Morro Bay resident Jack Smith has propelled himself across the United States four times already using just a skateboard and the power of his legs.
For his upcoming fifth trip, Smith will take things a little easier as he seeks to become the first person to ride across the country on an electric skateboard.
He begins his journey Wednesday from Florence, Oregon, and plans to finish in Williamsburg, Virginia, in about a month, covering roughly 3,000 miles.
The journey will benefit Board Rescue, a nonprofit group dedicated to providing skateboards and safety equipment to U.S. organizations that work with underprivileged, at-risk and special needs children.
Smith, 59, sometimes refers to his electric ride as the “Prius of skateboards.” He’ll bring four company sponsor-provided Evolve Skateboards, using them alternately, while expecting to average about 20 mph.
“I’m passionate about skateboarding and making people understand how this incredible sport can change lives,” Smith said. “Skateboarding gives kids a positive physical activity and teaches them perseverance, as well. The lessons I’ve learned from skateboarding have greatly influenced my life.”
A handheld remote controls the speed and braking of electric skateboards such as Smith’s. He pushes forward on a button to accelerate and back to brake, reaching up to about 26 mph, which allows him to traverse hills fairly easily. He can push the board along with his foot if he wishes, though the boards are heavier than normal skateboards. The boards average from 15 to 30 miles on a single charge, and he can charge boards in a support van while using one on the road.
On this trek, former freestyle skateboarding world champion Ed Nadalin will serve as the support vehicle driver. Nadalin, who is also a professional filmmaker, will document the entire journey and shoot video to produce a documentary film.
Without having to push by foot, Smith will have to find ways to keep the blood flowing in his feet and stave off cold as he travels through states such as Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska and Iowa. He’ll jump around, walk around, and generally keep shifting while riding to encourage good circulation.
The new journey marks the 40th anniversary of Smith’s first trip across America in 1976. He embarked on that adventure at the age of 19 with two friends, Jeff French and Mike Filben. Their trip led to mention in past editions of the Guinness Book of World Records and a trivia question in the board game Trivial Pursuit.
Smith completed subsequent trips in 1984, 2003 and 2013. In 2003, he rode to benefit the fight against Lowe syndrome, which took the life of his eldest son, Jack Marshall Smith, that same year. In 2012, Alzheimer’s claimed the life of his father, and his journey in 2013 served to help combat that disease.
“In the early days, we’d get some strange looks from people who were confused to see a guy riding a board along the road,” Smith said. “Now, seeing someone on a skateboard is commonplace. But people are great. I’ve had people see the support van ahead and the cause we’re riding for and stop and give $20.”
Smith said he will average about 100 miles per day. He’ll camp some days and stay in hotels others. The journey will be documented on the Facebook page “Evolve Across America.”
Smith said he prefers to take back roads as much as possible to avoid fast-moving cars. He never has been injured, though he has been swiped by a car’s side mirror before.
“There are always going to be the idiots that pretend they’re coming at you and veer away,” Smith said. “But the great part about this type of trip is the many wonderful people you meet along the way and the great experiences you have.”