All toured out yet?
Europe's Tour de France is in the books for another year while closer to home, the cyclists who took over the streets for the Tour de Delta and the Tour de White Rock have all moved on to other events in distant locales. That leaves the scene clear for younger athletes to strut their stuff on a circuit of their own.
Ladies and gentlemen, for the ninth consecutive year, Hippie Mike's Tour de Surrey is coming to a skateboard park near you.
"The idea came back almost a decade ago when there really wasn't many skateboard competitions in Surrey," said the hirsute Mike Faux, AKA Hippie Mike. "We were lucky to get one or two a year. I figured we had so many skateparks - at that time I believe there was five - in Surrey so why not create a series of skateboard competitions where there's more contests here than anywhere else? A series like that would attract kids from other cities to come out to Surrey and ride our parks."
With his long dreadlocks and growth of chin hair that makes a Stanley Cup finalist's playoff beard look like peach fuzz, Faux has been skateboarding for most of his 34 years. He hosted events on and off for several years before hitting on the Tour de Surrey concept. He is an employee of the City of Surrey's Parks and Recreation Department and when he took his idea to management, it was quickly approved.
In Faux's mind, Surrey is an ideal environment for such a series of events. When the event first started, there were five skateparks in the city, a number that has since grown to eight with another one in the works for Cloverdale by the new recreation centre.
The Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre in Whalley features the newest and most innovative skatepark in the city and attracts pro teams who drop by for demonstrations. In April, skateboard star Danny Way of DC Shoes was on hand for a demo.
Way is most famous for completing a 360 jump over the Great Wall of China.
With so many skate parks in the city to choose from, the Hippie Mike tour could feature multiple competitions that move around the city for each event.
"Every skatepark is different in Surrey so when you go from one park to another you can do different things," Faux said.
"The City of Surrey is very supportive of skateboarding and I consider them the leader right now. They're the one who are creating the most things to do in skateboarding and other cities are following in their footsteps."
Faux starts organizing the tour each year in February with competitions running on weekends from July to mid-September.
The tour takes up a lot of his free time and most of his summer weekends. He now has a young family of his own and has scaled the tour back to five events on an annual rotation of skateparks around the city.
That's not to say the tour is getting smaller. Hippie Mike's current roster of sponsors features 49 skateboard companies and community groups, up from 15 just four years ago.
"Most of the companies give me product that I distribute to the kids," he said.
"Others give me cash donations and I take that and buy prizes everyone gets. For instance, Surrey Firefighters donate money and I use that to buy helmets at wholesale prices through a distributor and then give them away to the kids. I think I must give away 75 to 100 helmets every year. We also make Hippie Mike's Tour de Surrey t-shirts and everyone who shows up - including parents - gets a t-shirt until they're gone."
While Hippie Mike's tour gives freely to the kids, the relationship is not one-sided. Entry fees for each event are $5 or two non-perishable food products, all of which is donated to the Surrey Food Bank. The most Faux's tour raised in one year was $1,700 and 1,800 pounds of food, but the tour usually averages around 500 pounds of food every year.
"I'm not in it for money so I decided right away that we should do it for the Surrey Food Bank," Faux said. "By doing that I was able to form a really strong bond with the food bank and now I'm sitting on the board of directors for the food bank.
"It's a charity and times are tough right now so if a kid shows up who can't make a donation, he's going to get in anyway. We won't say no to a kid."
While Hippie Mike stands out in most crowds, the real stars of the tour are the kids. The Tour de Surrey features competitions in four distinct categories: mini (10-and-under), beginner, intermediate and advanced as well as a girls' competition. Faux said the mini category was created out of necessity when young riders kept turning up at his events.
The youngsters learn by watching and emulating other skaters who are competing before trying their own luck with the moves. With judges on hand to score and rank the participants, young skaters develop confidence and the ability to handle themselves in a competitive setting.
"It's all about having fun," Faux said. "A lot of competitions have a real contest atmosphere where people are there to win and that's it. With my contests, it's really like a big family. The same people have been coming out for years and now their younger siblings are competing.
"The kids love it and they look forward to it all year. They're happy to watch the other kids perform and they learn and then they try and beat them. It's all for the kids here."
The ninth annual Hippie Mike's Tour de Surrey kicked off at Kwantlen Park on July 14 and continues this Saturday (July 24) at the Fleetwood skatepark outside of the Surrey Sport and Leisure Complex on Fraser Highway. With skateboard legend Tony Hawk in Vancouver the same day, the start times for the Hippie Mike tour have been moved up two hours for this event only. Registration is at 9: 30 a.m. with competition getting underway at 10 a.m.
For more information, visit www. protestskateboards.com.