All downhill for Pender Harbour, B.C., skateboarder after 2nd straight world title

B.C.'s Dane Hanna, centre, raced to a second world championship title in downhill skateboarding in San Juan, Argentina. (submitted by Jim Delaney - image credit)
B.C.'s Dane Hanna, centre, raced to a second world championship title in downhill skateboarding in San Juan, Argentina. (submitted by Jim Delaney - image credit)

The fastest man on skateboard wheels admits he gave his parents conniptions as a kid racing down the steep streets of Pender Harbour, B.C., earning the nickname "Danger Dane."

"Oh yeah, for sure," laughed Dane Hanna, who last week streaked to his second consecutive downhill skateboarding gold medal at the World Skate Games, which took place in San Juan, Argentina.

"My mom, at the early stages, was like, 'You shouldn't be doing this, it's dangerous.' But I told her how much I loved the sport and that we were trying our best to keep safe. And she finally started coming along and warming up to it."

It takes a unique combination of skill, strategy and chutzpah to excel in the sport. Besides those qualities, Hanna, 25, can now boast staying power. He won his first world championship in 2019, then waited through two cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic to repeat the feat in 2022.

"These last five years I was really working hard trying to be faster, never taking 'fast enough' for an answer," he said. "I'm always pushing and I think that mindset really helped me out."

submitted by Jim Delaney
submitted by Jim Delaney

Perfect race

The downhill race took place on the windy and steep Punta Negra Dam Road west of San Juan, a kilometre and a half of cascading hairpin turns with a 300-metre drop in elevation from start to finish. Decked in full protective racing suits and helmets, athletes reached speeds of more than 90 kilometres an hour.

In the gold medal final, Hanna executed his race plan to perfection, tucking in behind the early speed of American Nick Broms, before picking his spot near the finish to launch into the lead, unaware of a crash that was unfolding behind him.

"When I crossed the line I had no idea they had crashed until I looked back and was [like], 'Oh, that's not very good,'" he said. "They're OK ... one guy broke his nose. But yeah, I'm happy it wasn't me."

Downhill skateboarding may be considered a niche sport, but it has a rich history in B.C.

Decades ago, when longboarding, as the sport is also known, was growing in popularity, parents in Pender Harbour came out with walkie-talkies and closed streets in an effort to make it safe for their kids.

submitted by Jim Delaney
submitted by Jim Delaney

That solid base of volunteers helped spawn Canada's largest downhill skateboard race, Attack of Danger Bay, which is held every May long weekend in the Sunshine Coast town, pandemic notwithstanding.

Hanna says he can draw a straight line from his hometown to his international achievements.

"I wouldn't be nearly as fast a rider as I am without all that practice and all the support," he said.

Professional and life-of-the-party

Hanna rode to victory in Argentina on a custom board built by East Vancouver's Landyatchz, a skateboard company co-founded by 2005 world downhill champion, Tom Edstrand.

Landyachtz vice-president Ryan Theobald says the company is thrilled by Hanna's success.

"It takes a certain amount of passion, energy and optimism to really excel in [downhill skateboarding]," he said. "And he's kind of got that perfect balance — professionalism on the race track and life of the party outside of that."

Unfortunately, being world champion is not a full-time job. Now living in Coquitlam, Hanna will spend the winter installing sprinkler systems to fund next season's campaign.

He says he also wants to pay it forward and help bring a new generation to the sport he loves.

"If anyone's wanting to get into [downhill skateboarding] they should know we always have safe practices," he said. "You can come out and everyone's very helpful. I'm on Instagram, so anyone can just shoot me a message."