The Push – A Skateboarding Relay Across America
Leapfrogging across the North American continent on skateboards, a van driver (Captain), navigator and a four-athlete relay team are making their way from Virginia to Oregon, hopefully within 14 days. This kind of undertaking requires strong athleticism, mental strength, leadership and cooperation. There will be conflicts and challenges, but based on the first day, it's obvious that these athletes have the right stuff for this mission.
What these guys are doing is not something that an average person's body can withstand, and I’m not sure most people can handle it mentally either. This crew comprises of serious athletes with lots of experience. They do these things to achieve extraordinary feats, and the rest of us get to “go along” with them through social media and other means.
Skateboarding across the North American continent has been done plenty of times, but maybe not quite this fast; 14 days. Andy Andras, Miles Kipper, Paul Kent and Rick Stubblefield are relay riders with Jack Smith as leader with Jack’s son Dylan as coordinator.
Pushing, pumping and poling (paddling) across the USA on skateboards.
This is an East to West adventure, notwithstanding the prevailing winds of the jet stream. Decades ago, veteran distance skater Jack Smith accomplished west-to-east crossings, learning lessons through the Appalachian Mountain range and eastward.
Why leave the hills and rough pavement till the end, when you can grind through the rough stuff first? - Jack
Jack does not seem overly concerned with the jet stream. He already knows that winds switch and swirl at ground level.
With the team assembled, and most of their gear packed, they departed Jamestown, VA on June 20, 2023 in the morning and headed west. My role allowed me to intersect the team at the end of day one.
I had previously volunteered to locate and deliver all the missing packages and supplies. After the team started, on Tuesday afternoon, they were missing five packages, including one of the riders boards. Finally on Tuesday afternoon, I plotted an intercept course to the crew, arriving at 8pm; end of day one. Cruising south on I-81 in the waning hours, trucking through the rolling fields of the Shenandoah Valley, past the New Market Battlefield and Lauray Caverns, the gravity of this athletic adventure was unmistakable. Those are some big hills and vast distances.
“So, six dudes roll up in a van…”
I arrived at the meeting point about an hour ahead of the team. When the van rolled in to the Days Inn, the midsummer Virginia skylight lingered just enough to highlight a the vans interior, holding too many dudes with too much stuff. If you’ve ever cracked open a can of sardines, and seen all those little fish lined up, you get the idea except the aspic ensconcing the riders, was gear, not mustard; all kinds of gear. The highest priority locations were reserved for camera gear, skateboards, skate poles (paddles), hydration, footwear and nutrition supplies. Jammed-in were several pronated backpacks, bulging luggage and empty water jugs. The van seemed to be packed by several “dads” making a cross country trip who didn’t have time to agree on how to pack or what needed to be left behind. At some point they had to agree to just “send it” and see how it goes.
As soon as the vans side-door slid open, the athletes poured out like the van was on fire. Each had already skated nine relay segments making many tough Virginia miles, so their feet needed fresh air and their muscles needed stretching. As soon as most of the gear was flayed out in the parking lot, they all agreed -
“Let’s get some food and organize this van.” - Andy Andras
In their own minds, each member (driver, navigator and the four athletes) was highly organized with essential items only. I soon recognized that the WAY that each of them organize varied; from the “nester” to the “rummager” to the “spartan”. Each member knew exactly where their gear was and every single item had a purpose, use and was essential. They all agreed that the obvious gap was in the “shared resources” necessitating a group decision. Andy stepped up, and after we made a quick trip to Chipotle, he purchased three large plastic totes. Problem solved.
Everyone's mood lifted when they saw the communal nutrition and camping supplies packed neatly into containers so that clutter didn’t mix with their gear. Day one already resolved some important expectations and priorities.
One more Good Night’s Rest
This first night, the team elected to stay at a hotel. For this endurance adventure, brain and body rest are essential, like hydration and nutrition. Until they’re exhausted, there’s not going to be much rest in the van. Each rider pushes, pumps and poles, as fast as possible, to catch-up to the van, so they can be collected and leapfrogged ahead of their relay partner. In the van, with all the gear, there’s at least four people in the van, (five on the leapfrog jumps). Ain’t nobody getting much body rest in that van.
Miles and Paul devoured some local pizza while Andy built his ride. All were respectful tenants, but I can confirm is that the good people at that hotel will have their hands full cleaning up after our visit. At one point, one room looked like a yard sale, or crime scene because all manner of skate gear was spread out on two queen beds and the floor.
Every one of these guys has a totally unique LDP skateboard set-up, different footwear, different clothes, hats, helmets, so when they're riding as a pack, it's hard to tell they're doing exactly the same tasks. There are specialists, for example Paul was volunteered for some downhill sections and I'm sure that each member will develop their specialty during the next two weeks. All these guys expect from their gear is that it works. It's all got to be light, strong, flexible, durable, fast, fail-safe and fool-proof. They don't want any gear foul-ups and that's why it's important to pay attention to what the "Pros" use.
Each member is using the SUPSKATE® Race adjustable or the Custom fixed length pole. Kent prefers the Custom while the other guys seem to prefer the adjustable for those small length changes demanded by the terrain and conditions. There's 8 poles on board, two for each rider, and they have spares for the three types of pusher tips, SK8, Poi Pounder and Poi Mini.
Leadership & Personalities
Reminiscent of Lewis and Clark’s expedition to the Northwest Passage, I noticed that Jack Smith and Andy Andras seem to have divided leadership responsibilities according to their focus. Lewis was the Captain and Clark was the scientist (and surveyor). In a shore while, it was clear that Jack commanded the vessel while Andy nudged the athletes. Unlike Lewis, who hired and provisioned his entire expedition, here the gear and supply packing was left up to each volunteer member. I’m sure Jack gave the members limits, but Captain Jack could only advise his team members on how to provision his expedition. They all seem to have different personalities with high executive skills; a great group of teammates. In two weeks, I wonder how differently that van will be set up.
Among the communal nutrients were giant bottles of turmeric and fish oil for joints and inflammation. Andy and Kent were first to organize their stations for the day.
Deciding to take on a challenge like this requires athleticism, grit and training, but there’s another element that may not be so obvious. It’s one thing to make a two week cross-country road trip with people you have lived with; it’s quite another when you “mostly” know and have competed with each other. Cooperation is a learned skill, and each of these six adults clearly has that skill but their styles and personalities differ. The first day seems to have been a feeling-out period for each persons assumptions, but also for the relationships to develop over the next couple of weeks. This is a very solid group of mature grown men. I wouldn’t hesitate to join this group.
Get On With It
The morning was a comfortable 65°F and overcast with a slight breeze. Perfect weather for waking up. Andy was up, packed and ready by 05:30 and through the window could see Jack Smith, standing outside the van ready for the athletes. Jack is the schedule guy and knows his role. He and his son had planned the days route and were ready to roll. I headed over to one of the other rooms to find a couple of guys who needed a little help shuttling boxes and gear back to the van. After a couple trips and some puzzle packing these guys had their team meeting to discuss the plan. Jack laid out the route and without objections the days mission was a GO, so inward they piled, one after another. (And the left over pizza made it too.).
I am a little bit concerned for the safety of the crew. They’re riding with traffic on some roads without shoulders. That can be nerve-wracking under the best of circumstances, and can become downright dangerous. Please keep these athletes safety and wellbeing in your thoughts and prayers.
To learn more about the team and their efforts, visit their website:
The Push – A Skateboarding Relay Across America
My name is Don Sandusky. I design and build skate poles (paddles) for athletes, and this team is using them on this epic adventure. It's a privilege to have such a great relationship with these world class athletes who use the gear. The best feedback comes from athletes, and I am especially grateful to Andy Andras for his collaboration and friendship. Each rider is pushing, pumping and poling (paddling) their way westward. And, finally... I am not a professional writer, so please forgive my typos, punctuation and spelling errors.