On a cold Friday afternoon in Miami, Matt Ayres continued to push. Three pumps with his left foot, then cruising on his longboard. Only 16 more hours to go.
Ayres was in the initial stages of the 24-hour Ultra-Skate race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida, the only skateboard-specific ultra-distance race of its kind in the United States. The race started at 8 a.m. Friday, and not long after, the downpour began. For six hours, rain and wind gusts of 15 to 20 mph battered the skaters.
“We had about four really good hours to start, and then we were skateboarding in the rain on a NASCAR track,” Ayres laughed. “It was challenging. Looking back on it, it was cool. But it definitely slowed me down.”
Ayres, a 45-year-old El Granada resident, finally accomplished his goal and came in third in his age group. In total, he skated 151.84 miles in 20 hours, 42 minutes and 13 seconds, finishing 21st out of 79 finishers. The track’s 1.46-mile loop tested the skaters’ physical and mental endurance.
As any long-distance racer will tell you, hydration is crucial. After competing in the event for the past two years, Ayres finally got the water intake right this time.
Ayres grew up skateboarding in Concord and got into long-distance races the past few years. He practiced for the race on a 10-mile out-and-back road from Burlingame to Redwood Shores.
The race was won by 28-year-old Joseph Mazzone, who skated 275 miles in 23:13:01.
The event first came together in 2006 and is the brainchild of James Peters, who was among the first to cross the 200-mile mark. He set records at Green Lake Park, Washington. Since those humble beginnings, the ultra has attracted international competitors and been the scene of higher and longer standards. The Homestead-Miami course record of 309 miles was set by 39-year-old Andrew Andras in 2016.
During the race, meeting and learning about other competitors helps pass the time. Ayres said the competition is spirited but collegial.
“You have these small conversations with people as they pass you and you pass them,” he said. “You talk to people here and there, and see people there from last year. But as it gets later in the night, there are less people out there.”
The event provided an outlet for Ayres to continue his passion for skateboarding, and it’s a unique way to stay in shape while connecting with a group of like-minded individuals.
“There are a lot of unique people there. And it’s surprising — people come from all over the world to do this event,” Ayres said. “It’s pretty cool.”