The Why Not? Blog

At the tender age of 25 Dave started skateboarding. 14 months later he became the first person to skate the length of Britain. Another 8 months on he had crossed Australia on his board, breaking a world record & raising over £20,000 for three charities. Now, at 27, he's writing his first book, is a motivational speaker and a businessman, and he's only just gotten started on a lifetime of challenges which from the outside look just darn crazy. So, why? You know the answer, don't you. Why not?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Books, boards and balls...

It has finally happened. Rolling along a north London street a man points at Elsa and says, "A bloke is skating around Australia on a board like that." Absolute genius.

Within an hour-long skate between Camden and Golders Green I was stopped seven times yesterday by people who knew about BoardFree. One chap, owner of a classic fold-up bike, eagerly had a go on Little Elsa (Elsa, a little battered after 900 miles through Britain, is currently in Germany getting a new coat) and then looked at me disappointed, "there's no kicktail, you can't turn," he said.
"But she's really smooth isn't she," I offer,
"But a kicktail is really handy in tight situations," says the man before hopping onto his bike and peddling away. I watched him go, looked at Little Elsa and told her not to worry.

Last week the BoardFree Initiative got an official sponsor. The Initiative is designed to compliment the awareness BoardFree raises about longboarding itself, and my aim, especially after the Australian journey, is to get out on the streets and teach people how to board. I'll be doing this with a quiver supplied by Five boards arrived last week, shiny and new and begging to be tested out. To date BoardFree has gotten numerous people into longboarding, with Lush's help I'm hoping the Initiative starts a mini-revolution before 2007 is out. Dan and I grabbed a Kilima and Samba, scooted the Swansea Bay cyclepath and tarmac-surfed back to St Thomas with the wind behind us. It is good to be home.

I write this as the sun shines down on north London. If sourcing 20k worth of commercial sponsorship to cover BoardFree Australia's costs wasn't enough I've also made tracks with the BoardFree Story in the past couple of days, jotting down two draft chapters which will slowly form the foundations of a book about the project. I feel overweighed and stressed with impending financial doom, but the sheer volume of material collected since March 2005 - when my first longboard arrived in the post - gives me a warm-glow. There's something comforting about being to tell a story which is full of heart and honesty, one with a solid beginning and with one hell of an ending. Whatever that ending is, the events from the past fifteen months ensure that it's going to be quite a tale. Two questions: which publisher will win the book? And what should it be called? Answers on a postcard, or on the new BoardFree forum!

Watched Brazil-Ghana with Dim and Pete a couple of days ago. This Saturday England play Portugal in the World Cup quarter finals. Two matches away from the final, COME ON ENGLAND. Around this time last year I was finalising dates for BoardFree Australia. It was originally going to start in late May. I pushed it back a couple of months so it wouldn't interfere with the World Cup. Make the re-scheduling count, England. Make it count.

Friday, June 23, 2006

As five become seven the pressure rises...

The days are flashing by now. Less than two months until the team boards a Heathrow plane, bound for Singapore where we'll be greeted by an onward flight to Perth. The team, thrust together during the past 8 months, is now two people larger, and stronger because of it. Last Thursday I invited Bev Blackburn and Kate Brackenborough into the fold. They're not here to make up the numbers, they're ready to eat, breathe and sleep BoardFree.

There is no denying the potential of this project now. With the UK warm-up a success, over £3,500 raised for Link, Lowe and Sailability, publishers showing an interest in the story, new sponsors poking their heads above the wall of cautiousness; BoardFree is now ingrained into the vocabulary of thousands worldwide. There is far more ground to cover than the 4000 miles separating Perth from Brisbane, people are starting to realise that this journey isn't just about one man and his board.

Behind-the-scenes has gone unnoticed so far. Now, the weeks dissolving, 7 men and women are all on a mission. This project is not in any way funded by charity donations - every penny donated goes straight to the three charities we support. But there is a big financial cost, each member of the team is contributing to the operating costs out of their own pockets. The only way we are subsidised from the outside is through sponsors, and boy do we need them. Don't get me wrong, however quickly the team pool drains BoardFree Australia will run through to its conclusion, but those watching from the outside mustn't be mistaken - we are working to the bone to put this project together, to fund it, to lay its foundations. There are never enough hands though, if yours are empty please see if we can use you.

Here's my list of things to do tomorrow:
1. Pay for flights
2. Buy a new phone.
3. Start the wheel rolling on raising public awareness about BoardFree Australia, in Australia. Get on forums. Utilise contacts Down Under from family and friends and their friends and their family. Write to people. Write to companies. First though, research details of people and companies.
4. Pack a bag of t-shirts, wristbands, mugs and calendars for Becki to drive down to Paddle Round the Pier next weekend.
5. Write to every motorhome hire/ tour operator/ vehicle manufacturer or distributor in Australia to ask for help with a support vehicle.
6. Set up an Australian online donation website.
7. Register a domain in Australia that is more Down Under-friendly than the current address.
8. Write content and take photos for BoardFree Initiative page on website. Then design page and integrate into website.
9. Compile a database of high-res images taken during and before BoardFree UK, for sponsors and media contacts.
10. Make a start on sample chapters for the BoardFree book.
11. Write and design new, updated Media Pack to send out to potential sponsors.
12. Send out items recently bought through BoardFree's eBay shop.
13. Liase with Sailability and other charities/ community groups in Perth to find a venue where BoardFree can set up an HQ for the fortnight prior to the journey.
14. Continue with design of BoardFree team kit in time for Monday's meeting with Kangaroo Poo.
15. Wash some clothes.
16. Eat at least once before 8pm.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Journey complete. Time to head home.

I’m gazing out of a window on a train from London to Swansea, approaching Bristol and chuffing over bridges below which roads snake; roads I was skating along less than two weeks ago. Eager cows rush to their troughs, bulky bodies struggling through long grass. And I’m sat on public transport, Elsa in the rack above my head, Dave from trying to get through to my phone and being thwarted by tunnels and bad reception.

The last few days have been a blur of fatigue and elation, after 34 days of being on the move a sense of strange calm hovers bubble-like around the BoardFree project. Although the rewards of achievement are tempered by worry and responsibility there is a sense of anticipation in the air, a new journey across a beautiful country is nearing, an exciting new phase in the lives of everyone in the team.

I reached Land’s End five days ago: the whole team was there, official and unofficial, the loo-roll finish line held up by Bev and Nat, the glorious arc of champagne. Small things come back to me: I can’t remember if my momentum broke the toilet roll or if it was let go at one end. I remember hearing a voice saying ‘well done Dave’. It sounded like my Dad but he and my Mum couldn’t be there. I’ve watched the video back ten times, it still sounds like my Dad.

Those final twelve miles from Penzance, a nice stroll in perfect conditions. No wind, some rough road, some smooth road. The signs that marked the nearing of Land’s End, so far away for so long, now so near. 12. 10. 9. 4 ½. 2. And then we turn onto the A30, greeted by that ½ Land’s End sign. I can see the buildings at the end of the road, glistening white in the sunlight. It’s downhill to the gates. A pause…….and then the final push.

A swig of champagne sends me dizzy. We all walk to the famous signpost, New York 3147. John o’Groats 874. That signpost is a family business and we’re told we have to pay to have a photo with it. You travel the length of Britain and have to pay to have a picture taken with a piece of wood. We move outside of the barrier and take photos there. As I sign a few BoardFree leaflets for interested tourists I wonder if the people who own the signpost have ever travelled from John o’Groats to Land’s End.

Done it. Deep breath. The realisation won’t set in for a few days but 14 months after stepping onto my first longboard I’ve become the first person to skate the length of Britain. And all I can think about is updating the website so people can know it’s over, maybe then they’ll donate! There’s no internet at Land’s End, the lady in the End to End Registration Office tells me so. There’s no FM reception either, a Pirate FM interview that I gave this morning went out at 4pm and 5pm and couldn’t be heard by the BoardFree team, who were celebrating with pasties, beer, ice cream and a brilliantly steep inflatable slide!

The next morning Becki drives Dim, Kate and I to Exeter where we catch the train back to London. House party at Kate’s. Some familiar faces, some new ones. Dim, Pete and Melissa turn up, along with Kate the only ones there who really know what has just happened a few hundred miles south west west.

A relaxed, tired Sunday. The end has hit me, exhaustion, complete exhaustion. I nod off watching TV, talking to friends, sitting on the toilet.

On Monday I update the website, send out thank you emails (this will take a while so if you haven’t received yours yet it’s in the pipeline!) and edit some video from the final day of the journey. In the evening I pull on socks and shoes. No plasters, no bandages, no tape. No pain! YES! Skate to the tube, head south. An interview and shoot with Huck skateboarding magazine in Victoria Park, it’s out in August. Pedestrians and cyclists ask about Elsa as I roll along the pavement – they leave with a leaflet. One stranger recognises me on the tube, the other 30 people stare blankly into space. I fall asleep between Kings Cross and Kentish Town. Back to Kate’s for a late dinner, then bed.

Tuesday, yesterday, was brilliant. I have lunch with my good friend Alice. Some city folk look at the scrawny and scruffy ginger lad with a yellow board at his feet. “What’s that?” a man in glasses asks. I explain, his friend says “I’ve read about that somewhere.” Alice giggles knowingly.

Then to Extreme Sports Drinks. Nice guys, they want to support BF Australia. I shake their hands.

Lunch in Regent’s Park. The sun beats down. I sit on the grass, eat the best sandwich in the world, read about the World Cup. I do a phone interview with a local community magazine from Swansea. A text message tells me BoardFree is on the front page of the South Wales Evening Post. I feel more awake and I’m excited by the next meeting. Just before 3 I skate a mile west, past Madame Tusauds (SPELLING) and Baker St to Gloucester Place. A couple of weeks before the UK journey Kangaroo Poo dropped me an email. They’re a clothing brand with Australian roots, a surfy earthy feel. I already had a couple of Roo Poo t-shirts when they got in touch, I hope we can work something out. Becs, the brand manager, meets me at the door. I spoke to her for the first time on the phone as I stood on a wall looking out over the sea at Land’s End on Friday. She likes the idea of BoardFree, I like the idea of Kangaroo Poo. She introduces me to the team, they read about BF in the Metro article at the end of April. We discuss ideas, Becs shows me their new ranges. I leave happy. Roo Poo and BoardFree share similar roots – a search for happiness, soul. Willing to take risks, hoping to grow. I hope we can grow together.

I skate with a heart full of promise, a right foot feeling good, all the way down to Hyde Park. The local slalom skaters are there. They’re holding a raffle for BoardFree. Mike Stride from Octane has thrown in some prizes, £5 per ticket, every penny to the charity funds. Legends. Dim and Pete come down with a football, Kate joins me straight from work. It’s summer. I have a feeling summer might last a good few months this year.

So here I sit, on a train whizzing along the tracks between Cardiff and Bridgend. Heading home after an unforgettable journey. Planning has already started for Australia. Watch this space.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Made It!!

At 1:30 this afternoon I rolled across the finish line at Land's End after skating 895 miles from John o'Groats. Over the next few days I'll be putting up photos and videos from the rest of the BoardFree UK journey, as well as writing a fuller blog of this amazing day.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported BoardFree: the team and their families, friends and strangers and all of our sponsors who believed in one man and his crazy dream!

It's not a dream anymore! Here's to BoardFree UK...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Day 33: I can see the sea!

Before we drive back to the roundabout south of Truro where we finished yesterday Dim tries to board along the road outside Si's house. His big old stack the other day hasn't put him off, I'm going to teach him carving and stopping in the next few days. He stumbles one time too many and we get in the van. Kate and Becki in the front (Kate arrived by train late last night) and the boys in the back. I sort my foot out, slip it into a battered and worn pair of shoes, one green and one yellow.

Weather is blissful. Easy but turbulent hills shadow the main A-roads between Truro and Penzance and Elsa and I glide along them, huffing and puffing up some hills. Completely out of breath, it feels kind of strange. Am I getting unfit?!

Lunch at 1pm in a pub. Amazing food, really friendly landlords from London (until after we paid and then they were kind of rude, wierd!). After lunch we relax in the beer garden for a couple of hours, preparing the website for the big finale tomorrow. How cool is that! Land's End tomorrow!

Penzance is on the cards, let's go. The roads are smooth, mainly downhill as we're heading for the coast. I look right and left, north and south, and the sea begins to appear on both sides. The land is narrowing, soon the road will end.

Penzance comes quickly and I skate along the cycle path around the bay. It's been 33 days since I last saw the sea. Then it was in April, on the northern shores of Scotland. Now, 29 days of skating and 4 days of recuperation later, I've reach the south coast. On a longboard!

The signs to Land's End are here now, they say 12 miles to go. I'll save them for tomorrow.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Day 32: Getting closer...

We left our hosts, Jon and Karen in St Austell, sound people. And they'll be welcome faces at Land's End now, too!!

On the road. Amazing weather, we wind through country roads, cutting through the non-urbania between Bodmin and Truro, meandering up and down. Difficult roads, not too much traffic but any traffic on roads this narrow are difficult! Two interviews, one with Pirate FM and another with BBC Wales Online ensures the media coverage in these final days keeps coming. It's good to know people still care.

Lunch in St Stephens, then on to Truro. I have to walk the roadside a bit, rush hour on a single carriageway doesn't make for good skateboarding. I'm tired, my body is feeling four and a half weeks and 800+ miles of skating and it's spreading into my mind. I'm tired, almost bored with myself. But we're so close!!!

Into Truro, through Truro, past Truro. A steep steep hill. Oh. And then another one. Thanks, whoever put those there. Finish a couple of miles south of Truro and head to Falmouth where we're staying with Simon. Chill out in the bar where the party was last Friday. Wierd feeling to have skated this far in such a short time. The bar manager, JP, is a ledge. He keeps us watered and plugged in (laptops etc). Tired. Two days left. Penzance, then Land's End on Friday, 1pm. Be there.

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