Summer started well enough, with some real heatwave days leading to epic seaside skates. However, after the roar of the Olympics had died down, I was reduced to staring longingly out the window, watching the streets turn into rivers, washing away all my skating chances. I was really starting to get a bit antsy. This is usually the time when we English rejoice, cast off the shackles of winter and get out there to celebrate life from our trusty rolling steeds. Sadly that was not Ma Nature’s plan for us this time around, giving us mostly rainy day after torrentially rainy day.
Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to go on a road trip to finish up the traditional English ‘summer’ on a high note. Traveling with a friend up to Brighton, where the Longboard Girls Crew UK was going to be meeting at the “Sun, Sea and Skate” event, we had high hopes. The fact that we got stuck in terrible traffic, had a crash, and got lost a lot only added to the fun, and I discovered there really is nothing that a good bit of duct tape cannot fix.
Arriving in Brighton we found that, you guessed it, the weather was against us. The conditions had been clear and dry all the way up – but as we skated across town through the eclectic crowds to meet up with everyone, it started pouring down. Just to season us a bit more, the wind coming across the sea proceeded to coat us in a fine film of salt.
The event had been rescheduled. Great. Three people turned up. Lovely. I now taste of salt. Of all the luck!
Fortunately, I wasn’t just going 5 hours out of my way for that little experience, otherwise this would be a pretty non-happening event review. I was also there to meet up with the Skate Further UK contingent, ready and waiting for us at the blown out Brighton seafront, to skate the glorious and historic Goodwood Motor Circuit, near Chichester. That is, after a night of homemade Mexican cooking that healed my windswept soul.
Goodwood is the home of skateboard marathons in the modern era. Before there was Adrenalina, with its money and glamour, there was Goodwood. It is the place that the first records were set, and the first times were logged on Pavedwave.org, the official recordkeeping safehouse of long distance skateboarding. No oversized checks here, just terrible homemade prizes and the pride of a finishing medal, which every competitor takes home. And a healthy dose of stoke.
- Camberley Skaters were the well organised hosts of previous marathons at the Goodwood Motor Circuit, but this year they took a break.
Devised and organised by Camberley Skaters, a group of inliners, the first marathon events grew in size and stature over the years until over 600 skaters of all varieties were turning up to get chipped, log their best times and raise money for charity. They allowed us longboarders to get in on the action and we only added to the melee. In fact, it all got a bit too mad, so this year, the organisers deservedly took the year off, and another company stepped in to help out, creating The South Coast Roll.
In Britain, we’re a pretty inclusive bunch. If someone has the nouse to hire a track and insure an event, they are kind enough share the love with the whole skate community (Google “Skaiti”), and it’s usually for a good cause. At Goodwood, you will find angular and lycra-clad inliners, rollergirls of all shapes and sizes, junior roller hockey teams being pushed by their parents, and in amongst the pit bays for this year’s event, sandwiched between two derby leagues, was little old Camp Further.
Having missed last year’s event due to being in America skating with the Longboard Atlanta crew out on the Chief Ladiga trail, I was keen to get back on that hallowed track. Nearly 2.3 miles of silky smooth asphalt with twists, turns, wind direction changes and gentle ups and downs …skate around it 11 times and you can consider yourself a skateboard marathoner. Oh, and in the middle of the track is a live airfield, so you may find yourself being buzzed by an old bi-plane or a helicopter!
I have skated longer distances for six years now (aside from also taking up roller derby – see above), and I am still in love with this discipline of longboarding more than any other, although I’m into trying them all. If you want it to, distance can incorporate every colour of the longboarding double rainbow. Through all the ups and downs of life, the road is there, with its own rhythm to lock into and become one with. Definitely a good thing to know.
This is how Goodwood feels: You begin by pushing off out of the racing grid, across the line and down into a chicane. Your joy at crossing the line suddenly turns to despair as you hit a headwind on a gently-grinding-away-at-the-soul uphill gradient. Here you must learn acceptance and patience. As you leave this, drink up, because the crosswinds then encourage you towards a downhill swoop that requires an agile tuck to make it up to the other side. Once there, you can celebrate (watch out for a nasty headrush), because the wind is behind you and the fun can begin. Pushing, pumping, carving and dancing your way back down the hill to the line. And then it begins all over again. Ten more times.
I had a great time skating this year. I did it one year after a 550-mile journey across Scotland, and one year after a fried egg sandwich and no training due to being in a support van for a month, and I was only 30 seconds apart each time. Most strange. With the Camberley Skaters not being involved at this event, it was very much a casual affair. No timing chips, no pressure, no medals, just fun. Somehow, that made me push myself harder and enjoy it. I know others felt the same. I kept my stopwatch in the car and just skated.
Our crew all managed to achieve and surpass their goals, which was really great. Whether it was a full or half marathon or just getting out on the track to learn a bit more about what skating far does to the mind and body, everyone gave it their best shot and came away smiling. Grimacing also perhaps, but still smiling. All around us, more skaters were discovering that if you put your mind into that special zone, you can get through the wall, and come out on a high like no other.
I hope that the timed event happens again in the future, but if it doesn’t I’m eternally grateful to Camberley Skaters for coming up with it and giving up so much time to run it, as it legitimised the long distance skateboard marathon. As I am also to Everglides for putting on an event this year. Thanks to all the longboarders who made it out to skate, including one girl who had never skated before and did 10 miles! That’s the spirit.
Please check out all the event photos at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-South-Coast-Roll/124863150977865?sk=photos where you will see plenty of skaters going for it.
L – R: Fiona Cruickshank, Keith O’Leary, Ben Williams, Helena Bee, me, Mary Crossland, Michael Jones, Charlie Quick.
Finally, I’ve discovered some useful things that might also help you if you’re looking to do this sort of thing: http://facebook.com/skatefurther is where you want to go for all your info and…baby food is really, really good! Organic, healthy, and filled with good stuff for a quick fix of grub in a light, movement-friendly pouch, it’s perfect. Also, get a massage stick for before, during (if you can stow it near the track) and after the event. It will make you the most popular person at the entire hootenanny. Guaranteed.
Thank you to Orangatang for providing me with some great pushing wheels, without which I’d have been leaving splinters and sparks everywhere. Also thanks to Stoked Skateboards and Rayne Longboards, because without them, I’d have just been standing there in my shoes, wearing a helmet for no good reason.