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, January 23, 2007

Made it!

I find myself pushing slowly through the streets of Brisbane, behind me a sizable group of skaters and two police cyclists, I'm led by Cheech driven by Dan who in turn follows a deep red police car, lights flashing, leading the way. A Channel 9 news car ran alongside me, recording everything for viewing on tonight's news.

My left side aches heavily in response to a 40kmph fall last night - my first 'stack' of BoardFree Australia. Yesterday's approach to the Queensland capital was mixed with emotion, fatigue and irony. Falling for the first time (my mud-induced topple in Sydney doesn't really count, I was moving at zimmer-frame speed) just 3km before reaching the city will be yet another of those laughable anecdotes that riddle this incredible journey. When Elsa slipped out from under me - two uneven surfaces finally combined to dismantle me from my trusty steed - I ran with three steps, weight moving forward more with each one, and then went down. I finished 30 metres down the road, having rolled and scraped half the distance, and immediately picked myself up and hobbled out of the traffic-route. My eyes scanned around, seeking out Elsa who had luckily rolled safely down a side road and then, happy that my board was in tact, I collapsed on a grass verge and shut my eyes.

When they opened, I was surrounded by people. Kate, Dan, Laura, Dimitri and his camera, Simon and his camera, Holly and her camera, snap snap snap. Chris Cleator was there having driven up from the Gold Coast - we'd stayed with Chris for a couple of days, he's a sponsor and now a friend. Some strangers peered over, and another man was by my side. He spoke to me, "Dave, I'm a physio, take it easy and I'll look you over..."
"How did you get here so fast?" I asked,
"You skated past me back there, I drove home as fast as I could to get my camera and when I caught up with you...well, you were here."
"Fair enough doc, do what you will." I laid there, eyes to the sky, chuckling to myself at the ridiculousness of it all. I've just managed to skate across Australia, some 5815km, without falling off my board and here, now, minutes from the end, I fall, and fall badly. I'm grazed, bruised and scratched, insides have been in a tumble dryer, want to be sick, feeling dizzy, pained, light headed. Five minutes later I'm on my feet, snow white bandages covering my hand, elbow, shoulder, a small dent in my helmet which ultimately ended my tumble. Thank god for the helmet. A man in his late sixties stood beside a bicycle dressed in a mauve cyclists top. He told me his name was Tom, he'd read about my journey in the morning newspaper and wanted to escort me into town. I agreed, got back on my board and set off downhill, more cautious than ever, counting my blessings, blood pumping.

Just before the fall, I had pushed up a long, steep incline to Mt Gravatt. Coming over the brow of the hill I saw Brisbane's CBD, hazy in the early dusk, rising out of the horizon more majestically than any city I've seen before. This moment will stay with me forever. I pulled the cars over and stood, staring, tears filling my eyes, memories of the beginning of the journey in Perth flashing into my head then flashes of the journey - heading onto the Great Eastern Highway, pushing along the Nullarbor's ninety mile stretch, rolling through Adelaide, the Great Ocean Road, everything I'd seen and done. There it is, after all this time, I pushed out of Perth on Elsa and kept on going until now. I can see Brisbane. So close, so close. Two women, separate but meeting us seconds apart, arrive with donations. A man runs from the bottle shop we had stopped beside and hands me a beer, "well done mate," he said shaking my hand.
"I'll save this for later," I smiled back at him.

At 7pm I rounded a bend and there it was, The Gabba, Brisbane's chief sporting arena, the home of Queensland's cricket, towering large over Stanley St as I rolled into the shadow of the stands. Another snapshot which I'll keep for life. I stopped opposite the entrance, walked across the road, sat on Elsa beneath the south west lights. The irony of stopping here, the scene of recent British sporting failure in the Ashes, was not lost. Emotion came over me, I'd made it. Of all the things I'd prepared for on this journey, actually reaching Brisbane was not one of them. I cried tears of happiness, sadness, joy and fatigue as Pete and Dim interviewed me. Whatever happened tomorrow during the final 3km didn't really matter, I'd skated from Perth to Brisbane despite everything. I'd made it. The team came over, we all embraced, clapped, smiled. I flinched at every hug as an arm touched my recent wound, acquired just up the road, but I didn't care. We'd made it. Back into the cars, elated, driving east to Bo and Elsa's who we had met on the Nullarbor and who had offered us food and accomodation. They fed us, they looked after us, they prepared us for the next day, the final day of BoardFree Australia.

So, after an early wake-up and 8 interviews even before I left the house, I found myself surrounded by TV cameras from 7, 9, 10 and ABC. Skaters turned up and Magic Touch reflective jackets were promptly dispatched. I put on my C1rca shoes for the final time, my 14th pair this journey, lenses trained upon me. I issued instructions to the skaters, checked traffic plans with the police who had provided two cars and two cyclists for the final journey. We got on the road and pushed slowly, away from the Gabba towards South Bank. The traffic was heavy, one of the skaters fell backwards after a little trick-gone-wrong. Laura was with me on another rollsrolls, Dan waved in his mirror. I smiled the whole way as Dim and Holly ran alongside, doing their utmost to capture the final moments. The final 3km took almost half an hour and I rounded the final corner around the Queensland Performing Arts Complex to whistles and screams. I couldn't believe the sight that greeted me, hundreds of people lined up in a crescent, a red, white and blue finishing line held by local Sailability members. I kept my composure, stopping at the roadside to let the skaters behind me overtake and join the crowds. I didn't know until later that several children at the finish were disappointed when some of the skaters tried tricks in vain and hit the concrete right in front of the crowds, the children thought I was one of the fallen and couldn't quite understand what they were here to see! Simon was the last to speak to me, his minicam recording my last thoughts before the journey finished. I handed over my vest, revealing a blue BoardFree t-shirt, the same colour as the one I wore when BFUK finished and when I broke the world record. It was time to go. I pushed off, once, twice, three times, a little carve and then straight for the line. Brief confusion when my route was blocked by a wandering man but then in a split second I was over, arms aloft, line broken, cheers, applause, shouting, a cacophony of celebration. I stood Elsa on one end and rested on her, head down in a moment of self-thought. 'Dave mate, you've done it, it's over' I told myself. Then stood up and faced the crowds, the cameras, the questions. It flew by, the questions came in and I answered passionately, stressing the need for donations, offering Elsa for sale at the right price, discussing the hardest parts of the journey, the stresses, the tensions, the positives. Bruce Dickson from Sailability had flown in and addressed the crowd, then I was led to the shores of the Brisbane River for photos with Getty, AP and another news agency from the UK. I popped champagne for the cameras, sipped a little, sipped some more for follow up shots. Felt decidedly dizzy and clinked glasses with the team. Hugged the Real Wiiings team, Chris and his wife Nat, Jo who works for them, daughter Tyla and son Kye - a group of people I met days ago but now consider family. So glad they could be there.

We all walk down the road, stopping briefly to sign more leaflets. The phone rings, it's started again. I do an interview with the ABC as we head to The Fox, a local pub which is hosting the finale reception. I thank Megan and Clive from the British High Commission, their support has been invaluable since Clive first called to offer their assistance on the day I pushed out of Perth, and without them this finish would have likely been a rather drab, unorganised affair. Instead it was planned, colourful and a finalé to remember. Lucy from the Sunday Mail buys me a pint. Her article in yesterday's paper prompted several donations on the road, we had spoken only once previously on August 24th as I climbed Green Mount Hill out of Perth and it was another rare occassion when I gladly put a face to a familiar voice. The phone continues to ring and I speak to the BBC World Service, and Triple J's Robbie Buck who has been a regular supporter of the journey. In fact, my interviews with Robbie have probably incited more recognition than any other radio coverage - If I had a dollar everytime someone has come up to me and asked, "Are you the guy off Triple J?" we'd have raised a fair bit more than $45,000.

I sit by myself very briefly after I speak to Robbie, soaking it up in a quiet room off the main lounge. Mr Buck quite happily admitted to his audience of 200,000 plus that he had fully doubted my chances of crossing Australia on a skateboard when we first talked in Perth. His delight that the 'pommy bugger' had pushed on through was evident, and I dare say many of the listeners shared the sentiment.

The following hours were a blur. Kate dealt magnificently with the media, the girls had managed to raise over $300 at the finish line. Smiles were abound. We retired exhausted to Bo and Elsa's and collapsed. I spoke to another nine radio stations that evening, inbetween managing to watch four tv reports on the main Australian channels. The next day I spoke to Eammon Holmes live on Sky News, was on the BBC back home, and ITV. Most of the national UK papers ran a picture story, my ugle mug grinning with Elsa in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other, the Brisbane skyline dominant beyond the River behind me. What a finalé, what an ending. When the time came to go to bed Simon awaited, struck his by now usual pose, hand on hip, ready for amateur dramatics. "Dave," he said, "do you know what you've just done? Perth to Brisbane on a skateboard. Perth, to Brisbane, on a skateboard."

Goodnight folks. We made it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The big morning

It’s 06:45 on Monday 22nd January 2007 and the phone has rung seven times this morning. In ten minutes I give my first interview, and it doesn’t look like there’s going to be time to go to the toilet then until half nine.

Next door the team are spread out on mattresses like a parade of homeless, and I wonder if their dreams are permeated with mock-up phone calls, because surely they can hear the ring tone through the wall, again and again and again. We’re all very sleepy, it’s time to wake up.

Coffee, Cereal. Kate takes two calls when she’s pouring her milk. In six hours, if all goes to plan, BoardFree Australia reaches its climax. How do I feel? I don’t know how to feel – excitement, sadness. I feel kind of empty and unsure – how did we get to Brisbane so quickly? The joy of it all is slightly tempered by our fundraising total. Perhaps $120,000 was a big ask, but with the attention the journey has received I don’t think it’s been unrealistic. We currently rest just over $40,000 - although the finishing line approaches there’s still an awful lot of work to be done.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Queensland. State Five

Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and now Queensland. Two years ago I knew the names but not where their vast bulks sat in the giant Australian jigsaw. Now, thanks to an intimate five months skating across the world’s sixth largest country, only a quick bout of Alzheimers would rid me of my love for this great, empty lump of land.

I crossed the last border of BoardFree Australia on Wednesday 17th January. Waking up in Tweed Heads, I had just 4km to skate before Tweed turns to Coolangatta and the clocks – rather confusingly considering Queensland is directly north of New South Wales – turned back an hour. Earlier that day, I had already spent three hours in Queensland, surfing with Real Wiiings’ ( Chris Cleator, who has been sponsoring our surf lessons this journey (see video on gallery). Bobbing up and down just out of reach of some waves that frankly scared the crap out of me, I gazed north at the glistening skyline belonging to the skyscraper-clad Surfers Paradise, and couldn’t help shivering with excitement. Long ago, two months before I flew to Perth, a friend sent me a photo taken of her standing beneath the famous Surfer’s Paradise arch. I looked at the photo on my computer screen, then turned left to stare at the Australian map covering my wall. ‘Dave,’ I thought to myself, ‘it’s going to take a bloody big effort to get over there mate.’

Two hours after I rolled into Queensland I pushed into Surfers, the sky almost blocked out by towering high rises that line this section of the coast. Strangely, the place seemed just a little too empty for all this urbania. It seemed like everyone walking past held a surfboard under their arm. Of the few cars which passed, most honked a horn or waved. Many donated. “Surfers Paradise is bloody close to Brisbane,” Simon had told me the day before. That thought settled nicely in my brain, closing out all the unnecessary noise that comes with traveling through a city – however empty it is.

The next three days flew by in a blur of media attention and a little too much complacency. The phone is off the hook, Kate a picture of efficiency when our Knight Rider ring tone pierces the air. “Hello, this is Kate from BoardFree speaking, how may I help you…?” The Sunday Times, Queensland’s largest newspaper, send out a photographer as I skate north of Surfers. Several radio stations ask questions live on air, I’m becoming adept at fielding the ubiquitous cricket jokes and am fond of asking presenters how many times an Australian has skated across his or her own country. Hong Kong calls, the Times and the Telegraph run stories in the UK. Richard and Judy want me on in February. It’s all quite bizarre, but not nearly as much as the email received from a lady at the ITV, who really wanted to cover the end of my cycle journey across Australia.

Two days of rest separated the Gold Coast from Brisbane. We stayed in Hope Island with Chris Cleator and his delightful family, and I found myself feeling more at home than I’ve felt in years. From there we rushed in and out – to a TV shoot with Channel 9, to the Wet n’Wild Water Park where the team were treated to a day out and I was the subject of a media call. Ever grateful for publicity – all which contributes to our growing charity total – I still find it strange seeing my ugly mug on the telly, especially when the focus of the piece isn’t BoardFree or one of our charities. A 30 second NBN piece showing me plummeting down a ridiculously steep water slide with a face like jelly will always serve to add to the awareness of this journey – but I’ll never quite get to grips with the way Australia has taken to BoardFree, and am happy to be the occasional light entertainment which brightens up the otherwise dismal news reports.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Closing in.....

Fetching a cool glass of water before heading to bed to sleep away New South Wales and welcome in a new day of skating in Queensland, I stopped for a moment and peered through the blinds above the cabin sink. Despite the hum of the television and the general chit chat in the room, I could clearly hear the constant rising and falling chirp of the cicadas outside. Usually, this sound is a must in a Hollywood movie during a night scene in the country – the insect choir ensures that there is never a completely quiet moment, no matter how peaceful and sleep-inducing it is. Considering the leg-rubbing suspects are a couple of inches long and thousands-strong in the trees, it is a romantic soundtrack always given free. I remember listening to this tune as a boy holidaying in France and in my early twenties working and traveling in Africa, thinking to myself how funny it is that when humans go to sleep most other things continue as normal. Then, to aid the passage of normality, I headed to bed.

The Pacific Highway runs north from Sydney to Brisbane and beyond. It has been my main passage since mid December when I skated out of the New South Wales capital a fresh world record holder, and today, a month on from that momentous day in Sydney Olympic Park, I found myself still pushing along the Pacific Highway with a green road sign drifting past to my left bearing the message, ‘Brisbane 153’. Almost immediately, to my right, the driver of a truck heading in the opposite direction towards Byron Bay leaned out of his cab, extended a fist of salute and yelled, “You go Davooooooooooooooo.” His voice disappeared as he continued south and gave me some fresh mental fuel for the kilometers to come.

The tidal wave of support continues from passers by and motorists. Ash Grunwald, a cult Australian singer who I met when he supported Xavier Rudd in Sydney on New Year’s Day, pulled over on his way to a surf spot near Ballina and tried out his luck on Elsa. We talked a little and it didn’t take long for him to make an offer. “I’ve got a gig in Coolangatta on the 20th, come along and I’ll interview you on stage, if there’s room we’ll have a skate! We’ll donate $5 per CD to your charities and get the punters to put some in too.” He drove off, surf board in the back, leaving us all with huge grins. Some people can’t help enough.

The donations continue. Becs, Bev and Laura are driving themselves into the ground, bringing in $200+ dollars per day, which we’ll distribute between Sailability, Link and Lowe. Contributions also come in from people who pass us on the road – often the van logos are enough to persuade some pocket-dipping, as Bev well knows after she became 50% of what must be the fastest donation in history when she accepted a $10 note from a motorcyclist as they both drove at 100kmph along the highway.

My fondest moments of the last week have involved Simon. Often the class clown, Si is a remarkably determined lad when he wants to be. To honour the section of the journey bought by his mother and sister, Si decided to jump on one of our bicycles on a very hot day and peddle 45km to Grafton alongside me. By the end of the first hill he was gasping like a fish, the team were chuckling to themselves. On the second hill he walked a bit, by then I’d skated off and was waiting 15km up the road at a petrol station. But he pushed on, reached us, and then pushed further. To be joined on the road by a team member has been a rare thing for most of this journey – for one of the guys used to seeing me collapse in a ball of agony at the side of the road it made me immensely proud that Si was willing to go through the barrier and then some. 10km from Grafton little pieces started to fall off the bike (it’s older than our vans) and poor old Si had to ride the peddles and walk the final 5km. But he wouldn’t give up, much to the chagrin of his poor legs, which hurt so much he had to stay in the swimming pool all afternoon because he couldn’t climb out. What a star!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Premature reflections

I start with an email just received from an old friend named Kara.
“Dave, G'DAY MATE! You flamin' galah, I just wanted to tell me how much you have delighted me/reduced me to tears over the last few months - I feel like I have been there with you in spirit every step of your incredible adventure, sans metal spike in my foot... You write BEAUTIFULLY. I was so proud when you made it into the London Metro and I almost told a whole (grumpy in the morning) tube carriage THAT'S MY FRIEND! Just wanted to say your adventures have made me laugh, made me cry, have been my best book of 2006.”

I read this message whilst sat in McDonalds, Kempsey NSW, surrounded by people who guzzle on Big Macs and slurp down vats of Coke, and I feel the tears welling up, rising and blurring my vision, dripping down my cheeks. Simple yet heartfelt, honest words from one of those few people who are able to be honest in everything. Enough to make me cry. Even sob. I’m touched to the core and waste three minutes of internet time trying to regain some control. I’m sure a fat man with a too-large-moustache is looking at me sideways. I wipe my eyes for the final time after crying in a fast food restaurant and realise I just learned more about myself in the last few minutes than I did during my 23rd year, when I didn’t cry once. I’m 27 years old, in the middle of something wonderful, so physically and emotionally drained that I can barely hold myself together half of the time yet can blame this state on partaking in what many would consider to be an incredibly macho endeavor. I’ve skateboarded across Australia and I’m still able to cry like a girl when someone’s overly nice to me, and what have I learnt? That I can deal with all of it, as long as some people care.

The first days of skating in 2007 have flown by. Every metre I travel on Elsa now extends the world distance skating record. Every two days more than a 100km falls from the total left until Brisbane. A wave of support from passing motorists on the road pushes me towards Queensland, the last State, the place where it ends. Every other car honks its horn, passengers take photos, strangers hang out of their windows and shout at me;
“You’re a legend!”
“You’re the man, brother!”
“Keep going mate, almost there!”
If you haven’t been on the road with us it might be hard to imagine how it feels to be a part of the BoardFree team right now. I skated across a traffic light-controlled crossroads in Coffs Harbour and every car queuing on the other side - all ten of them – let their horns go. Awesome! After all it has put us through, Australia is willing us on, willing us to succeed.

In Nambucca Heads, at the Big4 campsite which had kindly put us up for night, Dan returns from the toilet to find five kids looking at the back of George. One of them, about seven years old, asks Dan what I do when I need to pee. Dan says something along the lines of “well, he just stops and goes in the bush.” The child then had a think and trumped Dan with a blinder,
“Ok, but what happens with Bush Teddies?”
“What are Bush Teddies?” asks Dan, confused.
“Poos in the bush!” the kid replied, as the others in the group wet themselves laughing.

As time goes on and the road, which was once so long and seemingly endless, becomes shorter and more tangible, our thoughts turn more and more to life after BoardFree Australia. After twenty one weeks on the road we have lived through Bev’s song: “when will we get to Brisbane, how long do we have to go? Through Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney…..” And now, we’re closer to Brisbane than Sydney. The route map, studiously updated at the end of each day, is now home to a red line which leads all the way across Australia. The distance travelled is boggling, having skated it I am still struggling to fathom the achievement and I’m sure that none of us will quite get to grips with the last half year until we’ve had time to reflect. Some will go back to live with parents, others to the homes they left before flying to Australia. Jobs need to be found, debts cleared, and in many ways it may seem to some of the team like they’re going back to square one, perhaps even further back than that. Of course, the memories are one thing, but the experience each team member has gained during this journey will stand them in good stead for progress in future careers. I’m quite sure, though, that at this time, when the journey’s end approaches fast and worries supersede excitement, that the CV benefits are lost on most.

Personally, I’m starting to feel sadness when I think of Brisbane. “Don’t wish away the kilometers,” my cousin Kate tells me, and in all reality I don’t. But saying that, I still have to skate them and every day another 50km or so is scrubbed from the remaining total, a figure that now seems tiny compared to the distance traveled already. I know I’ll miss life on the road when it’s over, but at the same time I’m sure that there are more journeys to come so I don’t have much to worry about. I’m looking forward to not waking up with a grudge against the upcoming 70km day – the irony of my decision to embark on such an adventure because I’m not a man who likes rigidly imposed structure never escapes me. For more than a year I have been bound to attempting an achievement which can only be obtained by structure and discipline. A prisoner in my own ambition.

Mostly, though, I’m shaking with excitement. The opportunity to start anew, again! I want to talk about this journey, about BoardFree, about the possibilities that we all face if we put our minds to it. I want to write a book – a process that is as daunting to me as the journey itself, I now have to relive it all again! – and find myself a new home. And for just a couple of weeks, I want to allow myself a good rest.

For now though, chickens must not be counted. There are 20km or so to skate. It ends on Monday 22nd January. Watch this space.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Here we go again...

The new year started with a bang. The BoardFree team stood side by side within a calm Rushcutters Bay crowd, staring wide eyed as the fireworks jumped from Sydney Harbour Bridge directly ahead and leapt up from the top of the centre's high rises slightly to our left, dancing flashes of colour reflecting off the water and glass walls surrounding the harbour, smoke filling the air as over 100,000 firecrackers were released to celebrate the Bridge's 75th anniversary. Earlier, Simon led the team in what was possibly the most atrocious conga Sydney had ever seen. The genius plan involving ten of us joining the line for the toilet, only to break off chanting the famous "da da da Da, Da DA" when we reached the front of the queue, never quite materialised. So, we gathered courage, in Si's case it was certainly Dutch, clutched each other's waists and staggered most ungloriously into the dark. One thing came of the conga, which Si insisted on calling "The Congo" all night. As the line of unchoreographed pommies became increasingly smaller (it really was a rubbish conga) a familiar face and head of curly black hair appeared, saying "I saw these people dancing and thought, I recognise them!" It was Dee Farrer, she who back in late 2005 became the first ever applicant for a BoardFree support team position. She hoped to be the team snapper - a void eventually filled by Holls, of course - but for various reasons the application was withdrawn. Still, to see her here in Sydney - a complete surprise for all of us - it really hit home just how much has happened since all this began. To put it all in perspective, when Dee applied the support team was just going to be four people strong, and we were all going to live in one van! So 2006 was over, and just as quickly 2007 began. I, being the elder statesman of the team, decided to retire soon after. My lack of staying power during late night social occasions is now part of the programme, at 27 years old my legs ache after I walk across a room and I vanished to bed only after Si drunkenly wrapped a long arm around my shoulders and came up with an inventive metaphor for BoardFree. "Dave," he stumbled, "you are Jack...."he paused, raising his free arm high into the air (I couldn't help but stare at the sloshing plastic cup at the end of it) to really drive home the point, " are Jack..." he repeated, breathed in deeply, and then, only when the drunken pause got to the stage where it really was just a drunken pause, he let the punchline go...."and BoardFree, my friend, is the beanstalk. It started off as a little seed...." he paused one final time, he loves a ramble does Si, and finished predictably... "and it just continues to grow, higher and higher, higher and higher, higher and high......." We walked off, because it was going to take a while. Funnily enough, the first text I received the next morning was from Holly. It read something along the lines of 'For some reason nobody knows where Simon is this morning.' It later transpired he slept on Bondi Beach and went for an impromptu early morning swim upon waking up in what, with reflection, is possibly the coolest place to spend the first night of the year.

One last day of non-BoardFree left. My first New Year’s Day in Australia began lazily, had a productive internet-related middle and ended with a truly Australian soundtrack. Luna Park was the venue: I skated there from Rushcutters Bay, through Wooloomooloo, past The Rocks, over the Harbour Bridge with the Opera House sat down below like a proud mother. This was the first time I’d seen Sydney’s icons close up before and I couldn’t help thinking to myself, ‘the year has started well’ as I rolled down the other side of the bridge, dodging the occasional pedestrian and getting my legs slowly back into skating mood.

In North Sydney I had a quick drink with Sally Thurwell and her husband David. Sally runs the Alumni Department back home at Swansea University and was the instigator of the Dare Dave ‘Bouncy Ball’ challenge – possibly the most bizarre thing to happen on the Nullarbor Plain last year! After we parted company I made my way down to Luna Park, met up with Kate, Becs, Bev and Laura and screamed our heads off on some fairground rides before ducking into the Big Top to see Ash Grunwald and Xavier Rudd, who filled the Park’s arena with the music that took me across Australia. Xavier and his guitar tech Jamez have been supporters of BoardFree since the early days (take a look at and although I’d hooked up with Jamez last year in London’s Hyde Park this was the first time I’d met Xavier. He sat stageside cross-legged at whilst Ash Grunwald ripped his guitar to shreds, shook my hand and shook his head, uttering something like “you’re some kind of beast, man,” which I think was a compliment. “How’re the legs?” he asked, peering over.
“Ready to finish,” I smiled, flexing the calf.

Ash, dreadlocks gathering on broad shoulders, came off stage and picked up Elsa with amazement. “This is some board, can I have a go?”
“Go for it,” I nodded, and he rolled backwards and forwards, separated from a hushed crowd by a large black curtain. It was a pleasure to meet him, he was truly blown away by the whole thing and after the show tucked a BoardFree leaflet into his pocket, glancing at Elsa one last time and saying “I have to read up on all of this.”
The chance to roll onto the stage as Xavier talked about the project was lost when a crowd invasion took the clock down. Slightly disappointed, I sat on my board just meters from Xavier mesmerised by his manipulation of three didges, guitars, drums, symbols… This man’s music was in my ears on the Nullarbor, in Adelaide just before I had that accident with a signpost, on the Great Ocean Road as the rain poured, and it stayed with me that night as I rushed with the girls to the train station amidst a torrent of water falling from the sky. In the heart of the summer, Australia was getting the rain it really needed. Good signs for the year ahead.

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