarding on asphalt you can do.”

In the future, Cooper said she’d like to see the women’s competition develop into a bracketed, boardercross format like in the men’s division.

“I’m always striving to increase the female presence in the Onewheel community,” said Cooper. “I hope there’s like 40 women out here next year.”

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