BIG NEWS: Skateboarding across China?

Yes. In a massive change of plans, I am going to skateboard across China.

NPR Image

(Image courtesy of NPR’s On the Road In China series)

14th of April 2008. I am booked on a flight to Shanghai, China. While I’m at it, I figure I may as well make history. The first person ever to skateboard the breadth of The People’s Republic of China. It should also extend the current world record to about 7,000 miles.

I am booked on a flight that leaves from Los Angeles, California. I am certainly not going to cut my trans-US journey short. I have just over two months to skate to Los Angeles, apply for a Chinese visa at the Chinese Embassy Consulate in Los Angeles, and get on the plane.

Upping the ante with this skateboarding thing - across China

Why? To be honest, I was never really all that keen on skateboarding through central America. Or sailing across the Pacific, for that matter. To really do a skateboarding journey justice, a certain level of guaranteed skateable roads is required. China offers this. A 3,000 mile long slither or brand new blacktop that stretches from the northwest Kazakhstan-China border, to Shanghai on the mid-east coast of China. Highway 312. While I’m in skating shape, I may as well go for it.
Also, a long time blog reader, Jean, recently asked whether skateboarding through civilization lessened the sense of adventure. The answer is a definite yes. I yearn for the raw adventure of Asia.

I will fly to China, spend April, May, June and part of July skating across the country, then fly home to New Zealand.

It will be an epic expedition. 3,000m plus high road passes, the remote and hostile Takla Makan and Gobi deserts, communication and language barriers, tough bureaucracies (I was arrested last time I was in China). The expedition will be totally solo and unsupported. No back up vehicles.

Raw and real, this will be an expedition to stay tuned to.

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32 thoughts on “BIG NEWS: Skateboarding across China?

  • Mum

    You're gonna have ta make sure you don't stop over too long at places between now and LA. No more waiting for the rain to go, just skate, skate, skate through rain, hail, snow or sunshine!

  • Scott

    Dude: Yeah, raw and real says it. I was going to suggest that you have folks at home send you your bike and then ride south to the tip of South America since you haven't touched that continent yet. Lots of wild adventure down there. But skating across China works, too!

    Keep it real, mate. Skate on.


  • harydial

    Hey buddy way to go…..Keep breaking barriers and normal human mentality…..You inspire me to go for it……Ur site has been superbly updated….and terrific photography!

    It is one website I get home from work and be excited about….. reading updates and ur photos plus ur adventures…..!

  • Chris J

    Somehow I am not surprised.

    And at the same time I can't believe it.

    I think that this why you keep doing this to us. Not that I would miss out on a moment of it though.

    Are there any skate shops in China? You will also be in the country at the same time as the summer olympics if all goes according to plan. Could be advantageous.

  • Rick

    holy. crap. Maybe Guiness will honor a partial record if you stand on your skateboard throughout the flight? 2 months? Better stop reading this and get pushing. If you need anything, you'll always have a home in Florida.

  • matt windsor

    hey rob,

    i think the china option could definately be the safer one rob, having been scared to death driving a car down through mexico and guatemala using roads that sometimes have more potholes than flat bits, where cars (and buses) pass on blind corners and no one pays attention to the speed limits.

    i am excited for you rob, the china expedition will rock, and i think that it will spur you on for completing your crossing of the US. great stuff!

  • Nana

    I am glad you are going to do what you set out to do – skate across the USA. China sounds a much better option than Central America. Will you go through any places where Westerners are not allowed?You wont want to be arrested again.

    What lovely people you have been meeting. The USA is renowned for its hospitality and you sure have been getting some.

    We will be having a family "do" for Hannah's 25th and Em-Jay's 24th birthday. You will be missed as usual.

  • Ruosi

    Rob, just one thing: in the big cities esp around Shanghai, drivers ain't that friendly! Traffic is terrifying as you must have seen some, be careful on the high way!

  • rob

    Hi Rob,

    Game on. Reckon the first half will be amazing. After Lanzhou the roads will probably take on a more industrial, hectic fast truck expressway look.

    After western Henan it gets really flat and easy. Well easier. Roads are straight and flat. Eastern Anhui can be a bit of a dust bowl as they are ripping all the roads up. Should be finshed now though. Shanghai road networks are literally like spaghetti, without the flavour. But good fun as its totally rediculous…….

    Reckon its a good move to come back to Asia. Its totally hectic with stories at every turn……. never short of an adventure or strange encounter. Enjoy.

  • Mike C

    Rob you nutter.

    I've been praying for you every day since you started your adventure in Korea. And I wont be letting up while you're in China!

    This one's going to take you some serious planning and care!

    P.S. Hey man. If you're looking for respect and awe from us, you've already earned that – and some! You've got a good sixty or seventy years after this one, so be careful!

    God bless,


  • funaki

    ohisashiburi degozaimasu 🙂 futsuu no

    hito ga dekinai koto ni charenji suru no wa yahari kimi mitai na yuni-ku na hito shika inai ya na 🙂 I'm not worried at all since you're not alone and well protected. I wonder if you could do some APU University promotion for us on the way 😉 haha! Please take care and all the best.

    Blessed Journey 🙂

    funaki 🙂

  • mahmoud

    rob you nut case. that is brilliant. here's an idea. you should catch the bus to the end of the road and skate back – that way it'll be "mostly downhill". brilliant thinking going on over here, and its for free too.

  • Jo

    Best of luck!

    I was planning to do that after I graduated. In initial planning/feasability/logistics of my trip I stopped and went "Hey now! I'ld be the first person ever to skateboard the breadth of the People’s Republic of China!" Looks like I'll have to be the first female to skate the breadth of the People’s Republic of China.

    Ultimately you will be beating me to it by 2 years. Snap. But you are also helping me keep my personal dreams in sight and offering bucketloads of both inspiration and realistic 'well it happened to that guy' guidance (in a round-a-bout way though i guess…).

    All those comments to your journal telling you that you are inspirational? No lie. You are.

    Of all the people that have taken part in 'fly by the arse of your pants' global wandering of EPIC proportions, you are the most 'real' to me. Of all the online journals out there of people on 'round the world voyages', yours is the only one i've consistently gone back to daily to check the blog. Published authors? Tim Cope? Rolf Potts? I read 2 books those cats have put out over my Christmas break. And they weren't half as totally amazing five thousand shades of awesome as your journey has been. And something about what you are doing just seems real. It seems feasible. Like I can go do it (which i will).

    I've wasted many hours of should have been study time here on your site… The journey has been awe inspiring and incredible. Not to mention inspirational and handy in planning my own trip… But for now, back to the books. My time will come. I'll just live vicariously through this site for now.

    Again, best of luck.

  • Llisa Jones

    Hi Rob,

    Its good to know you're nearing the halfway point twixt here and California. And China…wow I hope you consider turning your blog into a book…Aidan and I are enjoying your adventures. We will keep on reading your posts…Take care,


  • Lee

    Wow, Jo: preach it, sister! Awesome.

    Matt Windsor: Hello if you see this! Still good memories of our visit to Duvachelle(ish) when you were caretaking.

    Rob, good on ya. Right behind you in mental support (if there is such a thing), a prayer or two, and interest, all the way.

    Hey, you might even get back before I go to Kenya. That'd be super.

    May you have breath and legs and spirit to sustain you as long as this physical journey lasts, and keep on glorifying God through your positivity, genuinity (that's a word now) and drive for connection and exploration.


  • big bro mark

    And to think I that I thought you were crazy to go skateboarding across the US! Well I guess we shouldn't expect anything less from you since you have achieved so much so far.

    On a technical note – I think you need bigger wheels for your board – that way you would be able to handle rougher roads without the risk of face planting. Also a larger diameter wheel will have greater angular momentum – and since we all know that momentum must be conserved, you will find it easier to push through small undualtions etc.

    Well better sign off, crying and pooing babies to deal with and all that 🙂

    Love, Mark.

    PS I assume you are still in once piece after all the tornadoes in your neck of the woods?

  • Rob Thomson Post author

    @ Jo: Thank you for the encouragement! I just take it a day at a time. Just know that you'll have a wealth of info about skating across China once I'm through. I have already had amazing input from cyclists I have contacted for advice. Looks like it's going to be a great trip, with the only realy nemisis being the winds!

  • Rob Thomson Post author

    @ Ferran: I am thinking hard about how to increase my water capacity in my pack. There are ideas in the works that should prove exciting!

  • Rich


    You are amazing!!! I've been following your journey on and off and you keep going and going… When I saw this post, I almost jump from happiness. I started thinking about a cycling trip to China and Central Asia a few weeks ago, most likely starting September – October 2008 and go for about 3 months… I only hope our routes can cross somehow;) Good luck in your American adventure and keep rolling…

  • Verna the "Culp

    Message from Verna the "Culprit Signmaker" from Trash and Treasures Antiques in Pensacola, Florida..

    Hey "Columbus on a skateboard" – Your brother did a favor to a lot of people when he sent you across the world!

    Continued message from Verna says this,

    "Rob, not many, or very few people, would venture on a skateboard across town, muchless across the US OF A!! Having met you, it is a natural for you — nothing seriously holds you back. There is something magnetic about your character that draws people to you. The fact that you are persistant with your goal says volumes. I have met a lot of people through my shop for the past 40 years. I don't think of any that has your charm. Your brother did you a good deed when he sent you out! What an adventurer. I still say that God dropped you at my door! I thank Him! "Keep rollin' " from Verna the Culprit Signmaker.

    ps: I have a new sign… "Columbus on a Skateboard!" the end…"

  • Mike1727

    Hey Rob,

    Just spent a few hours catching up on your blog- mate, what can I say- inspiring just isn't the word. Keep it up- I don't think you're ever going to stop..