Local street luger ready for World Skate Games
The sport of street luge isn’t one for the faint of heart. With athletes lying flat on their backs, hurtling down roadways on top of boards mere inches off of the ground, there is very little room for error. Battersea’s Nicholas Kamink fully understands the risks associated with the sport, however, that hasn’t stopped him from competing in street luge events throughout North America for over 20 years, with the local athlete now set to take on fellow street lugers of the international field at the 2022 World Skate Games in Argentina.
Like many of his fellow competitors, Kamink was first attracted to street luge as a result of the X Games, which featured the sport in various editions throughout the mid-to-late 1990s. Enthralled by what they were seeing on television, Kamink and his friends took matters into their own hands and tried to recreate the extreme sport themselves.
“With some scrap plywood and some old skateboard trucks, my teammate Kolby Parks [and I] made a plywood track in his driveway at his farm, and that was the start of something to grow over the years. We then took a bunch of old-school desks in high school shop class, cut them up into something resembling a luge, and used those around local hills until we finally made a ‘professional’ board to race on,” Kamink shares.
While street luge may appear dangerous to the average spectator, Kamink says the risk to athletes is no greater than many other sports. “If you play hockey, you risk teeth and limbs; with skiing, you can hit trees; if you race cars, you can crash at speed in pileups.” However, the racer acknowledges that there is a level of risk involved, with certain injuries more common than others.
“With luge, your legs are the most vulnerable, since they can be the first thing to take any impact,” says Kamink. ”I’ve been in situations where the guy behind me spun me out and the guy behind him ends up spearing me in the torso while I’m skidding on the pavement, that hurt… crashing right takes a certain amount of skill, as well, to minimize damage.”
Kamink is a carpenter by trade, a skill that came in handy when building his own boards early on in his career. “It gives you the option to completely customize the board to your body and racing style. I built my last board, which was cheaper than buying one and it served me well for a while,” he says. However, the athlete notes that he now races with a board that was built professionally in the United States.
Since he first started racing in 2000, Kamink has competed steadily throughout the last two decades and then some, primarily racing in events south of the border in states like Vermont and Ohio. As for what has changed the most since he first started competing, Kamink says board designs have improved over time, allowing the sport to become faster and more competitive. “Most guys now use precision trucks on their boards rather than moulded trucks, which has made them faster and more stable. I’m seeing different materials like carbon fibre and titanium being used, instead of just steel and aluminum. Our boards also used to have foot rails, which have been removed since they tend to act like a spear in a crash situation.”
Next month, Kamink is set to represent Canada on the world stage at the 2022 World Skate Games in Argentina, the premier international roller sports competition. Featuring events across disciplines such as inline skating, skateboarding, and scootering, this year’s edition will feature street luge for just the second time in history, allowing the sport to reach audiences on a global scale.
“We will see how far it goes and if we can grow the sport even further. It’s a fantastic opportunity and I’m very fortunate and proud to be part of it,” Kamink says of the opportunity to compete at this year’s event.
The street luge competition will be held in San Juan, Argentina from November 8 to 12, 2022. The racer should be in strong contention for a podium finish in San Juan, having won his most recent race at an event in Bainbridge, Ohio:“I’ve been racing [that] track since around 2005, and I’ve managed to be in the top 3, but never first place, so that was a great accomplishment.”
Before he gets to Argentina, Kamink is hoping to raise some money to cover his travel and accommodation expenses. A GoFundMe page has been set up to facilitate donations from the public. So far, the campaign has raised $900 toward its ultimate goal of $2,500.
“Having the support of my community helps not only with the financial part of it, but with my own personal morale, too. It adds purpose and motivation to make my supporters proud and to be the best representative for my country I can,” the racer says.
Atkinson Building Centre — a former employer of Kamink’s and a longtime supporter of his racing ambitions — donated $300 to help get the campaign underway, with a representative commenting: “The extended family at Atkinson Home Hardware Building Centres couldn’t be more proud of Nick for his achievements. From one true Canadian to another, we are grateful for Nick’s inspiration. Go show the world what Canada is made of.”
Those who would like to learn more about Kamink’s efforts, or to donate to the campaign, can do so by heading to the GoFundMe page.