Bathtub racing season is about to begin and a Tofino local is pumped to improve on his 2018 rookie campaign.
“We’re going to get her going and I want to win some races,” Matt Leonew told the Westerly News before taking his West Coast Hemp sponsored racing tub for a practice rip around Tofino’s First Street Dock on May 18. “I’m confident for sure. I’m ready to go.”
Leonew, 21, first stepped into a racing bathtub about an hour before his inaugural race last year and said he immediately fell in love with the sport.
“I’m not going to lie, it was a bit intimidating. But, once I got in the tub and started racing, it was just a blast. It was like nothing I’d ever done before. The speed is just crazy,” he said. “I’m hooked.”
Originally from Port Alberni, Leonew lives in a float home in Tofino and said growing up on and around the ocean did little to prepare him for racing a bathtub that can hit speeds up to 40 knots.
“I drive boats all the time and this is not your normal boat, man. You’ve really got to know what you’re doing and you’re a little sore after you get out of this thing because it’s hardcore,” he said. “It’s extreme, especially when there’s experienced people racing with you. You’ve really got to watch behind your shoulder because they’re going so fast and they know what they’re doing. If you don’t know how to turn, you’re in the water; you’re swamped…Next thing you know, you’re swimming.”
The young tub pilot recalled bailing twice during a race in Kitsilano last year.
“It is what it is. You just get on the bow and start bailing it out. It’s all good and you just get back in there and keep flying,” he said. “It’s so fun.”
Leonew was introduced to tub racing by the West Coast Hemp vessel’s owner Ben Martin, who has been involved with racing bathtubs and the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society since 1995.
Martin told the Westerly that he and two friends were avid fans of Nanaimo’s bathtub racing scene and picked up a $50 bathtub and $450 motor to immerse themselves into it.
“I grew up in Nanaimo, so bathtubbing was a big deal. Bathtub numbers were declining in the 1990’s so I got a bathtub and started racing,” he said.
He added that he does not pilot racing tubs himself, but he enjoys getting new racers into the sport and was happy to find a willing pupil in Leonew.
“He did damn good last year,” Martin said. “He flies when he’s out there. He’s taken some pretty good chop in a few races.”
He said he and his West Coast Hemp team hope to participate in seven races this summer, starting with the season’s first event in Oak Bay on June 2 and finishing with the The Great World Championship Bathtub Race in Nanaimo on July 21.
Leonew added he’d like to see Tofino join the circuit to host a West Coast event.
“It’s extreme water out here and it would be really fun to race,” he said.
Anyone interested in giving bathtubbing a whirl should check out the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society’s website at www.bathtubbing.com.
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