Before SLRC I doubted I would ever have the opportunity to get into competitive rock crawling.
Even though I have always enjoyed off-roading and thrive on competition, it only took watching a few online videos and seeing the pictures in a few magazines to realize that I did not have a vehicle or the finances to compete in any of the vehicle classes in the series such as XRock or W.E.ROCK. It was just by chance that I stumbled upon an online flier advertising the SLRC series and the words “street legal” caught my eye. After quickly making sure that my vehicle was eligible to participate, I decided it looked like a fun opportunity to get involved in a new facet of the off-road world.
Showing up to my first event:
Before SLRC had no experience in competitive rock crawling, I did not actively follow the sport and had no understanding of the rules and scoring system. This initially made my first event very intimidating.
As I stood in front of the staff tent and listened to the announcement of the rules and regulations, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I’ve been wheeling for a long time but some of the terms used were unfamiliar to me and the scoring completely foreign. As I looked at my first course, I wasn’t quite sure how to interpret the different colored cones and how to properly navigate through the gates.
These concerns were quickly alleviated though when the judges offered to walk the participants through the course. The staff was polite, professional, and more than accommodating when it came to answering all my questions and concerns. After achieving a sufficient level of understanding of the course and scoring I was confident I was going to do well.
When it was my turn, I made it about twenty feet beyond the first gate on the first course before I severed a brake line and was out for the rest of the event. It was admittedly disappointing, but the other competitors were extremely supportive and willing to help with repairs to make sure I could safely get back on the road. Despite this initial failure I was hooked and couldn’t wait until the next event to redeem myself.
Competing at my second event:
Arriving at the second event was like meeting up with old friends. It was truly a welcoming environment and now that I was familiar with the rules and scoring system any stress associated with competing faded away. I had a great time on the courses at this event.
The challenge isn’t just completing the course, there’s a strategy in determining how you navigate the course. You need to carefully determine which gates you go through as they can have different point values, you may have to purposely hit one gate cone to position yourself properly for the next, and moving in reverse has to be rationed. I didn’t make it through all the courses in this event due to some serious mechanical failures, but it was well worth the experience.
My vehicle remained under construction for the remainder of the series, but it gave me the opportunity to change from competing as a driver to a spotter. Being the spotter is no easy task. You need to be conscious of your points, how different actions will add or subtract from your points, and do it all while directing the driver through the course.
I felt as a spotter there was far more pressure than as a driver. I remember on the first course I was spotting, there was a point where the vehicle could no longer move forward or backward and I was running around frantically trying to stack rocks in the right place to get the traction and clearance we needed to get moving again. From a fitness standpoint, I was totally unprepared for all the running around and rock stacking. I was working so hard I even lost my breakfast all over the course!
Lesson learned, I probably overexerted myself and I think I’ll focus on finding smaller rocks to carry in the future. Spotting was just as challenging as it was rewarding, and I’ll definitely compete as a spotter again in the future.
I had a fantastic time not only competing in the Street Legal Rock Crawling League but just interacting with the rest of the SLRC community. I learned a lot as a driver, and even more as a spotter. Whether you want to drive, spot, judge, or spectate, it will be a great experience with great people.
I would only caution that those with a vehicle in the competition need to be prepared to break parts and possibly incur some body damage. The courses may be really fun, but they are by no means easy. I highly encourage anyone that is interested in getting involved in the sport of competitive rock crawling to attend or participate in an event.