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?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Plain Sailing

Just a quick update from the first reliable internet in a while! I write from Nullarbor, the Roadhouse. After countless days of hard pushing through treeless plains and low-level scrub the team and I reached the Head of the Bight today. Five days of skating left will see us leave the Nullarbor Plain, which has both taunted and delighted us since we left Norseman back on the 11th September. Ceduna, the end of the Nullarbor, will give me a chance to rest my weary legs and the team the chance to reflect on a section of this journey that has been magnificent. I'll write more about the Plain when I reach a fast connection, but with 1700km down we're all looking forward to anew challenge, urbania! The few people we've met along the last 929km of the Eyre Highway have been friendly, generous with donations and often offering similar pieces of advice. One lady who bucked the trend looked me up and down not far from Caiguna and declared, "with that accent you'll need plenty of suncream." I agreed, and am happy to report that none of us have yet succumbed to burning from a harsh winter sun. There are some stunning images and videos on the way, not to mention diaries, but you'll have to wait until we get to Ceduna for these. I expect us to land on the 1st October. Til then, there's a little bit of the Nullarbor to finish off...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Healing with Norseman

There’s a very hairy caterpillar halfway up our front door. It is about 5 inches long, fat as a swollen thumb and has a face like a baboon. “How do you think it got there?” Kate asks me. “Did it fall off the tree and land on the door?” I laugh out loud but she doesn’t stop, “Well that’s how they get places,” she stresses, “they fall off plants.”

Down below, rubbish is strewn across the ground. Kate heard a thrashing sound earlier and growled, “It’s the crows!” She rushed to the door followed quickly by Holly. Sure enough, a large black crow walked pompously away from a pecked rubbish bag. Kate shut the door and put her fist in the air, “Yes! I knew it! Crows!” She’s on one today.

As dusk grew yesterday afternoon I walked back to the motel after an hour-long interview with Dimitri. The plan all along had been to have everything ready in time to get back on the road in the morning, but Becki and Bev were still shopping at the supermarket, clothes boxes remained unpacked and the logistical challenge of packing the vehicles whilst taking into account several cubic feet of donated water was not yet a challenge met.

I wandered up to the main building of the Great Western hotel and spoke quietly to Russell, whose wife Pat manages the hotel. “How’s it looking?” he asks me, nodding towards our vehicles.
“We’re getting there mate but it’s taking some time. The plan was to leave tomorrow but I’m not willing to push on until we’re totally prepared and we’re running out of light now. Do you think it would be possible to stay one more night and then leave on Monday?”
“I don’t see that there’d by any dramas,” he shrugged, “but I’ll check with Pat first. I’ll do that and come down in about ten minutes.”
“Of course mate, thanks Russell.”

Ordinarily I’d baulk at the idea of an unscheduled rest day but we’ve learnt our lessons from BoardFree UK. Despite the obvious need to get the vehicles in order and piece together the puzzle of personal items, team kit and food and water, my body is aching and needed another day of rest. “How are you coping with the skating itself,” Dimitri asked me earlier during our interview, “physically how are you feeling after skating 750km in two weeks?” I had rested my chin on my hand, sighed deeply and replied, “I realised a couple of days ago that I’m used to being constantly in pain. My muscles ache, my joints ache, my back aches, my feet ache. I’m perfectly able to carry on this journey, but at the same time it’s not healthy just to accept this constant pain.”

For me, getting to Brisbane and breaking this world record is absolutely going to happen. Had everything gone smoothly and we were packed up and ready to go I would have been back on my board this morning. As it is, I’m glad my body has another day to rest. The next road, the Eyre Highway, is the longest one yet, stretching across the Nullarbor Plain towards Port Augusta and Adelaide. This road on its own will take longer for me to skate than the entire length of Britain. This prospect doesn’t phase me, I have never looked at this journey as a whole. I’ll take it day by day and reach my targets each day, that’s the only was we’re getting across to the East coast.

Now, on a dull Sunday morning by WA standards, I lie in an immensely comfortable bed writing my blog as outside the sky darkens and the wind gusts throughout the delightful Great Western Hotel complex. Pat and Russell have been generous and friendly hosts and I have a feeling that they’re sitting on a little nest egg here. Last night Russell drove myself and another five members of the team (Bev and Becs were into their fifth hour of food shopping by the time we left) around Norseman, showing us the sights, giving us the history of the town. My highlight of this unofficial tour was undoubtedly reaching the top of Beacon Hill. To the west and down below, the town of Norseman and the Salt Lake that borders its north and west sides, Lake Cowan. To the east a humbling sight. A spread of uninterrupted green, a flat plain stretching hill-less all the way to the horizon. This is the Nullarbor my friends, it’ll take a month or so to cross and there is very little in the middle, and that includes internet access. We aim to reach Ceduna, the town marking the east-end of the Plain, on the 6th or 7th October. Don’t be alarmed if it takes a little longer, I’ve heard word that they’ve ripped up a 50km stretch of the Eyre Highway about 100km outside of Norseman. That means no sealed surface for me to skate on. And that means a good bit of walking.

See you on the other side.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Made Norseman a couple of hours ago. We're resting here until Sunday before embarking along the Eyre Highway. 750km down. Plenty to go! Will try and find some internet access before we leave, because there sure isn't any on the Nullarbor!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Schools and Mines

There’s something wonderful about travelling without a rigid plan of action. The flexibility and spontaneity of life on the road means that each day we’re open to a huge number of wonderful possibilities. I’ve always been in love with the notion – and practice – of waking up in the morning not knowing where I’m going to rest my head the coming night, and today was one of those days which highlighted the benefits of not calling ahead to arrange accommodation in a particular place.

So, most of the team woke up in the Home Economics lab of Kambalda West High School, those who didn’t slept in the vans just outside. The night before we had access to the library and gym, much computing, footballing, basketballing and hockeying meant that perhaps we didn’t sleep as much as we should have, so blurry eyed we rose and prepared for our first school assemblies for several years.

The principal of Kambalda West is Russell O’Neill, a kind, generous and approving man who was just happy for us to stay in his school because of what we were doing. By the time we left the first assembly – one of about 100 children in their early-mid teens – we were all sure that Russell was also the principal of potentially the most well-behaved school in Australia, if not the world! He took us across the grounds to the Primary School, where I slightly dumbed-down my description of BoardFree for a bunch of incredibly small people. The question and answer sessions are the best, Towards the end I decided to ask the kids a question, the first to answer correctly got to ask me one of the final questions of the day. So I asked, “How fast do you think I go on a steep hill?” A bunch of hands went up, I chose one belonging to a cheeky female face towards the front.
“Very fast,” she replied, much to the amusement of the adults in the room.
“Well that’s a good answer,” I told her, “but I’m looking for a figure, can anyone else have a guess?” Again, hands galore. I chose one,
“Faster,” came the reply.
Straight after the Primary assembly a girl from the High School scurried into the classroom we had relocated to. “I didn’t get a chance to make a donation,” she said, breathlessly and apologetically, “I’m sorry, I only have a fifty.” We all looked at her as she disappeared with a wave.
“They’re very generous kids,” Russell told us, pointing at his shaved head, “we had a charity event last week and the children paid $1500 for this haircut.”

We drove across town to Kambalda East, not before the kids in the Home Ec class told us that they were making a double-batch of cookies to take on the road with us. Absolutely delicious they were too. Kambalda East’s principal, Dan Balich, who had first approached the team as we breakfasted in Coolgardie’s Road House yesterday morning, was unfortunately away in Kargoolie today, but we were taken under-wing by the other teachers. This assembly went slightly differently to the others. I made an entrance by skating down a ramp and between two layers of children. Talked and answered questions for about fifteen minutes and was then promptly mobbed by the kids who thrust things at me to sign. Shoes, t-shirts, baseball caps and BoardFree leaflets later I was dragged away by Kate to have morning tea with the teachers.

It was almost twelve by the time we got on the road, and I was shattered already. 20km up the road we stopped at Widgiemoortha, a run-down petrol station manned by a disinterested bloke who was just plain rude. “I just don’t see the point in people doing this kind of thing,” he moaned about out-of-the-ordinary journeys for charity. He wouldn’t even let us eat our home-made sandwiches inside.

We retreated to the vehicles and after lunch I curled up in George and had a good sleep. At half three Kate called a man named Paul, who had been waiting for me at the Kambalda turn-off the night before. Paul worked for Mincor, a mining company that operates in the area, and he had told me he’d like to take the team down one of the mines a bit further along the road.

Just as I was preparing to get back on the road Paul drove up with a co-worker, Francis. They said they could organise dinner at a mine about 19km up the road, drew us a map and said that they’d meet us at seven the next morning. I pushed on, we made the mine, which was called Mariners, by quarter to six and drove along the drive.

I’m not sure any of us were expecting what was to come. Set off a few hundred metres from the road and hidden in arid forest was a small village, featuring 200 or so prefab self-contained, en suite rooms, a dining hall, wet mess (bar), recreation room and ablution rooms (toilets). For about five minutes we all felt quite out of place but then Gabby, a friendly yet efficient lady - the type that takes shit from no-one – showed us around, gave us keys to two rooms, “I’d have given you eight if we had them available,” and left us to it.

We showered, changed and wandered into the dining room where we tucked into an excellent variety of nosh and helped ourselves to at least three servings of pudding. Gabby walked in and told me that there was a short event on in the wet mess at a quarter to eight, “It’s called the Golden Spanner and basically it’s a chance for the boys to take the piss out of each other for their antics on the site. You should come on over.”

So we did. A ripe old fella named Foss (short for Fossil) took centre stage and promptly began dishing out items like hats and rucksacks to people who had earned them, for such reasons as missing shifts due to reasons of drunkenness. He even plugged BoardFree, taking the chance to ask why it had taken me so long to get here from Perth, handing me a Mincor baseball cap and inviting the gathered crowd to hand some money over to the cause. They duly did, adding over $250 to the $325 we had raised in the schools earlier in the day. Overwhelmed and pinching ourselves at our completely random luck, we retired to vans and en-suite rooms to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for a tour of a Nickel mine the next morning.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A new highway, a new direction

Heading south on the Coolgardie Esperance Highway now. Finished almost 60km down the road towards Norseman, which we should reach on Thursday. The team are staying in a fabulous place tonight, the Kambalda High School Home Economics lab! We've got access to the gym and library, but unfortunately net restrictions mean I can't update the website tonight. We'll do it Norseman - and boy are there some cracking pictures on the way!

Yesterday we rested in Kalgoorlie. Did two live radio interviews with ABC Goldfields and Radio West, will get those online shortly. Also was interviewed by the Golden Mail and the Kalgoorlie Miner, the latter put me on their front page this morning, amazing! We also visited the Coolgardie Primary School, who were lovely and had very intelligent, attentive kids.

Tomorrow the team and I will be attending a few school assemblies in Kambalda before getting back on the road. Earlier today a man from a local mine was waiting for me on the road. Tomorrow he's taking the team down a mine, 3/4 of a kilometre down! There's barely any time for skating!

Promise to update the website soon, sat phone will be in action from tomorrow night. Everyone's good, it's bed time now - big day tomorrow.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Conflicting emotions

After skating 70km yesterday and reaching the end of the Great Eastern Highway, saying goodbye to the Golden Pipeline that has been with us for so long and earning a well needed rest day, I'm now sat in an internet cafe in Kalgoorlie, some 40km north of Coolgardie, updating the website and feeling quite sad.

About six years ago I was watching TV and was fascinated by this gregarious Australian man who jumped into rivers and wrestled crocodiles, crawled on all fours to within inches of the world's most poisonous snakes and was an all-round nice guy as he did it. Steve Irwin may have been an easy Aussie stereotype to some but to me he defined a happy person. Someone who loved what he did so much his personality was infectious, he lived life to the full. I heard a couple of hours ago that he had died whilst filming a documentary about sealife off the Cairns coastline. Steve Irwin summed up Australia for many people around the world and he will be sorely missed.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Longest Day

This was a day of extremes. I woke up grumpy, a night of tossing and turning and interrupted sleep didn’t bode well for a day in which I hoped to skate close to 70km. Coolgardie, I felt, could be reached in two hard day’s skating and although my rough schedule gave three days to get from here to there I wanted to push a bit harder and therefore grant the team a well-earned extra rest day.

“It’s my birthday!” Kate’s wide eyes signal the second BoardFree birthday in a week, later we’ll give her presents – some bubbles and beads and a skipping rope - all packed neatly into The Birthday Box, which will be used on every BoardFree birthday.

On the road before 8 and on and on and on. Although the sun was out when we woke up it had disappeared behind clouds which always threatened rain but never quite delivered. Instead, a cold wind blew from the north east, right into my face.

Going was hard. It was one of those mornings when I got angrier and angrier with every push. Why hadn’t the team woken up when I asked them to? Did they have no respect for me? Why were some of the documentary team still back in camp and missing some outstanding scenery? Why wasn’t anyone waving from their cars this morning? Why did it feel like I wasn’t making any ground despite hard pushing? Horrible moments, these, and they always pass. But for a while they’re poisonous and just expend more energy. After 15km I pulled the jeep over and sat on my board, hugging myself. Just exhausted. Kate gave me some food and a hoodie, Dim and Dan tried to make things better,
“Mate, it’s all been uphill today, you’re doing really well.”
I hadn’t noticed any uphills, I just wanted a nap.

“I’ll go another 5km and then go for a sleep in George,” I told them, and we moved on. A parking place, usually a wide lay-by marked by yellow waste bins, was signposted for a kilometre up the road and I pushed on towards a sleep. Then a white ute pulled up alongside me. Two men with beards inside. The driver leaned over and said, “We’re working on the pipeline about 3km up the road, when you get to us we’ll sort you out with some bottles of water.”

At the lay-by I delayed my nap. “Let’s push on until we see these pipeline guys, they’re only a couple of k’s down the road,” I said to the team, “after then we’ll have a break.” So we pushed on, but it was almost 10km before we reached the worksite. The effort was well worth it, a box of water and a bag of goodies awaited. Steve, the guy in charge of traffic control and one of the chaps who drove alongside me earlier, was a really nice bloke. “Man,” he said, “all I can say is man, you’re hard as nuts.”

After a short tour of the pipeline work we continued on, passing an emu and four chicks which scurried into the bush at the roadside. A long overdue rest came at a lay-by around the corner, and I was just about to get my head down when Steve drove up in his ute again. We chatted for about half an hour, he told me stories about road trains and the wildlife and life as a traffic control worker in the outback. Really interested, very generous bloke. Emptied his cooler of drinks and handed them over, even gave me a stray orange from the passenger seat. He told me about a place to stay tonight, “About ten k up the road there’s a beautiful look-out spot, a small version of Ayres Rock, the views from up there are incredible.”

And so it was. I pushed on another 20k from the lay-by to finish a 66km day, the longest yet. Just before the day ended came a highlight. A black car sped past, no return of my wave or honk of the horn, then a couple of hundred metres up ahead it stopped in the middle of the road. I saw a figure get out, rush to the side of the road and then jump back in the car and drive off. I was so confused and had no idea what was going on. Had they put a small bomb at the side of the road?!!!!!!! Just in case I pulled to the opposite lane and gingerly skated along. No sign of any bombs and just when it seemed there were no clues to the strange incident I came across a stone in the road, which weighed down a ten dollar note!

We stopped by the 70km to Coolgardie sign and then headed back to the camp, already set up by Becs, Holly, Kate and the others. The site, which I like to call Kangaroo Rock thanks to a magical moment when a roo jumped across the top of the rock at sunset, was magnificent. From the top of the rock we could see bush for about 30 to 40km all around, it was a breathtaking place. For Kate, a wonderful spot to celebrate a birthday.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Snuggled onto George’s top bunk, a fair distance from any kind of civilisation, I realise two things. One, that today I skated past the 400 kilometre mark, and two, very unlike BoardFree UK we haven’t been making a big deal of the one hundreds. 100km down, 200km down, 300km down. None of that. I think at one stage I told Dim and Dan that I’d passed the 200km mark and I got no more than an unimpressed grunt in reply. And here, camped in a clearing 40 metres off the Great Eastern Highway with Southern Cross 52km to the west and Coolgardie some 135km to the east, I can understand exactly why these mini-milestones aren’t overly significant. It’s because Australia is a bloody big place.

We’re camping in a dirt clearing just a few metres behind a line of scrub that borders the Highway. It’s the first time we’ve ‘roughed it’ on BoardFree Australia, and as Road Trains rumble by looking like terrifically long Christmas trees I’d say everyone here is pretty happy with their lot. Early night, early morning tomorrow.

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