Editor’s Note: This is the final of three stories on Jack Smith and his skateboarding journeys.
Thirteen years went by before Jack Smith and his crazy skateboarding buddies decided they had to do another trip skateboarding across the country. Having lost his son to Lowe’s Syndrome in 2003 and doing a cross-country trip to raise funds for research into this rare disease, he took a break. He lost his Dad to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and felt free to get out on that skateboard and roll on it across this land again.
This time his son Dylan, 21, at the time, was with him. “Of course, he was a skater,” Smith said, “so he was on the team.” This time two women also joined the group and wife, Cathy
Smith had great sponsorship for the trip from a whole host of companies and the online skate community. He also used social media for the first time posting as the group advanced.
“In 2016 I decided to try it on the electrical skateboard,” Smith said. He found a sponsor with Evolve from Australia. Using a different starting point from Eugene, Ore., he made it all the way to Mountain Home, Idaho and had to give up and come home. “I just didn’t have enough experience on the electric skateboard,” he said, “but it kept bugging me that I didn’t finish.” Smith’s Dad had always said to him that if you started something you had to finish. So, he went out and found a new sponsor, Inboard from Santa Cruz.
In the meantime, wife Cathy retired from a 36-year career teaching third grade, his daughter and son got married leaving him free, with sponsorship from Inboard and GoWesty from Los Osos who gave him a van to use, to get out on the road again in August 2018. This time he was solo and fundraising for the Skateboard Museum.
“We went back to Mountain Home, Idaho to finish the trip from 2016,” he explained. Cathy drove the van, a 1990 restored Westphalia with a pop-up top, and took photos and posted the adventure on Facebook.
“In a car, you can drive through three or four environments in a day,” Smith said, “but on a skateboard, you are immersed in an environment for a long time.” Smith had to use back roads, byways, and secondary highways. The trip was mapped out on google maps by his friend Gary in Arroyo Grande and he was sent a route to take each day. While traveling throughout the west was somewhat easy it became more of a challenge as he approached the eastern part of the country.
“We lucked out when we found Rails to Trails routes,” Smith said, “but only I could go on those. Cathy still had to travel on regular roads.” Sometimes that caused confusion in them trying to meet up with each other in a city and at least once Smith had to contact Gary to look for him on the Google map and explain all the twists and turns to find Cathy.
Finding the Great Allegheny Passage was a boon for Smith. He had found out that he was able to skateboard on a limestone path and not have to be on pavement and that helped. Smith enjoyed skating along on these trails where there were no cars and nothing but scenery and peace and quiet. He took the Great Allegheny Passage and the Canal Tow Path all the way to Washington, DC where he ended his trip at the Smithsonian Institute.
Cathy and Jack were treated to a behind the scenes tour of the Smithsonian where his original skateboard from the 1976 trip was kept. Smith had donated it to them about five or six years ago and now has a replica of it in his museum in Morro Bay. In 2013 he was contacted and asked to donate the skateboard from that trip also and Smith donated the board that his son had used. The Smiths were thrilled to be shown a variety of archived items at the Smithsonian. “I never imagined riding boards, that someday I would have my skateboard in the Smithsonian,” he said. In the summer of 2019, the Smithsonian is doing a big exhibit of skateboarding history and the Smiths are definitely planning on going.
With over 2900 photos and videos of the trips, the Smiths are putting together a documentary that they plan to show to the community.
“Skateboarding is something that never went away for me,” Smith said, “I get on one every morning. I’ve loved doing all the trips, but the one in 1976 is still my favorite.”
The Morro Bay Skateboard Museum is located at 699 Embarcadero in Marina Square. For more information, go to www.mbskate.com.