It’s louder than a fart in an elevator, and just as menacing. The Corner, looks like a bunch of spring breakers who have gate crashed the civil war front line. A round pf rolling thunderous shouts issue from the assembled, half naked men and women. Flags waving above them, beers cans scattered like emptied shells, bikes held aloft as if they were threats…The Corner is a sight to see.
It’s a little intimidating, but approaching from behind I manage to immerse myself within the raucous group before they had time to sense the advance of a stranger. Once within the rabble I had nothing to do but yell and cheer; releasing myself from the bonds of social reservation I was accepted by the group.
They were caught up in the revelry (and probably enough beers to sink a ship) so one more screaming, air-punching loon barely registered with them. It was as if I was camouflaged by subcultural semblance. Just so long as I was obedient in my disobedience then I was as invisible as a mid-term paper two weeks from deadline.
After a suitable amount of time (I.e. several spontaneous high-fives with strangers and beer chugs with new bro-buddies) I felt comfortable enough to ask one of the group a few questions. Honest and open, they even permitted me to unbutton my recording device to capture their song of exuberance and ask them the why and wherefores.
Click on the video slideshow (at the top of this post) to hear it in their own words, but here are the cliff notes:
• Gathering to cheer on the Sea Otter Dual Slalom from The Corner is as important to the crowd at this spot as the trophy is to the racers that duel around the poles.
• They came to party and they want everyone to join them.
• They do this every year; this is their Coachella, Spring Break, and Home Coming, but with bikes.
• They are aware that the spectators have become the spectacle, but their dedication should not be confused for conceitedness.
• They love them some red, white and blue.
Sea Otter, like many races, relies on the passion on of the bystanders as much as the caliber of the athlete and the luster of the company trucks. It’s the assembly of zealous and devout pilgrims to our sporting events that fan the flames that become a feverish mania for us all. Don’t be mistaken, the crowd at The Corner aren’t just hero worshippers, they are hero makers. Without these people, there would be less honor for the marvelous men and their fantastic machines.
The crowd at the Sea Otter Dual Slalom event are as interesting as the racing. We immersed ourselves into one section of the rowdy rabble to find out why this event is as important for them as it is for the racers. This slideshow originally previewed on bikemag.com.
Words and Slideshow by Seb Kemp
Photos by Anthony Smith and Dave Reddick