Journey – Paris to Madrid – Connor Strudwick
I’ve only just found out about Connor’s trip. He’s a local lad to me and it’s probably a good idea he set off on his trip through France and into Spain before we got introduced and I fed him a load of really bad advice.
This is one trip I can really relate to. Escaping the South coast of England and blaming a good cause for the freedom. No, that’s probably just me. Connor skated for Stand for Trees and got some great press coverage for the journey (which I never heard about because I only really watch skate videos and South Park). Just a couple of months ago, March 30 to be precise, Connor set off from his hometown of Eastbourne, Sussex, pointed his compass south and pushed off on a 50 day mission to Madrid, the capital of thinly sliced ham and Spanish people.
I caught up with Connor on a local mini distance skate, pushed some concrete, practiced switch a little, bailed hard, ran from dogs and asked him a few questions on his first trip out, keen to find out if he had faced the same trials and tribulations as I did.
SF – Starting with a serious note: – Stand For Trees. Awesome! No one hates trees. They just don’t. And if we didn’t have tree’s there would be no Maple for under our feet for starters. So, well done on completing your mission and raising funds for such amazing cause!!… but what was the reason for a distance push?
C – Good first question! I think my reasoning for going by board is because skating has always been a huge passion and a way of life for me. It was while I was at work, feeling unenthusiastic and deflated I was thinking about what I really wanted to do with myself, I knew what my passions were, and with a bit of creative thinking I fused it together with what I stand for, which is the environment, for our planet, so I wanted to do something crazy, so a 860 mile long skate for charity seemed crazy to me, so, why not?!
SF – Was this your first taste on life on a longboard?
C – I think it goes without saying that is was without a doubt my first long distance skate. Well a skate of this length.
Obviously, skating 10, 20 odd miles every week or two is easy, but to average 20 miles a day, there was nothing that could of prepared me for that.
SF – Why did you go solo? and what was it like living on the road?
C – Well the first initial plan was to do it with a few of my Bros, or anyone equally as crazy! But as time went on, I realized that there was a lot of personal gain to be had by doing it by myself. Doing it with your Bros is awesome, but nothing compares to the peace and harmony you get when you stand in the middle of nowhere, with no phone signal, and nothing but a longboard and a rucksack. Truly amazing.
As for the accommodation etc, due to wild camping being illegal, as far as I’m aware, in France, I chose to stay in the cheapest hostels and hotels I could find. Put simply, you seriously get what you pay for. Some places felt like I stayed in a shed, with a questionable shower.
But the worst thing was definitely the mozzies, obviously with the sun you have to protect yourself, which attracted them, so you put the replant spray on, but as you sweat, it runs down your face making you feel like a sweaty sticky fly catcher. Not fun at all.
SF – And, of course, we need to know about kit! How was your set up for the trip?
C – Starting with possibly the most important item. The board of course… I started this trip with a Mindless deck and trucks, with RAD wheels and so sweet bearings, big up my man Aaron Skippings for sponsoring me with them! Compared to the mindless original set up, it was a massive improvement.It was a basic cruising set up, which for the beginning of France was perfect.
But… the shout out of the whole article goes to Landyachtz.
Arguably the biggest name in longboarding, based in British Columbia, Canada are creating some of the best decks, hardware and completes on the market, and I am proud and humbled to say that they chose to sponsor me with a brand spanking new Landyachtz Switchblade 40″ Zombie. I don’t think I would of done half as well on this trip without a board of this status. I didn’t have one problem on this board. So thank you Landyachtz!
Now, shoe talk: 2 pairs in fact! First and mostly used pair, which from all the foot breaking had no tread left what so ever, were Etnies James Eco 2. Comfortable low ride shoe which made for a very responsive ride. Second pair used only in time of support and the others were too wet. Nike Paul Rodriguez 7, slightly higher on the ankle which made it more supportive on that days your ankles felt like giving up. Speaking of which, the effect on me physically had to be my biggest problem. Skating that much every day took such a strain on all of my muscles, especially my legs, I think all my leg muscles doubled in size due to this! Every night would consist of a very long shower to sooth the muscles and very poorly attempting to massage them, anything I could do to help them I would.
Other than that, my rucksack was filled with only the bare minimum – very few clothes, toiletries, all too keep the weight down to ease the stress on my back, but finding the balance between what I needed and what was pointless was very difficult!
SF – What about your distance? How did the end results compare to the journey plan your set out for yourself and what was your biggest key learning?
C – My distance ended up being around the same as what I planned, about 860 miles, although my route was constantly changing, small adjustments, or full blown redirection! But what I learnt very, very quickly is no matter how well you plan or prepare, nothing will ever go the way you think and you really have to be on your toes and willing to go with the flow, or even change everything, just to get around a problem.
SF – What was your greatest moment on the journey?
C – Greatest moment is a tough one. There are just so many. The mountain roads, the complete feeling of being absolutely nowhere, of course finishing. I could go on, but it without a doubt has to be when I crossed the border between France and Spain. All that separated them was a bridge with no indication that you had changed country. Just a 100m bridge and so much changes, the language the food, the culture. The fact that half of you could be in France and the other in Spain, to me is mind blowing.
SF – And the most embarrassing? We all face difficult choices when we step into the unknown! Come on, spill the beans!!
C – I wish I could tell you that it was all seamless and that I didn’t have any embarrassing moments, sadly this is not the case.
Moments range from simple mistakes with the language to be being caught answering natures call. But I would have to say, but by far it would be when I was skating the south west of France, the path was very damp and busy with people from cyclist to the young football teams gathering for their game.
I saw a cycle path map and thought, what a great idea, put my foot down to brakes. I forgot that the floor was damp and my balance is slightly off because of the rucksack so it was as if I slipped on a banana peal, landed on my bag. I wish I could say that was it but my board carried on very swiftly towards an elderly couple and, much like being an upside down turtle, getting up with a big bag is very hard, so I had to struggle up just to run like mad to get my board before I hurt someone else, safe to say, they were not impressed, lucky they were in a good mood due to my fall.
SF – Like everyone, fresh from a trip, I’m sure you’ve got more to tell so keep it sweet…
C – Well through this article I have mentioned countless things that could of gone in here, poor planning I guess! But obviously, I want to say a huge thank you too every single person that donated, they really made this trip mean something, thanks to all. Again, thank you to anyone that helped me in anyway – board, fundraising, giving me strength when I didn’t have it myself… thank to so much.
SF – So now you’ve been bitten by the bug, what do you have in store next?
C – Well firstly after I returned home, I had 4 days to rest before I fly out too Italy to travel from Naples to Venice, very very shortly after that I then flew out too Cyprus for an amazing time in the sun with an amazing figure in my life.
As for now… I’m on a plane to America to teach Skateboarding in a summer camp for 2 months, followed by a month traveling! Which is crazy exciting! Onwards and upwards to new experiences…
… as you do… not jealous at all.