But while cyclists climbing Tam draw nary a glance, the way Enrique Cubillo made the 2,574-foot ascent last week drew a smattering of double takes, guffaws and even a shout of, “you’re a superhero!”
In just under one hour and 40 minutes, Cubillo, an entrepreneur, standup paddleboarder, endurance athlete and photographer who lives in New York and spends time in Mill Valley, scaled Tam by spikeboarding, his innovative combination of the mechanics of standup paddleboarding and cross-country skiing atop a specialized long skateboard.
Cubillo enlisted local resident Rudy Bishop to chronicle his trek with a GoPro camera on the back of his motorcycle.
Cubillo says the key ingredient, other than great fitness and a strong core, is his SkateBoard Spike, which looks a bit like a Nordic ski pole that allows the user to spike with one hand while switch kicking with the other. The carbon fiber pole is rounded rubber at the top, allowing it to rotate like a ball in the hand as the user switches it from side to side like a paddleboard paddle.
Spikeboarding has two different strokes: Cubi-X-Cross, which allows users to switch back and forth between the traditional kick of a skateboard, and Stand Up Spike, in which the participant just uses the pole, alternating sides like a standup paddleboarder.
“I think this sport will explode,” Cubillo says. “I hope people understand the significance of (his stand up spike ascent of Tam). It’s like the first time a mountain bike descended Mount Tam. Suddenly, there is a new core sport.”
Cubillo wants to find early adopters of spikeboarding in Mill Valley and Marin that will help him propel the sport to the next level. To do so, he made himself a human billboard of sorts throughout Marin in the third week of April, spikeboarding in Tiburon, Belvedere, San Anselmo, San Francisco – he even turned downtown Mill Valley into his own little criterium loop of sorts, dazzling passers-by in doing so.
The closest thing to spikeboarding is Nordic roller skating, in which participants are on roller skates and use a pair of ski poles to propel themselves up hills as needed. Cubillo says the physiology of spikeboarding, in which participants switch the paddle back and forth like on a paddleboard, gives the body some respite that “double poling” does not. Cubillo says the spikeboarding spike allows the user to transfer more power through the pole than you can through double poling.
Cubillo says he arrived at his creation of spikeboarding while dealing with his own endurance sports travails. The former Category II bike racer had issues with circulation in his feet and hands and was told he needed to do more weight-bearing exercise.
“Don’t be the guy doing 10,000 miles a year and that’s it,” he says, noting that he first came up with the idea for spikeboarding in 2010.
“I formulated the entire sport within three weeks,” he says.
As Cubillo made his way up the last few hundred meters of Mt. Tam last week, rough pavement and a steep grade pushed him to the limit.
"In spikeboarding, your muscles will blow up before your anaerobic will blow up," he says. “It’s the feeling of having run a marathon but your whole upper body is numb."
“I still can’t believe he did it,” Bishop says.
Cubillo hopes spikeboarding can catch on in Mill Valley, going so far as to pony up a $1,000 prize to anyone who can top the time of his Tam ascent. He plans to host spikeboarding workshops and training sessions in Mill Valley, and wants those interested in spikeboarding to call him at (917) 566-3386. More info.