Alex is pushing the southern coast of the UK this summer. Traveling to Lands End (the starting point of many great journeys) and then pushing all the way, some 420m, back home. Many of us will relate to his thirst for adventure – stuck in front of a computer screen, surrounded by the same scenery day after day, obsessively reading other stories of heroic quests on a longboard, he turned off his monitor, grabbed a map and started planning his first big trek. He’s a self confessed “Yes Man”. Give him an idea and he’ll run with it… let him make his own and, it seems… he’ll push with it!
It’s sad to hear that he bears witness to a close family member struggling with the onset of Alzheimer’s but great to see he’s not prepared to sit back without trying to make a difference. He’s on a quest, he’s set his goals and it all kicks off next month.
SF – The time has come Alex! Now, we’ve been chatting for a while ahead of this trip, I’ve been keeping an eye on your planning process and am somewhat in awe of your methodology and also your success so far – tackling it solo, hobo camping, sponsorship success… Tell me, how do you feel the preparations have gone?
AR – Like many others, as a kid, I was in awe of the Long Treks on Skate Decks series on YouTube and that was the spark. I pushed locally, to school, along the seafront and Longboarding became a way of life I guess. Then, this spring, I felt like I really needed a personal challenge and my grandmothers condition gave me that extra kick to get out there and do something great, not just for myself. So I started research and planning, discovered the ‘long push to Ibiza’ trip and thought, why not get in touch for some advice. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, and that really has been key for the trip and planning so far. I’ve reached out to several people and been really lucky with the responses I’ve had. With regard to training, work has been flat out and I probably should be doing more pushing, but f**k it, I’ll throw myself in at the deep end again, I’m good at that.
SF – You’ll be hitting some of the most amazing scenery the UK has to offer, but also some pretty rough towns. How do you feel about going it alone and camping down in the hedgerows of southern England?
AR – Can’t wait!! I love an adventure and I’m not afraid of being on my own. The thought of pitching up in a field not really knowing where I am is pretty cool, but trying to find somewhere to sleep in a big town or city is going to suck! I’m praying the English weather is good to me. Sorting the tent out and packing up in the rain will be miserable, the tent barely fits me in it, let alone space to sort my gear out! I’m pretty sensible so I don’t think I’ll have any people problems, but we all know not everyone thinks as highly of us skaters as we do. Oh, and I hate ants.
SF – Now, your board is unique enough to warrant a review of its own (we’ll be getting onto that soon) but what about your other kit? SkateFurtherers know what not to take on a trip like this! How are you approaching the ultimate back pack and are you adding anything that you feel will be essential along the road?
AR – I really looked hard into the kit, and planning it near my birthday meant I had some pretty useful presents to unwrap. I kept everything as light as possible, the tent was probably the most important item in my bag. I opted for an OEX Phoxx 1, the reviews seemed good, only weighs 1.58kg and packs down to the size of a shoe. My only worry is it not that spacious. I’m 6ft2 so it’s snug in there, but its only 10days right? And you never know, I may even be offered a sofa on my trip!
The sleeping bag is a Snugpak Travelpak 2, lightweight, packs down small and also has a built in mosquito which would probably have come in handy if it wasn’t England. My Shoes are a not so cheap pair of Merrell Moab GTX, should be comfortable and durable but I’m worried about the amount of wear from footbraking.
The Far Academy in Canterbury have been outstanding with their support and have hooked me up with a custom deck for the trip and you’ll hear more about that soon. I always skate safe too, so I thought why not drop Triple 8 an email and they got back to me! They’ve hooked me up with a helmet, gloves and pads, all sent out from their UK distributors TKC Sales. All the kit is listed on my website though if you want to know any more details and what other gear I’m taking.
SF – Onto journey planning! An area we’ve all messed up on at some point. What’s it going to be like? How are the roads down south?
AR – Honestly, I have no idea. I set off on September the 6th and I think it’ll take 12 days. I’ve tried to stick to the coast as much as possible and obviously avoid major roads where I can. The first 200 miles are real hilly, and that worries me. I’m hoping the new setup will handle it and I’m hoping I’ll be able to handle it too! I don’t really have a plan B if it all goes tits up. Just keep pushing. I’ve been hooked up with some monster 90mm flywheels so I think I should be able to tackle most cycle paths. I can’t wait to hit the Jurassic Coast in Dorset too. It looks stunning and has so much history. I’m also heading to Southampton University where they are undertaking the project I am researching for, so I can see exactly what the money I raise is going to.
I’m pinching my work phone and that’ll be my GPS/tracker, it means friends, family, public and sponsors can track how I’m getting on.
SF – With this being your first major skate trek, how are you diving in? Fearlessly headfirst or inching closer towards the edge with increasing sweats?
AR – I’ve always thrown myself in at the deep end and dealt with the aftermath later. Life’s too short to walk, so skate! Although this isn’t the biggest trip, I figure if I can do this, then crossing states or other countries is not in-achievable. I’m just going to take each day as it comes. I’ll probably have some real shit days but they’re going to be far outweighed by the good ones. I think I’ll be crapping myself on the way down to Lands End, but as soon as I set off and ease into it I think I’ll be cool and just have a badass trip!
SF – Lets get a little serious and talk about the cause!
AR – Alzheimer’s seriously SUCKS! So my Nan was diagnosed a couple of years ago and watching her decline is horrible. It’s even harder watching how it affects my grandad. She still knows who I am, but also occasionally talks about her mother still being around. She is now even putting crumble on top of the cottage pie!
The Alzheimer’s Research UK project I’m fundraising for is aiming to develop a drug that will dampen the immune response in Alzheimer’s. It should reduce nerve cell death and improve symptoms. Basically in the simplest form, it will slow the initial stages of the disease. There’s loads more information on my site so go check it! You can also donate from there. This is the first time I’ve ever sponsored a worthy cause and it really is for a good reason. Quick little fact; Dementia is the leading cause of death in women in the UK and only receives around 3% of the governments media budget, it’s up to us to make a difference.
I’d also really like to thank The FAR Academy, they were the first people to get on board, their support and what they do is amazing. They are actually a charity themselves. Brent, the owner and founder has created the academy to work around the students. Their education and qualifications are based around designing, developing and marketing a skateboard. He knows that teenagers don’t work as great at 8am, so they start late morning instead and they get their GCSE’s whilst skating. His work, visions and commitment to the students are truly inspirational.
And if anyone wants to join me for a mile or two, check out my journey map and get in touch! Bring your friends and family too! Hope to see a few of you pushing next to me!
Like everyone whose venturing out with a passion to SkateFurther, we’ll be following Alex with heart, wishing him all the best on his journey and catching up when he gets home and has had a bath, or three.
We’ll keep you all posted on his progress.
Planning your own trip? We want to hear from you! Get in touch.