Skateboarders Set Cross Country Record - Coast to Coast in 21 Days
Raise Research Funds for Lowe Syndrome - Father skateboards Across America to
honor deceased son.
WILLIAMSBURG -- After the gravelly roads of Oregon, and the vertical inclines of the Colorado Rockies, Virginia's Route 5 rode like a dream.
"Oh, God, the pavement, it's so gorgeous. It's perfect. Some of the smoothest roads we've had all trip," said Jack Smith, 46, who rolled into Williamsburg Friday on a yellow skateboard, breaking his own record for cross-country skateboard journeys.
Smith, 46, and three fellow skateboarders - Josh Maready, 24, Nick Krest, 38, and Scott Kamm, 33 - began a coast-to-coast skateboard-only journey about three weeks ago in Newport, Ore. They sought to set a new world record and raise research money for the Lowe Syndrome Association, an organization trying to find a cure for Lowe Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that killed Smith's 14-year-old son in May.
Twenty-one days and 3,000 miles later, they accomplished both goals, Smith said. They raised about $15,000 from individuals (and another $15,000 in corporate sponsorships to pay for the trip) and beat Smith's own 26-day record, set in 1984.
Just after noon Friday, the four men turned onto a quiet North Boundary Street in sweat- and dirt-stained T-shirts, jeans, and shorts. After about 3,000 miles, they casually stepped off their boards and plopped onto the grass in front of the city's Community Building.
"Looks like we made it," sang Josh Maready, 24, the only professional skateboarder in the group.
They covered about 140 miles a day in relay style, each skating two miles at a time aboard special "Rolls Rolls" skateboards, designed for transportation with large, soft wheels. Other skateboarders joined them along the way.
They encountered certain challenges - like navigating roads without paved shoulders, explaining themselves to state troopers and riding over dead possums, snakes, lizards, frogs and coyotes.
"I had to run over road kill all the time," Maready said.
Smith, who lives in Morro Bay, Calif., was a prominent skateboarder in the '70s and continues to compete. He first traveled across the country on a board in 1976, when he and two friends were looking for a way to avoid getting a summer job. The second time, in 1984, he and three skaters raised money for Multiple Sclerosis and, he said, won an entry in the Guinness Book of World Record
This time, it was for more personal reasons - to draw attention to the disease that killed his son, Jack Marshall Smith, a happy boy who used to love to ride on his father's shoulders, coasting down hills on a skateboard.
Researchers are still looking for a cure for the disease. It strikes only boys, causing cataracts, glaucoma, kidney problems, mental retardation and seizures. Smith's son suffocated when his lungs filled with fluid.
Smith said he was touched by the outpouring of support he and his fellow skateboarders encountered all over the world, from fellow skateboarders following their progress on the Internet to strangers who heard what they were doing. In one small town in Nebraska, a teenager opened his wallet and gave them all seven of his dollars, he said.
Outside Vinton, Iowa, they met a 12-year-old boy with Lowe Syndrome, who brought a little sign that read "Go skateboarders for Lowe Syndrome."
The hardest moment came when Smith asked the boy for a hug goodbye.
"When he hugged me, it was almost like I was getting hugged by Jack," Smith said. "The next run of skating, it was very hard not to cry. For that one second, it was like Jack was back."
By Daphne Sashin
Published August 23, 2003