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, May 15, 2007

Are You The Skateboard Man?

I've been trying to call them for two days, it's always engaged or they just don't answer. I missed a's ringing again. They pick up.
"Hello, Royal Mail Swansea."
"Hi, I'd like to organise redelivery of a parcel, please."
"No problem, what's your name, please."
"Cornthwaite. C.O.R.N..."
"Do you live in St Thomas?"
"I do."
"Are you the skateboard man?"

Four months ago I was on my last legs, willing blistered feet and a heavy head along the final stretches of the New South Wales Pacific Highway towards Queensland and Brisbane, soaking up car horn after car horn, the most energising sound in the world for a skater one week short of completing a five month journey. In Queensland the ocean bubbled up on my right, small dogs snapped at my heels, the team and I went to Wet N'Wild for a media call. I was on the news for half a minute because I went down a water slide. They say the Australian summer is a quiet time for good press.

Comedowns don't come much heavier than this one. My right foot has been pawing at the air since landing on UK soil in mid February, brain struggling to switch off after two years of intense focus. A goal so distant and, to many people so unlikely, becomes surreal when finally achieved. I'd mapped out every physical step between John O'Groats and Land's End, from Perth to Adelaide, Adelaide to Melbourne, then to Sydney, and then...

And then it hit me. Waving Elsa above my head, right hand gripping a champagne bottle draped in British colours, Brisbane skyline behind me as Getty and Reuters snapped away for the next day's news. I'd always believed - known almost - that I'd get to Brisbane. I just hadn't thought about what I'd do once I'd made it.

That night I cramped up, entire body in spasm. My mind had shut down for the first time in 20 months and without focus my stomach, thighs, arms, shoulders, back and calves jerked in fury, their job finally done. I slept little that night, my brain firmly whirring back into action with a disconcerting concoction of satisfaction and worry. It's still happening...

The rest of the team went their own way, having spent the past half-year volunteering for a hellishly stressful project the need for money started talking again, it always does. My mind started to back away from BoardFree quicker than reality could let it. Imagine, five months without a break, the only time you spend alone is when you're pounding the road hard, for all the beauty of the journey between Perth and Brisbane, it wasn't what you could call quality personal time. A camera thrust in your face everytime you stop, every time you have an argument with your girlfriend. Phone rings, another interview: whatever was happening at that time - whether it was mediation of a team incident, putting together a blog for the website, bandaging up blisters - doesn't matter, the more people who hear about BoardFree the more people donate. It's a correllation that bolsters the foundations of this project; the media face arrives, the media voice, the positive, public side to BoardFree, never false but never letting slip what was happening behind the scenes.

And it's what happened behind the scenes that I'm dealing with now. Everyday spent reliving the good: the kindness of strangers, receiving donations, car honks, and the bad: the cover-ups, the way fatigue deteriorates communication and the loss of a beautiful friendship, a love that should never have slipped away. The self punishing side that tears away at your basic person, how endurance and a lack of privacy reduce you to a pile of emotions where life is a series of ups and downs, where constants and stability disappear with the relationships that fade away amidst your confusion.

And here, at the end, writing it all down, page after page after page, still longing for the privacy and getting it in such a different way to that which you would imagine, unable to extract some distance from the whole picture, I find myself wondering whether or not BoardFree was a good thing. And it's a ridiculous question because it was good, the core group of people who formed to create this dream, to believe in the ideas, the charities and the journey pulled together despite the hard times and made it through to the end. I have my regrets, yes, but I loved and was loved more during BoardFree than ever before, I achieved and I'm sure my team achieved more than they previously had. But with gain comes loss and until I've dealt with that loss, until the final page of the book is written, my journey isn't over. It started with me alone and sadly it ends with me alone. But there should be no pity in this - it was all my own doing.

Certain things help, like the emails of support and interest that have started to come in about a new journey, a twenty-four hour non-stop skate marathon. The glee people take in discovering the AquaSkipper, for now the only non-boardlike transportation I have big plans for. Now and then I throw a chapter of the book at a friend and their self-contained giggles make me want to write more. On the 2nd June a charity skate between Bath and Bristol, co-organised with Lush Longboards, will take more than a handful of people 15 miles on a board to raise money for Link and Lowe - I've received countless emails from skaters preparing to take part; all encouraging, all excited, all determined to make the skate for themselves as much as the charities. And that's the way it should be, the ability to take on a challenge and come through on the other side having done your utmost is more than a learning curve, it's a building block for your future. The lads - I hope at some point soon I can add some ladies to this sentence - who are preparing to embark on their own BoardFree skate journeys this summer have memorable times ahead, and are most certainly about to embark on a good bit of construction of their own personal foundations. Moral fibre, my Grandad would call it. That each and every one of them is willing to part with self to a degree and skate for a cause that warrants attention shows the metal of these people. Sam and his team from BeatsWalkin (Devon to Santander for Link, Lowe and Sailability), Charlie and Bob from the Test of Manhood (London to Morocco for Everyman, the male cancer charity), Ben Stiff (The length of Britain for stroke victims) and Rob and Jack (Wales, charity tbc) are all about to use their decks as weapons of good. Who says the pen is mightier than the board?

In addition to the strangely stalkerish recognition of the lady at the Royal Mail depot, my other highlight this week has been receipt of a large brown envelope. Inside it was a certificate from the Guinness Book of records, confirming that they have accepted my record submission and I am now, officially, a Guinness World Record Holder. Tell me that's not cool!

So it goes on, doesn't it. I hold my hands up and say that sometimes life takes the very glass that you once said was half full and makes you believe it's half empty, but even in the time it has taken me to write this blog I've had a couple of good emails from encouraging friends, have very hopefully found a lovely flat in London which will house me for the next few months and also spoken to a lovely lady who is providing a new home for Kiwa, my beloved kitten who needs a more settled home than her globetrotting Daddy can give her.

The glass is starting to look full again, which is a relief because I was about to call the heavies in.

If anyone didn't manage to donate to Link Community Development, the Lowe Syndrome Trust or Sailability Australia during the UK and Australian Boardfree journeys, there's a new online giving page in support of the 2nd June charity skate at, your donations would be gratefully received and will be shared equally between the three charities Many thanks.

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