High Rock Capital is extremely proud to announce that one of our sponsored athletes, Darren Gardner (from my hometown of Burlington , Ont), is on his way to South Korea to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games for Alpine Snowboard PGS!
First a word about exactly what this sport is because not many people know. Alpine Snowboard racing consists of riding a long, narrow board with a super heavy "plate" screwed into the top of it (hence some people call them "plateboards") and minimalist bindings that lock the heel in and snap down over the toe. The boots are made of hardshell plastic (just like a ski boot) but with a slight tilt forward. This looks nothing like a "softboard" that you would find recreational riders on or those who compete in Freestyle in the terrain park (the difference between Alpine and Freestyle is like comparing F1 to Nascar auto racing). As for the actual racing, they compete in two disciplines (although the IOC, in its infinite wisdom, did away with PSL for these games): Parallel Giant Slalom (PGS) and Parallel Slalom (PSL) where two racers go at once through a red course and a blue course and then for the second run they swap courses. PGS has the gates spaced further apart than PSL and so the racers use longer board for PGS and a shorter board for PSL. Racers need to go around "gates" that are "flag-shaped" without missing a gate or "busting" through a gate which would lead to a Disqualification (DQ...not to be confused with my favourite summer-time after-dinner dessert...shameless plug #1 for Warren Buffet and my brother-in-law Tim Scott who is in charge of Int'l Marketing for DQ). This is a timed sport (love events with a clock) and the top 30 combined times "make the cut" and go on to the "elimination" round which ultimately lead to the Final Four for a Big Final (Gold and Silver) and a Small Final (Bronze and 4th Place). It is all very exciting to watch. (Shameless plug #2 - my youngest son, Nicholas, is in his final year of highschool but has been racing competitively in this discipline since he was knee-high to a grasshopper so this is where my basic knowledge of Alpine Board racing comes from. Nicholas races in the NorAm Cup Series against these grown men, Olympians and athletes from as far away as Korea, Japan, China and Australia and so a couple of times each season he gets to race against Darren in a NorAm Cup race. I am obviously very proud of Nicholas but our family jokes that if he races against Darren that Darren has time to stop, eat a cheeseburger, and still beat Nicholas...that is how fast Darren is). And now armed with that basic knowledge, I hope you watch Darren compete in the Alpine Snowboard PGS event next month.
Darren's successes are too many to list but a few highlights are the fact that he has been Canadian Champion the last few years, the overall North American Champion the last 7 years and is now on his way to the 2018 Winter Olympics to see if he can reach the podium. You can learn more about Darren and all of his palmares here: darrengardner.ca/
Besides my son Nicholas being involved in the sport (and looking up to Darren in a pretty big way), you may ask why on earth we sponsor Darren given this is such a fringe sport that most people don't even know exists? First, the Wilkinsons/Gardners are old family friends from Burlington that now stretch three generations. Darren's mother Donna is a High Rock client of ours and his father Bruce is my Dentist (www.gardnerdentalgroup.com/) (shameless plug #3). Second, Darren, coming from good stock, is a great guy. Third, this fringe sport is brutal for funding/sponsorship. Given how fringe it is and how terribly uneconomic it is for the manufacturers and retailers (you can't go into Canadian Tire and buy this type of equipment) athletes like Darren don't even get free equipment from the manufacturers. And from personal experience, I can tell you that all of this specialized equipment is very expensive! Fourth, Darren has real potential here to do something special at the Olympics. Anything can happen but with the right focus and some cheering from Burlington, he has as good a shot as any racer coming out of the start gate. So adding all that up, High Rock decided a number of years ago to chip in and help Darren out with his significant expenses as he pursues his goal of reaching the Olympics. We couldn't be more excited and proud of his achievements so far.
I hope you are able to watch Darren compete (it might be at some unGodly hour given the time differential so maybe set the PVR). In the meantime, check out the slideshow of some very cool pictures of Darren (ok, shameless plug #4, I threw in 2 of Nicholas at the end from a couple of years ago as well. Nicholas's sole sponsors are: Mom and Dad) racing and training all over the world.
Go Darren Go!!