There are planes, trains, and automobiles, and then there is Jack Smith on his electric skateboard, only seven days away from becoming the first person to cross the country on an electric skateboard. Smith owns the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum and is completing a trip across America in hopes of raising $20,000 to keep the business afloat during slow winter months.
The journey began in 2016 when Smith covered 460 miles from Eugene, Oregon to Mountain Home, Idaho. The trip was cut short after a few close calls with reckless drivers, but Smith was determined to finish what he had started.
With a new support van driven by his wife, Cathy Smith, and an Inboard Technology Monolith 1 skateboard, the 61-year-old skater was ready to hit the road again. He started with 2,340 miles to Washington D.C. Aug. 16.
Although Jack uses a handheld controller instead of his feet to propel up to 22 miles-per-hour on his board, he is experienced in skating the best of both worlds. Skating across the country on four separate occasions in 1976, 1984, 2003 and 2013, Smith is always looking for the next big adventure.
Occasionally, he said he sees a young skater on the internet who wants to follow in his footsteps, but gets turned away by the skepticism of older users.
“I’m kinda glad the internet wasn’t around in 1976, cause I might not have done it,” Jack said over the phone. “I would’ve gotten discouraged by, ‘well how are you going to go over the Rockies?’ We don’t know. We’ll figure it out when we get there.”
Eric Terhorst, who manages the museum while Smith is away, describes his boss’s ability to handle unexpected challenges.
“Change for Jack? Not a big deal,” Terhorst said while pacing around walls of antique skateboards. “Every time the sport was in a hole, Jack would come up with a way to keep it moving.”
What keeps Jack moving on this trip are the therapeutic effects he experiences while skating alone.
“Just being out there by yourself gets you all types of time to ponder life,” Jack said. “I tend to replay my life as I’m skating along.”
Jack might even replay memories of being 19 years old, the same age as electrical engineering sophomore Carlos Alatorre. Alatorre has only recently picked up skateboarding as a hobby, but his passion is growing. He notices the negative perception that some people have towards the sport, especially those Jack’s age.
“A lot of the older generation see people skateboarding and they feel like maybe they’re not being understanding of others on the road,” Alatorre said.
Jack remembers the surprise of many onlookers watching him ride through the U.S. on earlier trips. He believes skaters should not be held back from following their dreams, especially due to lack of money. In some cases, the two can go hand-in-hand.
“If someone is looking to do something, just come up with a good story and how it will benefit the companies you’re reaching out to,” Jack said.
Once Jack finishes his trip to Washington, D.C., he will offer up his own electric skateboard to the Smithsonian Institution.