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Founder of Venom Skate still working toward a win at Devil’s Peak Downhill

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By Alissa Noe

GEORGETOWN — For Boulder native Zak Maytum, high-velocity long boarding isn’t just an athletic intrigue. It’s a way of life.

Twelve years before gracing the Devil’s Peak Downhill competition on Guanella Pass over the weekend, Maytum founded Venom Skate. He started the company after inventing the Venom Bushing formula, which is a rubber-like cylinder on the center of the longboard.

Since then — and since the dawn of the Devil’s Peak Downhill three years ago — Maytum and Venom Skate have been intimately involved in local long board races. He’s sponsored the Georgetown race since its beginning in coordination with race director Justin Rolo.

“I’m from Boulder, and Venom has been a Colorado company since Day One,” Maytum said. “There was another race in Golden on Lookout Mountain for four years in 2009 through 2012, the Buffalo Bill Downhill. I was involved in that every year, and we were the title sponsor. It was just our event. … (Justin) has worked at Venom for a while, and he’s just a team rider. When he decided to put on the event, it wasn’t even a discussion.”

The Devil’s Peak Downhill features a 1.5-mile downhill course, fraught with hairpin turns and speeds of up to 50 mph. In between each official run, riders of all classifications were allowed a free run, whether or not they had already been eliminated. The race hosted 160 official competitors.

Although Maytum’s been racing for the past 15 years and won his fair share of local and World Cup-caliber competitions, the 28-year-old is still chasing that W down Guanella Pass. On Sunday, he was eliminated in the round of semifinals (the round of eight).

Once a rider makes it to the top 16, Maytum explained, the competition is so tough that one tiny mistake can haunt a racer. Coming into the final turns, he slowed down just enough to let the other riders knock him out of the running.

Of the many spectators in attendance, his family from Colorado came to cheer him on. His mother, Mindy Pantiel, has come to Guanella all three times.

“He only races in Colorado once a year, so once a year I come to races like this for him. Otherwise, he’s all over the world,” Pantiel said. “It’s a good hill. The location is absolutely beautiful. There’s a great place to watch the race from, a really perfect corner to see them coming down and see the finish.”

His older sister, however, wasn’t as enthusiastic about watching her brother shoot down a steep mountain pass at high speeds in head-to-toe leather and helmet.

“I think it’s terrifying to watch it,” Shaina Maytum said. “We’ve watched him on TV sometimes too when he’s racing other places. Your stomach hurts the whole time because it’s dangerous, and people crash all the time.”

Not everyone was as lucky as Zak on Sunday.

In the final few heats and throughout much of the event, various riders crashed along the second-to-last turn, known as the “party corner,” where spectators awaited their favorite long boarders who began their treks at 10,000 feet. Those who crashed generally hit a pile of hay bales, which organizers set up along each turn for safety.

Fun aside, Zak is still pursuing that Devil’s crown. Maybe next year will be his year.

“This event is just about the most fun that has ever happened in probably the last 10 years,” he said. “Everyone has an incredible time, and we get an unreasonably large amount of runs because Justin runs everything so smoothly.

“I’ve done years on the World Cup tour, and it’s a different feel. Those races, you’re chasing a World Championship and positions really matters, time really matters. … We do a random draw, fun kind of thing (here), and it makes some heats that wouldn’t happen normally, but we get to see them anyway.”