When you spend as much time on a Onewheel as Finn Holcomb does, you crash a lot.
“I crashed last night,” says Holcomb, an Asheville High School senior and a nationally ranked competitor in the burgeoning sport of off-road Onewheel racing. “I’ve got a bandage on my left hand, and my right hand’s bleeding. You just get used to it.”
A Onewheel is a self-balancing, single-wheel electric board, often described as an electric skateboard. Future Motion, which manufactures the board, holds sanctioned races in North Carolina, Arkansas, California and other places through the Onewheel Racing League.
“All of us racers, we love competing on trails and seeing who can go the fastest,” Holcomb says. “But I’ll be honest, it’s not the most competitive sport. We’re all homies, we’re all friends and we all train together. I think a lot of us just do it for fun.”
Fun or not, Holcomb is a top competitor. He will be the No. 6 seed among 16 others on the men’s side in the Race for the Rail Onewheel World Championships. The two-day competition runs Friday-Saturday, Sept. 8-9, at Sky Tavern Resort in Reno, Nev. It’s the third time Holcomb has qualified for the championship, although he was unable to attend last year.
Xpress spoke with Holcomb about his experiences as a Onewheel racer.
This interview has been condensed for length and edited for clarity.
Xpress: How did you get involved with Onewheel racing?
Holcomb: When I was younger, we used to go to the French Broad River Festival [in Hot Springs], and I would always see Onewheelers. I got a couple of opportunities to try them, and I always wanted one. Three years ago, on Thanksgiving, my grandmother gave me and my brother an early Christmas present, and it was a Onewheel. Within two weeks of owning it, my dad had bought two more so we could all ride together. And then it just grew from there.
Was it difficult to learn how to ride it?
It was not very difficult for me, but I have a lot of experience in different board sports like longboarding, wakeboarding, snowboarding. A lot of people struggle with balancing on it. And once you get going, you get the speed wobbles. Some people just catch on to it, and some don’t.
How did you go from doing it for fun to doing it competitively?
One of my buddies saw the Onewheel Racing League Instagram page announce all the sanctioned races, and one of those sanctioned races happened to be Wheel Scorcher, a downhill race at Fire Mountain [in Cherokee in 2021]. I signed up, and that was the first time I ever got to ride trails on my Onewheel.
We got there late [for the qualifying round]. I just climbed to the top. It was muddy, and I went for it. I got ninth place, which was the last qualifying place for finals the next day.
I was the first male racer to go in the finals. There was a 5-foot drop feature in the racecourse. I hit it, and that made my name big in Onewheel immediately. Those guys on the TV were screaming, “Finn Holcomb just hit the drop!” I got fourth place in the finals, and I got wild-card picked into Race for the Rail that year. Everybody was like, “Who is this kid Finn Holcomb?” That’s what did it for me. That’s what really got me into it.
How did you do in the Race for the Rail that year?
It was the biggest year of the event up to that point, and they hadn’t really mapped the rules out too great. I was in second place at the very final two turns, and somebody grabbed a pole and pulled it to get around the turn, which is now against the rules. The pole yanked out and ran into my board and put me out of that race.
How did you qualify for this year’s Race for the Rail?
I went to Oak City Shred Fest in Raleigh. And then I went to Seek N Shred in California and DirtSurferz Enduro in Eureka Springs, Ark. I made it to finals in all of those races. That got me enough points to qualify for Race for the Rail.
In the past, it’s only had racers from the USA because the sport hadn’t really expanded into other countries. But this is the first year that they’re actually bringing the top rider from Europe over, and he’s going to race. So that’s exciting.
What’s the best part about Onewheeling?
The community is amazing. I love going and hanging out with all the people and racing with everybody. It’s so fun. I go out and ride my Onewheel every day.