For the fifth time in his life, Morro Bay resident Jack Smith has ridden a skateboard from one end of the United States to the other.
But for the first time, he did it on an electric skateboard, making history, and now his board is being archived in the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
In August, Smith resumed the continuation of a 460-mile journey from Oregon to Mountain Home, Idaho, that he halted in 2016 after some breathtaking scares from passing vehicles.
But deciding he wouldn’t quit, Smith resumed his travels on Aug. 16 and completed the trip on Sept. 30, covering 2,400 miles.
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Smith, 62, who operates the nonprofit Morro Bay Skateboard Museum, said he averaged about 60 to 65 miles per day, and ended on the steps of the Smithsonian, where his board is now part of the world-renowned museum’s permanent collection.
“We deeded it over to them,” Smith said. “We actually had to sign a document to hand it over. ... Seeing this great country at 15 miles per hour, mainly on backroads and traveling through small towns was a wonderful adventure.”
Smith said his e-board provided by Inboard Technology, a Santa Cruz-based company, reached a top speed of about 22 miles per hour. He used a handheld device to send a remote signal to propel the board and was accompanied by his wife, Cathy, in a support vehicle.
The trip was filled with memorable sights.
South of Pittsburgh on the Great Allegheny Passage, Smith rode on a beautiful pathway of crushed limestone that was “very scenic, going through forests.”
He also cruised over the Mississippi River on a bridge from Iowa into Illinois, with the approval of the local police department (the bridge had a sign prohibiting pedestrians). That was probably the “coolest experience of the trip,” he said.
Along the way, Smith was periodically flagged by farmers and highway patrol officers curious about why someone would be on a skateboard in the middle of the countryside, though not as many were mystified by his presence as in years past, he said.
And this time around, he had no close calls with vehicles, thanks to a yellow safety jacket with a sign that simply said “Thanks!” and a carefully mapped out route using less-traveled roads.
“I spent the last two years riding electric skateboards, preparing for this trip,” Smith said. “For 45 days, every day my wife and I were just enjoying the environment around us. Every day, we were immersed in the environment around us.”
Smith said the hog farms smell particularly bad and Cathy would try to park somewhere along the road outside of the pungent odor zone, waiting for Smith to cruise along and join her to end that day’s stretch.
On the crossing of the Mississippi she flashed the yellow hazards of their camper, which was donated by Los Osos-based GoWesty.
They tended to camp out alongside the road, staying in a hotel every third or fourth day to freshen up and do laundry, Smith said.
Passion for skateboards
The trek marked yet another milestone in Smith’s love affair with skateboards, a passion since the 1970s when the sport grew out of the surf culture on the West Coast and Smith threw “all of my energies into it.”
Skateboarding was more of a hobby back then for surfers on days of poor waves and didn’t have the trick elements that have worked their way in to the sport since. In fact, skateboarding was added as a competitive sport in the Olympics for the first time in 2020 in Tokyo.
Smithsonian curators told Smith his board would be added to another Smith donated from his first cross-country ride in 1976. The museum plans a future exhibit on skateboarding, Smith was told.
Smith’s latest trip also marked the first time he completed a solo journey, as the first four included leapfrog relays with friends (his son also joined for a 2013 trip).
“When I started skateboarding as a 17-year-old, I never would have imagined having one of my boards in the Smithsonian,” Smith said.
The ride was a fundraiser for the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum, and raised about $8,500, Smith said.