The snowy slopes of Petran, a plateau in the İkizdere district of Rize, a Black Sea province, were dotted with some 1,500 people yesterday, each holding primitive planks resembling modern snowboards. Locals and foreigners gathered for the Petranboard Festival, named after those planks, which are claimed to be early examples of snowboards.
Participants lined up on a track allocated for the festival on the plateau that stands at an altitude of some 2,200 meters. Veterans easily made their way down to the finish line, while amateurs struggled to get a grip of the snowboard, tumbling down the slope amid laughter. Others without planks used plastic bags to slide down the slope. The festival concluded with free meals and tea from Rize - Turkey's tea capital - and participants joining horon, a fast-paced local folk dance.
Petranboard is locally known as "üzme tahtası," or skiing board, among the locals. It is alternatively called the "Lazboard" with Laz referring to the ethnic composition of the region. Commanding a wooden plank with a rope tied on the front while holding a stick in one hand, Petranboarders ski down snowy slopes.
Stories vary about its inception with some attributing it to a boy who came up with its design as a practical way to wash rugs with snow by using planks on the rugs spread on a slope. In time, it became a preferred means of transportation for locals living on the Petran Plateau, which suffers from heavy snowfall throughout winter. Made of pine trees, the 30-centimeter-wide and about 190-centimeter-long plank was mostly used to reach the town center from the plateau in the past before it went into obscurity with the construction of roads and the emergence of cars and other faster methods of transportation. As winter tourism flourished in the region, locals turned to it again to attract more tourists to the region and came up with the festival more than a decade ago. Only a few hundred people showed up for the festival's first couple of editions, but the turnout grows every year, as the event was made popular by the media.
Ayşen Ayar is a first-time petranboarder, but she says she loved the experience. "I made it to the finish line though I rolled down the slope a few times. It is all about timing really. I raced too slow," she said. Mücella Tekke, another first-time participant of the festival, said it takes time to get used to command the board, but it was fun as long as you know how to "use the brakes" that is made from a stick.