Berley Skate owner and organizer of the Sullivan Challenge downhill skateboard race Jody Willcock. Paul Rodgers photo.

New film ‘20 Years of the Sullivan Challenge’ documents world’s longest running skateboard race

Kimberley-made film about local downhill skateboard race two decades in the making

Kimberley local Kevin Honeyman is currently promoting the release of a feature-length film documenting the Sullivan Challenge Skateboard Race, which after 20 years is now the longest-running annual skateboard race in the world.

The film is entitled Twenty Years of the Sullivan Challenge and will premier July 1, 2022 at the Kimberley Conference Centre, with tickets available from the Berley Skate storefront or from https://berleyskate.com/

READ MORE: The 20th-annual Sullivan Challenge Longboard Race

Kimberley-based Berley Skate is one of the presenting sponsors of the documentary film. The company has been making longboards for Landyachtz since 1997 and in 2014 opened a factory storefront in Kimberley. The film follows Berley owner and race organizer since the first one back in 2002, Jody Willcock, during the buildup to the 20th Sullivan Challenge.

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Honeyman, a local musician, handled the production and editing of the project and created its soundtrack, no small feat to say the least. First he had to dig up all his footage and contact other racers and spectators to get theirs from the past two decades, sift through all of it for the best shots and then edit it all together into an hour and a half long feature film.

READ MORE: Local musicians share experiences of riding out pandemic

He can’t be exactly sure, but Honeyman suspects he’s into the thousands of hours for this project

“I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while so I spoke to Honeyman because he’s capable and an old friend and he took the challenge,” Willcock told the Bulletin. “It was all him, he put in so much effort. And of course it’s featuring all his music, he’s been hard at work making tons of original stuff lately, so this is a big compilation of his last couple years of work.”

Images from the 20th Sullivan Challenge race in Kimberley in 2021. Paul Rodgers photo.

There’s always been at least a couple of cameras rolling at this race, an extremely popular attraction that always coincides with Kimberley’s annual July Fest. Willcock remembers at the very first one there was four people who shot some footage of the race, so he put together a 20 minute movie with it on his ancient computer.

“Ever since there’s always people with footage, it’s just hard to get it out of their closets,” he said. “It’s easier to get it now. Because there was such a small group of us in the early days, we all knew each other so we knew who had footage and it’s just a matter of convincing them to dig it out.”

Honeyman said the idea of putting together some media and starting to post on YouTube is something they’ve talked about for years. This new film is a jumping off point for that.

Throughout the 20 years the race has been held, a lot of different skateboarders have participated, the gear has improved and the race has gotten faster, but there’s always been a fairly familiar atmosphere that comes along with it.

“We’ve had three generations of skateboarders really come through, but it’s always the same thing. I don’t even know what to call it,” Honeyman said. “Just the camaraderie of the skateboarders and how it works with the town at the time, it works really well together. So that’s always stayed the same, but you can really see the progression of downhill skateboarding throughout the film.”

Images from the 20th Sullivan Challenge race in Kimberley in 2021. Paul Rodgers photo.

Willcock’s involvement with skateboarding goes well beyond organizing the first race in 2002. In the late 1980s at age 14, he applied and was approved for a loan from the Kimberley Credit Union to start a skateboard retail shop out of his bedroom, because there was nowhere to get boards locally at the time.

A couple years later the Credit Union gave him an award for being the youngest person to receive a business loan from them. Flash forward to 2014, he, alongside partners Noah Wesche and Aaron Christensen, bought the building that formerly housed the bank and transformed it into a retail and manufacturing space for their innovative skateboard designs, which they make for longboard giant Landyachtz out of Vancouver.

He has a great crew working right now, who churn out around 30 boards a day, with 80 per cent of their product going to China and Korea and the rest to North America, Brazil and Germany for the most part.

Over the many years he’s been in love with the sport, skateboarding has had many ebbs and flows, usually a big cycle every decade, Willock thinks. For example, at the races he’s been involved with on the Sunshine Coast some years they’ve had 150 racers, others they’ve had 12.

“If you quit on the bottom it’s gone, but if you survive the bottom of the gully it goes back up,” he said. “Usually it’s every ten years, kids drag their dads’ boards out of the closet, is what I think it is. And now there’s way more girls in there, so it’s a pretty even split of people buying skateboards right now, so girls are dragging their dad’s skateboards out of the closets and that seems to be this next wave.”

Images from the 20th Sullivan Challenge race in Kimberley in 2021. Paul Rodgers photo.

Willcock said he’s very excited to premier the film to Kimberley later this summer. He said that not only is it a great time capsule of the race itself, but of the people of Kimberley and July Fest. He can’t wait to watch people’s reactions to it and he’s personally not sick of it after countless viewings over the film’s development.

“The one test we did, I try not to show it to too many people to keep it special for the day, but showing it to people who don’t know any of this crew and aren’t skateboarders, to see their reaction and they seemed glued to it as well,” Willcock said. “So I think Kevin hit the mark. If you know nothing about us or skateboard racing and you still find it entertaining then yeah he did a good job.”

As far as future of the Sullivan Challenge, Honeyman said he hopes to see it go on forever and that it likely will as long as Willcock is involved. Willock seemed to agree.

“It would be nice if someone stepped up to take over one day but I doubt it, it’ll go down with me I’m sure,” Willcock said. “But that’s why these events last so long, because we’re the weirdos that keep doing it no matter what.”



paul.rodgers@kimberleybulletin

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