TAHOE CITY, Calif. – In the early dawn hours of an October morning, a group of skateboarders wearing different shades of pink are crammed into a group in the parking lot of Homewood Mountain Resort. It’s 2007 and a surprise snowstorm has arrived the night before, covering the paved bike paths. Skaters wait for the sun to rise and the snow to start melting before taking a shuttle to Sugar Pine State Park and trying to ride together 32 miles around parts of the Lake Tahoe basin.
This is my first time riding a longboard. I had moved to North Lake Tahoe months before and had heard that my friend Curt Sterner was hosting an event called Skate the Lake to raise breast cancer awareness and early prevention. Sterner was friends with Tahoe Longboards owner Chuck Buckley Vogt and together they made the event what it is today.
“Long before Skate the Lake, my mom had breast cancer,” says Vogt. He explains that at that time in his life, longboarding was the only positive thing he had going on.
One of his high school buddies had skateboarded the 72 miles around Lake Tahoe, and he wanted to try. He also felt that he might be able to improve the relationship with his mother by sending her good vibes to beat the cancer as he skateboarded around the lake for her.
“I wanted to take my longboard and go around the lake, do something for her and raise awareness about this disease,” says Vogt.
He said the best way to do this was to hold a large marathon-style event open to the public, but getting permits from the five counties and two states that make up the Tahoe Basin proved difficult. Around this time, Buckley met Sterner, an event planner/tour manager for a punk band, and their shared goal blossomed into what is now a decades-old friendship and business partnership.
“Chuck’s mom was a breast cancer survivor, and so was my mom. I participated in the Warped Tour and the B4BC [Boarding for Breast Cancer], and I had done a running relay around Lake Tahoe where we each ran two miles. We thought maybe we could do a two mile relay on skateboards around the lake as a fundraiser to go towards breast cancer prevention.
“I’ve always seen B4BC on the [Vans] Warped Tour and helped them with their road cases. I loved what they did to educate young people on how they could pay attention to their bodies to prevent breast cancer,” Sterner says.
The formation of B4BC is an interesting story in itself; it was created in the late 90s when snowboarder Monica Steward died of breast cancer at age 28 which stemmed from complications resulting from her late diagnosis. It shook the snowboarding community and some of her friends, including Lisa Hudson, Kathleen Gasparini, and pro snowboarders Shannon Dunn and Tina Basich, hosted the first-ever B4BC Snowboard & Music Festival in Sierra-at-Tahoe in 1996. Sadly, Steward passed away just before the event, but her spirit was present in her celebration of life, love, music and snowboarding.
“When I met Chuck I said I wanted to support these guys. I liked that they were all about prevention and had a mission to reduce the number of people affected by breast cancer. bosom,” Sterner recalled. He had met Vogt at a snowboarding event in Tahoe, and the two quickly became friends. However, since it was too difficult to get permission to hold a skating event around the whole lake, they sat down and mapped out a course around Lake Tahoe that was easier for the public to complete.
“We came up with the logo, the name, divided it into 32 miles and invited everyone. After that first one, it really took off,” adds Vogt. Over the next few years the course was shortened to 28 miles as the out and back stretch from Tahoe City to Dollar Point was getting a bit hairy.
Sterner always wanted Skate the Lake to end at Commons Beach as well, and a few years later he was lucky enough to get the blessing of the Tahoe City Utilities District Board of Directors to end it with a party there. on the lake. The event is also now held in July or August to mitigate the risk of bad weather. And then, instead of charging attendees a flat fee to enter, B4BC came up with the concept of the best fundraiser, encouraging attendees to get out and fundraise before the event. After the new structure was implemented, Skate the Lake grew from about $8,000 per year to $30,000.
“Kids started coming in with $2,000 instead of $25 as an entry fee. Fuel TV and Tahoe TV came out and filmed, then social media helped – we went from MySpace to Facebook and Instagram,” laughs Sterner.
B4BC also added a Skate the Coast event in Southern California held in October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) and one in Des Moines, Iowa. And in Tahoe, attendance at Skate the Lake has grown from about 20 people to about 100 skateboarders, cyclists and roller skaters, hailing from all over the West Coast.
One of Skate the Lake’s best fundraisers is the Knight family, whose children have grown up with the event. Jason works for the North Lake Tahoe Fire Department and his wife Lyndsay grew up in Tahoe City. they both still live in the area and are actively involved in the community. Jason has been skateboarding his whole life, but Lyndsay had just bought him a Tahoe Longboard when he saw a flyer for Skate the Lake at Tahoe Dave’s.
“My aunt had breast cancer and I thought it would be nice to do this and think of her. She had a lateral mastectomy years ago and she is fine now,” says Jason. He has participated in Skate the Lake every year since 2006 and has brought his family there.
“When my son Collin was a baby I used to skate with him in my arms, then when he was a bit older he would roll on the nose of my board. When my kids started skating it was a whole new thing. I think Collin was the youngest kid to skate the lake at six and our other son Dylan did it on his bike when he was five. When Dylan was seven he skateboarded the full distance” Jason says The Knight family has been at Skate the Lake every year since their kids were born, and he credits his wife Lyndsay for being great at the fundraising part and getting the information out in the months leading up to it. the event.
“We entered into a fundraising competition with Skatey Katie Lyssand [2015’s top fundraiser] and a few other kids who participate in Skate the Lake each year; we’re trying to teach our kids to see the world in a bigger way and make a difference, and it seemed like a great cause to get them involved.
“Skate the Lake is a big family event, and we always look forward to seeing everyone every year; it’s a nice meeting. It’s cool to see new faces too, like when the roller derby girls started coming out. There is always a happy, fun and positive atmosphere.
“Lisa [Hudson] and Tina [Basich] did such a great job of organizing and spreading the message for young people to take care of themselves, know their bodies, live healthy and active lives. It’s an easy cause for us to support; I hope to skate on the lake with my grandchildren one day,” adds Jason.
Personally, I’ve always wanted to learn to skateboard and I thought maybe I could if I was with other skateboarders who knew what they were doing. It was pretty brutal being out there on the paved bike path in the cold on my ’52 TLB Talmont, but it was a powerful experience. I have taken part in it every year since 2007 and each time it is a strong experience because I think of those who have fought and overcome breast cancer as well as those we have lost.
Even though we all start out on the bike path together, everyone eventually spreads out and moves at their own pace. The times when I am alone and enjoying the forest and pushing along the shore of the shimmering blue lake where I become extremely emotional, thinking about how lucky I am to be alive, surrounded by wonderful people and to be part of something bigger than myself.
Vogt feels the same. “It’s such a spiritual experience for me. I do not care. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like I’ve reached enlightenment. I believe there is an energy that you give off in the stratosphere; and I think this event is about giving back and it reflects who you are as a person.
“Breast cancer is the only cancer you can catch and stop while living a full life, and Skate the Lake has become such an important part of our community and our lives. It’s cool to see that it brings people together and how people drop everything to come to this event. There’s a lot of camaraderie and it’s so great to see everyone coming together in love,” Vogt says.
“There are so many different elements to Skate the Lake, and it’s a fun way to boost the local economy. People rely on it, it’s their reason to come to Tahoe for their annual vacation,” adds Sterner.
“Breast cancer doesn’t go away, and our mission is early detection and an active lifestyle, and it’s along those lines.”
18e Annual Skate the Lake will take place July 23-24.
For more information on how to register or get involved, visit https://b4bc.org/.