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?

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.


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