Introduction by Dave Cornthwaite, BoardFree founder
BoardFree was a rollercoaster, whooshing myself and those on the team out of everyday life and into this crazy adventure in almost no time at all. Only twenty-two months passed between stepping onto my first board and finishing off the Australian journey. 896 miles from John O'Groats to Lands End, and then 3621 miles from Perth to Brisbane, it was certainly the most eventful period of my life. It's time to remember it fondly.
It has now been four years since BoardFree was born. It began in May 2005 with just three words, ‘BoardFree – Coming Soon’ and then grew exponentially. 823 pages and several million visitors later, it’s time for a downsize.
The original aims of BoardFree expanded just as quickly as the website. Plans for a solo longboard journey across Australia were coupled with a warm-up skate from John O’Groats to Lands End. Three charities then joined the throng, the Lowe Syndrome Trust, Link Community Development and Sailability Australia became beneficiaries of all monies raised, and promoting safe and accessible longboarding to all was almost a default by-product.
What I didn’t envisage when I woke up in my Swansea bedroom with Kiwa the cat pawing at my head and the ennui of a dayjob on the verge of sucking my soul dry, was what would come after the journeys. There’s no blame here, over 4500 miles of skating and fundraising seemed like plenty to be getting on with, but once the dust had settled on BoardFree Australia the emails started to arrive. There were others wanting to embark on similar ventures, some far more remarkable than my own, and where possible I did what I could to offer advice; from building a successful fundraising project to effective blister control!
For a couple of years this website has acted as a kind of gateway to skate journeys around the world, bouncing visitors onwards to discover a constantly evolving compilation of longboarding travel stories. These journeys have all added to the romanticism and possibilities of skating, whether simply between home and work, or across vast countries, and each new venture adds to the ones gone before to create a magnetism of culture that continues to inspire skaters old and new. There is now a very tangible gravitational pull drawing on the very essence of longboarding, where freedom and a joy of board-riding joins personal achievement and philanthropic endeavour. A distance journey is a fitting tribute to the skills needed to accomplish all of the above, and beyond the charitable benefits of these projects, the rewards are personal memories and images to be enjoyed through the years.
This was BoardFree’s legacy, to pass on experience and along the way create what I hope was a decent blueprint for a charitable longboarding project. It is natural for a group or individual embarking on a similar adventure to treat the project as ‘their baby’, and as a result every project has the potential to be better than the one before, experience plus fresh legs is a fine mix. Longboarding, in my view, is unsurpassed as an amateur pastime that hits the headlines almost solely for the right reasons. Show me another sport that has such a passionate grassroots base; people skate because they love it, and they skate far because they know they can make a difference. Excuse the pun, but longboarding has come an awfully long way in recent years, and it’s a rare thing for such drive to be present without a great deal of formal competition - these journeys originate from within.
On a personal level, BoardFree gave me a new life. I was a fairly depressed graphic designer when it all started and beyond the paper achievements of the project, skating across the UK and Australia gave me a belief that perhaps I could achieve anything I wanted. The problem is, the world is a bloody big place and there’s so much to do! Having spent two years getting my head around things (it takes a while, for me) I’m now bubbling with a similar energy to the one that coursed through my veins when BoardFree was underway. I still skate for fun and happily teach newbies the ropes a couple of times a week, but my plate is now full with plans for a new series of challenges called Expedition1000, which will involve 25 separate expeditions each at least 1000 miles in distance, and every one of them will use a different form of non motorised transport. BoardFree Australia was just the first journey, it's going to be quite a ride.
Thus, this website is to become a static affair, concentrating mainly on the UK and Australian journeys and how they came about. BoardFree and its resulting book has somehow conspired to encourage a few hardy souls to go far not just on longboards, but on bicycles, on foot, in boats and even in the unknown art of endurance cartooning. I guess the basis of all endeavours is the same: have an idea, and then see it through. It’s a freedom thing - we can do it, therefore we will!
I hope this site manages to do justice to everything BoardFree was about in its prime, I've narrated most of it so forgive the first person descriptions, it was one hell of a ride and it'll stay with me always. Finally, if you’re planning to push off on your own journey please do drop me a line, I’ll do everything I can to help.
Dave Cornthwaite, Wiltshire, May 2009