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.


  • At 1:09 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You say thank god for the helmet Dave, and so you should!:-) I had a stack (without one) going down a hill, and woke up two months later. In a Coma for one, and well just waking up for the next one! Slamming sux, (but adds to the fun;-)

  • At 4:07 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well done Dave!

    What a mighty effort. Such determination and perserverance. It must be saddening to reach the end of such an epic journey, but think of all the positive influence and goodwill you have spread along the way and feel proud!

    Pat, Bundeena

  • At 12:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey mate, I was wondering why you had bandages on when they showed the clips on the news! Still only one stack in 5 months isn't bad, better then when you were on the half pipe! Looking forward to seeing you when you get home, take it easy. ginger Chris.17


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