Downtown Throwdown ‘bittersweet’ for ex-snowboarder

Hot and cold: Sunny weather greeted a throng of spectators near City Hall to watch 25 snowboarders take part in the Downtown Throwdown

Robin Wong watched from his wheelchair as a man half his age flew by on a snowboard.

He’ll never do that. Not after the accident.

The 52-year-old San Francisco resident snowboarded for about two years before crashing into a tree in Tahoe, sustaining a significant back injury that left him needing help to get around.

For Wong, the urban snowboarding event that dumped 100,000 pounds of shaved ice on a ramp near City Hall on Saturday was both a reminder of time spent with his son on the slopes and an opportunity to move on.

“It’s bittersweet,” Wong said. “I like seeing people do it, but I miss it.”

Wong’s 30-year-old son taught him to snowboard and trips to the slopes were a chance to spend time together, said Wong, adding that he liked “the freedom, just getting out there.”

On this sunny Saturday, Wong leaned on his cane and his wheelchair, which carried his snowboard, in search of an able-bodied buyer for his board among the throngs of people who had gathered to watch the Downtown Throwdown at Civic Center.

Hundreds of people crowded around the stage area, cheering when one of the 25 competitors landed a trick and gasping when one slipped off the rail and fell. Teenagers snapped photos, children were perched on their parents’ shoulders and everyone waded through the puddles of melted snow that pooled on the pavement.

Judges watched from a couch set up at the end of the ramp.

The event was put on by Lib Tech and Snowboy Productions, which hosts similar competitions in Seattle. This was their first in San Francisco.

“I like seeing this in The City,” said Liz Hallen, 34, of South Lake Tahoe.

While Hallen came down to San Francisco to visit friends, a mid-city snowboarding competition was an added bonus, she said.

“It’s always fun,” Hallen said.

Wong watched the first few boarders careen down the rail, but after handing off his snowboard to a stranger in exchange for $22, he decided to head home.

He and his son are fishermen now.

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