After ending a cross-country ride two years ago out of fears he could get hit and killed by a car swerving into him on the road, a Morro Bay skateboarder will continue his quest to become the first person to ride an electric skateboard across America.
Jack Smith, president of the nonprofit Morro Bay Skateboard Museum, said he will resume his “eboard” ride on eastbound roadways Wednesday that he ended in September 2016 in Mountain Home, Idaho, about 45 miles from Boise.
Smith will return to the location where he left off, having traveled for seven days while covering 460 miles in 2016, starting out in Oregon.
“It has bugged me for the past two years that I quit,” Smith said. “My dad always taught me to finish what I begin. Plus, I enjoy the challenge of using new technology.”
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Smith said he battled a number of challenges on his initial journey — cold weather, aches and strain in his legs and close calls with being swiped by two passing cars and a semi-truck as he rode along the shoulder of roadways.
Over the past several months, however, he has been training to complete the ride, strengthening his legs and dropping 20 pounds, he said.
To address safety concerns, this time, Smith said he’ll use an app called Komoot to navigate less heavily trafficked roads.
His wife, Cathy Smith, a recently retired third-grade teacher, will accompany him, driving alongside him in a van, filming some of his journey.
His plan is to complete the ride, starting again from Mountain Home, Idaho, and finishing in Williamsburg, Virginia. He expects it will take about 30 to 40 days, and the couple will camp and stay in hotels and motels along the way.
If he’s successful, this will be Smith’s fifth skateboarding trip across the country, having completed past excursions in 1976, 1984, 2003 and 2013 using the traditional, leg-powered method.
At the age of 61, Smith said that this trip could be his last cross-country ride.
The idea behind the ride, as in past journeys, is to raise money and awareness for a cause; the first leg of his aborted trip raised a few thousand dollars for Board Rescue, a nonprofit that provides skateboards to needy kids.
In 2013, Smith raised money for the Lowe Syndrome Association, in honor of his son, Jack Marshall Smith, who passed away in 2003 from complications due to Lowe Syndrome, a disorder that affects the eyes, brain and kidneys, occurring almost exclusively in males.
This time, money raised will go to the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum, newly established as a nonprofit six years after it opened at 699 Embarcadero. The museum is one of a handful of skateboard museums that exist around the world.
“The museum is a touchstone to people’s youth,” Smith said. “Skating started in the late 50s and early 60s. Some people think the museum is for kids, and kids do enjoy visiting. But people who are older walk into the museum, and all of a sudden they are 15 years old again. I’ve seen some people cry before because it takes them back to a happy part of their life.”
Electric skateboards are controlled by a hand-held wireless remote device that allows the person riding the board to control the speed.
Smith will skate with a board, batteries and parts provided by Inboard Technology, a Santa Cruz-based company.
The board’s top speed is around 22 mph, with each battery providing a range of 7 to 10 miles. Batteries can be swapped when a charge runs out.
GoWesty Camper Products, a Los Osos-based company, is providing Smith and his wife with a support vehicle for their adventure — a 1990 Vanagon Camper.
Note: The video in this story was taken in 2016 before Smith first attempted his cross-country ride on an electric skateboard.