Why did you undertake such a massive task? It was a bizarre consequence of events. I went on a snowboarding holiday in early 2005 and I was rubbish but got the hang of it by the end of the week, but it was time to go home. It’s an expensive, and not so accessible sport for a lot of people so I made up my mind that I wouldn’t be so bad next time. I read an article on the way home about a long skateboard that rode like a snowboard, and I thought this is just the job, so snowboarding wouldn’t be so hard next time. I got on my board on the last day of March 2005 and in the first couple of weeks it changed my perspective of my town. A hill meant something. I wasn’t happy in my job and I’d just come out of a long-term relationship. So two weeks after I stepped on a board I woke up and was like “Dave, you’re 25, you really need a change here. What do you really enjoy doing?” So I went back to basics and I always had a passion for travel and coupled that with my new love of skateboarding. It took about 45 seconds that morning to decide to change. Two months later I had quite my job, planned for a year and then skated from John O’Groats to Land’s End: the top of Scotland to the bottom of England. That was 900 miles, 1450 km. And then two months later, August 2006 started in Perth for the big one.
So it was just a matter of “let’s do it”? Pretty much. It was the old clichÃ© of let’s live life to the fullest, but I had let that slip in a 9-5 job. I really wanted to get away from that. So when I made the decision it just clicked, even though I had only been skating for two weeks. I planned a little while and then told a few people which locked me in to this thing. It just became my life. I decided to live off my savings for a couple of years and make something of it. I’ve always wanted to be a travel writer so I thought that if it came off then there might be a book, which ultimately makes it sustainable. So here we are, I’ve been skateboarding for just three years and the book hits the shelves.
What were you doing in 9-5? I was a graphic designer for an agency, but I didn’t feel it was going anywhere. I was also running a newspaper for the same company and felt I was stuck in a rut.
At what point did you think “what have I done”? From the outset it was always a wacky idea [but] I was determined to make it work. When you tell someone about it their first question is “why?” But after a while it went from an idea of me travelling with a bag on my back, to escape and get freedom, to talking to charities, and getting a website and talking to press about it and I really wanted to encourage people to take up boarding, all board sports. I also wanted to show that if you are stuck in a rut, and a lot of people are, you don’t have to stay there, you only live once. I was just an ordinary bloke who decided to do something that, from the outside seemed wacky, but I’ve always been a sane bloke.
In telling people, who did you get the best reaction from, the English or the Australian people. A bit of both. The Aussies know how big their country is and have a sense of awareness of what’s been achieved, and that’s why it’s had more awareness here than back home. But English people in general seem to be less unhappy. There’s not as much sun, and the population density is much greater so people get stuck into their jobs a lot more than here. So they’d ask, “why would you want to go all that way and skate across a desert. I don’t really get it?” But the best response was while I was on the Nullarbor. There was a couple of grey nomads (retired Australian travellers) about 60 and pulled over their campervan looked me up and down and said “with that accent you better watch the sun”.
What were your charities, we’ll give ’em a plug. Well I wanted to support an Aussie charity so I chose Sailability Australia who integrate people with disabilities into sailing. I spent some time in my early 20s in East Africa for charity called Link Community Development, a sustainable education project, so that was a no brainer. And a guy called Jack Smith had the land distance record before me. He skated across the US, 2,000m in 2003 in aid of Lowe Syndrome because Jack Jnr had died from it. It basically affects young boys with brain, eye and kidney troubles with a whole host of other problems. I carried on that baton. Since the journey a lot more people are looking to take the record.
Let’s talk about stats: How far in total? 5823km
How many Shoes? Fourteen pairs. They’re really comfortable but there were a couple of days crossing the Great Dividing Range where the hills were so big that to brake I was dragging my foot, and a brand new pair of shoes were worn through by the end of the day.
Wheels? Five sets. We probably didn’t need to but we changed them on every border out of tradition. They can go for about 3,000km. We had three vehicles with loads of problems. The skateboard didn’t have an issue.
The longest day? Was 104km on the Eyre Peninsula, which is about halfway across Australia. And I did 103km on the Nullarbor.
How much of Oz did you actually see? Because we were really on a mission we didn’t see Uluru, or go to the touristy areas. The Nullarbor was outstanding. It was the part of the journey we were most worried about. Just being out there, looking down at my board then looking up and seeing a completely flat area. People ask, did I get bored out there. And all I could think was this beats the hell out of an office job in Wales. It was the best time of my life, without a doubt.
You had a decent size support team. Any big arguments? Oh lord. Sometimes. The day after I crossed the South Australia/Victoria border there was a huge blow-out. Everyone was yelling at each other, and I was just like “you guys sort it out, I’m going to Brisbane, I don’t care if you’re with me or not. Don’t come and chase me until you are cool with each other again”. I got about 50km, and it was bucketing down… just to make them feel even worse.
Was your mind able to wander or was it constantly stuck on skating. It was pretty much all Boardfree. By the time we were halfway through the UK journey I knew Australia was still to come and I had the biggest blisters on my feet and I didn’t know how to look after my feet at that stage. The last 1000kms of the UK journey was absolutely agonising. I thought, if I can’t get to the end of the UK journey, I can’t do Australia. So my mind was completely on getting to the end of each day, raising more money. I didn’t think of anything else for 22 months other than the journey. So much so that the night after I got to Brisbane, 22nd of January 2007 my body woke up in complete spasms, it was like being electrocuted. It was the first time my body could shut down.
Any injuries? The most serious injury was the day I skated into http://www.tntdownunder.com/article/2440450887.html[Adelaide] after the Nullarbor and thought it’s so good to see a city again. I finally got there, did a photo shoot for the website where everyone jumped up and I came down and landed on a piece of metal straight into my heal, blood everywhere. Shoes off, skateboard no where in sight. I went to the Royal Adelaide Hospital and got seven stitches. I was on crutches for ten days. I probably needed the rest.
You couldn’t have picked a better city either, Adelaide. Exactly. It’s kinda nice to have a scar from the journey. In fact I’ve got two. A lump on my shoulder. It’s six o’clock at night, really humid and I can see Brisbane. I’d never been there and I just started balling, I was so emotional. I’d been aiming for this place for so long. The profile was really big, we’d been in all the papers, Triple J had been following us. People were on the roadside taking photos and a guy ran up with a beer and yelled “you’re a fucking legend mate” and I was balling my eyes out. I started going down the hill and I was fuzzy, quite fatigued. I was doing about 40km/h when my board hit a patch of concrete, my wheel dropped, I took three steps, I could see Brisbane and then I was down. I ended up about 30-40 metres down the road, going really fast. I thought I had broken my ankle and I hit my head really hard, my helmet the only thing that saved me. But the first thing I thought of was “where’s my board?” I crawled to a patch of grass and there were loads of people around and I chuckled to myself because it was the first time I had fallen in my whole journey. Dave’s book Boardfree is in book stores now. For more info, visit http://www.boardfree.co.uk.