Day 325 – SWITZERLAND: Beginning of the Skateboard Journey

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: N/A
Average speed / 平均速度: N/A
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: N/A
Total skateboarding distance to date / 今までスケボで走った距離: N/A
Total cycling distance to date / 今まで自転車で走った距離: 11,800km
Ascent / 上り: N/A
Descent / 下り: N/A

So today is the big day. Leaving Leysin with a pack on my back and a skateboard under my arm. The first few hours of today will be walking. I am currently at 1,400m in altitude, and the valley floor where the flat cycle paths await is at about 500m. Between here and there is a steep descent. Once I have everything dialed and my ‘air brakes’ fine tuned (stay tuned for details of what they are), I should be able to skateboard down most steep descents. But not today.

I must thank the readers of the 14degrees blog for their honest opinions about the big change in mode of transport.

Thank you.

I will also take the liberty to state how I feel about the ‘validity’ of the change.

For me, this journey from Japan to England is not about the bike. It is not about the skateboard. It is about intentionally putting myself outside of my comfort zone mentally and physically. It is about the freedom of packing up a bag full of stuff, and leaving. It is about exploring. It is about proving right about humanity that which I always hoped to be true – that despite the failings of human nature, humans are intrinsically good. It is about adventure.

I have found all these things and more during my journey. I believe that I will continue to find these things as I continue my journey on a skateboard.

As for the reason behind making the switch, it all began in Uzbekistan about 5 months ago. I was without my bicycle because I had caught a train from where I was staying to the capital in order to visit the Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan embassies (see blog post). I was walking down the street, and it came to me that it would be so much more efficient if I had a skateboard, rather than having to walk. And since a skateboard is small and light, I wouldn’t have to worry about having to leave it outside buildings when I went in.

From those humble beginnings, I started fantasizing about travelling by skateboard. I did some preliminary research, and discovered that a team of three guys had once held the world record for long distance skateboarding, by skateboarding in relay across the US. I then discovered This is the story of Dave Cornthwaite and how he skated the length of the UK and then across Australia from Perth to Brisbane, setting a new world record in the process. These are magnificent achievements of human endurance.

What I wanted to do, however, was combine my love for self-supported travel with the physical challenge and joy of physical exercise. On a bike, you have all you need strapped to the bike. What hasn’t been done before, is ultra-long distance on a skateboard with all one’s gear on one’s back. This is what I have set out to achieve.

I believe that it is possible to skateboard long distances comfortably with a pack on one’s back. I have been inspired by fellow travellers I have met who have been walking for months on end across continents. I look forward to the challenge of travelling by skateboard.

Anyway, I will no doubt expand on my travel philosophies at a later date. For now, I leave you with my luggage.

Skateboarding travel gear laid out in Leysin, Switzerland

Click on the photo to see notes on what each item is, and see the gear overview page for all the nitty gritty, including a nice solid display of gram-counting weight obsessiveness.

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15 thoughts on “Day 325 – SWITZERLAND: Beginning of the Skateboard Journey

  • Joeru

    So where does the recumbent fit in that little bag?

    enjoy the rest of the trip man.

    Beppu is Beppu is Beppu. Have some wicked cheese for all of us when you hit France

  • carl w.

    When you put it like that it does still sound totally bonkers. However I admire your desire to challenge yourself, discover and continue by whatever means…

    best of luck old bean


  • rob Luxton

    Why the hell not I reckon. A big change but I'd say your pretty used to that by now. I understand what you mean about its not the mode of transport that matters… Its just a means to an end….. The end is not quiet in site and its often good that way. Let life keep rolling.

    I saw a guy the other week bombing down a hill on a long board skate board.. It was not your normal hill. 1:3 slope and he was going hell for leather….. No air brakes like you mentioned, although his hair may have had some affect. He was weaving down the hill like a snowboarding maniac. Seemed pretty hardcore stuff to me. His girl friend was trying to keep up with him on a bicycle…..

    Perhaps you can use a couple of sticks and propel yourself like a venetian punt when your feet need a rest… or eat some beans to get you up and over those hills.

    Great stuff Rob……

    Finally my journey is getting back on the road.. This time I hope with sails.. leaving Hong Kong on the 10th July.. ..When I'm reunited with Wheelie I hope to make a few modifications and Ditch is going to wear a harness.

    Godspeed and all that.

  • Aunty Lyn

    I have to say Rob that I am disappointed that you didn't finish what you started out to do – BIKE all the way from Japan to London – but there you go. Need a harder challenge or what??

    All the best for your next leg!

  • Lee

    Hmmm, I wonder whether most of our disappointment is actually based on selfishness, fellow followers? I too am a wee bit gutted about the change, but: since when was this all about me/us all? 🙂 If we're supporting Rob, then his mode of transport (especially an equally bizarre one) ideally doesn't matter.

    Unless it's about us having a mate/relative who's not doing something quite so brag-worthy any more, in which case we're back to selfishness again 🙂 And if it's fame and prestige we want (which hopefully isn't the main point) then surely having the aim now include an *actual* world record is a step up, not backwards?

    Just some food for thought.

    Go for it Rob – we're spoilt to be able to keep up with what you're up to at all. Yay for the journey.

  • Peter

    Good luck on your trip with the skateboard. I will certainly be checking your website along your way as it will be very interesting to read about your experience on the skateboard. How it will compare to travelling by bike…

    Best regards from Slovenia!


  • Mum

    I assumed that all the time you were biking through Uzbekistan and Europe you were enjoying the scenery – but no! You were working out another/more adventure. Just goes to show that no matter how well you think you know someone they can continue to surprise! Hope the Skateboarding goes well – glad you've got some brakes this time!

  • Sara

    Hi Rob

    Great to meet you, albeit briefly, last week.

    Think you made the right decision to wait for the "air brake" check on your skateboard BEFORE heading down gentle slopes like the one from Leysin to Aigle!

    All the best for the rest of your trip. I look forward to following your adventures.


  • the r.o.b.

    if i were to be upset about switching modes of transport then i suppose my best response would have to be to up and do the journey by bike myself to see it done. in that case, skateboard it is!

  • Daniel N. Lang

    Great decision Rob!

    I have come to love the minimalistic style myself and am already thinking about future trips with a lighter vehicle. It is just so much fun if you can take the vehicle and luggage in your hands and climb over street seperators, upstairs, just everywhere!

    I know from these Chang Tang and Himalaya guys, who climbed with their bikes on 7000+ peaks – Adserballe and his friend Janne Corax. It is just wonderful!

    I am actually thinking about a very very light racing recumbent or upright and will follow some tips from a URL Peter has given me for weight reduction.

    Right now I am short befor some peaks in Eastern Turkey – my two Ortlieb bags are not filled, but the bike is really heavy 🙁

    All the best for your trip along the Rhine and if you need contact information – I have some relatives and friends along the Rhine, some very bike infected themselfes and very interesting – just drop me a short message and I will see what I can do.

    Have fun!

  • Aunty Les

    How long do you think it's going to take to get from where you are to London? Do you think the skateboard will stand up to the strain as your bike did? Will you find trousers to fit once you get to London when one leg is longer and more muscelly than the other?

  • Rob Thomson Post author

    @ Rob Luxton – If you put a sail on your trike, I will be suitably impressed. A harness for Ditch is a must. I can't wait to see how inner Mongolia looks without 10cm of ice over everything. Enjoy!

    @ Aunty Lyn – When you have nice smooth roads like there are in Europe, I couldn't resist switching to the skateboard 🙂

    @ Peter – I can tell you right now that travelling by skateboard is slower than the bike. That's for sure. But even though the uphills last longer, so do the downhills!

    @ Daniel – I hope the Black Sea coast hills are not treating you too badly. As for the lightweight bike idea, I suppose it all depends on what terrain you assume you will be cycling on. On some of the roads I travelled on, I would have suffered badly had I not had suspension. But then again, if you choose your roads well, then you could really haul some speed on a lighter bike.

    @ Aunty Les – The board is rated up to 100kg. So it should be tough enough for the job at hand. I think it will take about a month and a bit to get to London.

  • mike1727

    Rob, you're a nutter!

    You're right though, it's all about the journey, not the bike.

    Hope to catch up with you in London or thereabouts.