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?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Made it!

A giant red sun has just gone down on another day in Australia, but I'm viewing this sunset from 15 floors above groundlevel with the euphoria of success still present in the air. The remaining five days of the 60km per day push disappeared in a flash. Three days earlier the road to Wollongong finally achieving what the 4600km of road before it had failed to, the skin covering my right heel wearing away to a red mulch of flesh and puss after another day of hard pushing in hot hot weather. It was always going to happen, I'm just lucky we fended it off for so long.

Win TV in Wollongong surprised us on the road as each pound of the concrete wave sent a shiver of pain through my body. Apparently one of the journalists passed me on the road and sent a crew out - they were waiting at traffic lights in the south of the city and the resulting 25 second piece that night showed me looking more than a little bedraggled!

An old friend I met in Uganda in 1999 just happens to live south of Sydney, and she turned up at our campsite all smiles. Carmen has travelled more than anyone I know and despite a fair share of challenges she continues to see life as a chance, not a chore. When we first met I was fresh from school and finding my own feet, she was touring East Africa solo and needed a spare bed - my friends and I had one and we've remained in touch ever since.

Sydney was less than 100km away and one major topographic challenge lay ahead. A giant escarpment rises up from the sea north of Wollongong and there are two ways to the top. I could either ride alongside the freeway up the Bulli Pass or take a 20km undulating route along the coast, over the Seacliffe bridge (a relatively new addition to the Australian road system after the adjacent clif face was destroyed in a botched attempt to widen the old road near Coalcliff) and then up and up and up towards Stanwell Tops. I chose the latter and three hours after pushing out from Wollongong I was on the post-Bulli Pass freeway, moving ever closer to Engadine.

The Welcome to Sydney sign sits 40km or so south of the CBD and it crept up almost too quickly. Passing underneath it - my attention borrowed by Holly and Dim's positioning in the middle of the shoulder I was skating along - I glanced up at the last minute and saw three words that made my day. So close now.

At Engadine I finished the day. Juergen and Colin from the Magic Touch, a company that had first supported BoardFree by providing temporary tattoo logos to advertise on my big calves during BFUK, had kindly offered to put us up for the night in the local Motel. A BBQ came with the offer, as is tradition Down Under and we all sat in the Motel garden as aeroplanes above began their descent towards Sydney airport. This, more than anything, made me realise just how close we were to passing into BoardFree Australia's fourth city.

Shortly before the BBQ a campervan appeared in the Motel carpark. The team gathered round as my parents disembarked and approached. My Dad held it together but my Mum's face was contorted with emotion. "My baby," she cried, "I'm so proud of you." I welled up, holding her tightly. "Thanks for being here Mum, it means so much that you've come all this way."

Simon had began to develop a new habit. A new milestone was on all of our minds, this time not a mere celebration of zeros (the 1000km, 2000km, 3000km marks had all passed way back) but this time a real target. In 2003 Jack Smith, an American skater, had crossed the United states for the third time, a distance of 4830km. By the time I reached Engadine I had totalled 4770km skated since Perth. My aim was to follow up the next day with 59km and then have a 2km parade through Sydney Olympic Park the next. "World Record" Simon mouthed at me not long before we all retired to bed. "World Record."

Up at 5am the next day. My brother Andy and his girlfriend Maddy had joined us the night before and they sat behind as I sped up the freeway into Sydney. Skating a total of 59km meant that an awful lot of meandering through the city suburbs had to be done to amass the kilometres needed - the distance as the bird flies from Engadine to Sydney Olympic Park is barely 30km - so I trawled through back streets and along riverside cyclepaths, finding myself facedown in a puddle at one point after Elsa got stuck in the mud created by the falling rain. An old woman strolling along with music playing in her ear glanced sideways at me as I skated path. "Got a deathwish have you?" she snorted, not giving me a second look. Her naivete stuck with me all day, last-minute paranoia hanging in the air as I thought of the potential consequences of finishing the day 1km short of Jack's record. "We're going to wrap you up in cotton wool," Bev told me, "Wouldn't it by typical if you got run over or shot or something." In the mid afternoon I was closing in on my 59km target and then took a wrong turn. I skated through Rookwood Cemetary, trying to keep the noise of my scraping wheels down as I passed by religion-marked sections of land. Some graves were decorated with flowers, some left to the elements. "Got a deathwish, have you?" The old woman's words from earlier haunted me, and I realised then and there that I didn't ever want to be lying in a grave. I want to be remembered for what I did and who I was rather than where I lay when it was all over. 'I'd hate to be slowly forgotten,' I told myself, hoping someone somewhere would hear me, 'I'd hate to be stuck in a grave which no-one ever visited.'

I found the Victoria Gate exit after 45 minutes of floating through the cemetary and just a couple of kilometres later sat outside Sydney Olympic Park's bicentennial gates, exhausted in a way that only city skating can exhaust, knowing full well that the effort - as always - was more than worth it. With 1km left to equal Jack's record, then 1km more to break it, I knew that as long as the cotton wool was applied I'd be a record-breaker the next day.

And so it was. At 3pm this afternoon I gathered outside the Bicentennial Gates with a group of skaters from the Monster skate park, with Kate and Kelly and Lisa and Jackie from Sailability Australia, with two camera crews from 7 and 10, with an AAP photographer, with a man named Mark who had heard about my journey a month earlier and bought a red rollsrolls because of it. Juergen and Colin representing the Magic Touch and all of the sponsors who stuck their necks out and helped a beginner skate his way across two countries. Alex was there with Connor, who was going to ride through his Lowe Syndrome on a tricycle, my parents were there, my brother and Maddy, my team. My team who helped me here, my team who were mostly strangers a year ago on this day. Kate, who is so much more than just a team member, my personal lifejacket who puts up with more than any woman should.

We started off and continued down Australia Avenue, left for a few hundred metres and then left onto Olympic Boulevard. Kids skating alongside, the team walking, Kelly in her wheelchair, Connor peddling hard. Everyone moved ahead for the last 100m. I walked with the team, arms on shoulders, final words. "We did this together" I told them before they pushed me ahead, into a funnel of people, across the line. 4831km skated, Laura screamed, Holly cried, my parents smiled. I'm sure, even though I didn't see him instantly, that Simon mouthed the two simple words, "World Record."


  • At 11:08 pm, Blogger wafflesole said…

    There aren't words mate.

    rest-up, have a good christmas, and you'll be back in Swansea before you realise.

    take care.



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