Skateboarding across America is a ridiculous task. While it may seem like a cool idea on paper, it’s pretty miserable when you consider pushing up the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains along busy highways, rain or shine.
Yet Chad Caruso persisted, skating 3,162 miles across the country from Venice Beach to Virginia Beach in 57 days, averaging 55 miles a day.
There are plenty of ways to cross large geographic distances and set records, but Chad did it the way most skateboarders would: independently and without much of a plan. Many record setters have support vehicles following them, carrying all their gear, clearing the road, and making the trip logistically seamless and safe. Chad did the whole thing solo, carrying all his supplies in a backpack (just a single change of clothes, tools, water, and gas station snacks). He’d eat wherever food was available, so he mostly ate fast food and gas station snacks — a true athlete’s diet. He also rarely knew where he’d be sleeping until the night of, finding the nearest lodging along his route.
Chad would often fuck up. He ran out of water in the desert, got stranded in Appalachia, pushed through rainstorms with nothing but trash bags to stay dry, and took countless wrong turns onto dead ends and dirt roads. Yet somehow, things always worked out.
Watching Chad’s daily updates along the trip, I grew captivated by his off-the-cuff approach to this daunting task, striking an impressive balance between zen-like patience and white-knuckled intensity. Knowing I had to see this process for myself, I flew out to photograph him as he skated through Arkansas, Tennessee, and finally Virginia, where he crossed the finish line. Through conversations over fast food and continental breakfasts, he shared some of the greatest achievements of his trip.
Not Getting Hit by a Car
Miraculously, Chad survived this trip without incident. He spent the bulk of his skate on poorly paved two-lane highways full of cars and 18 wheelers, riding against traffic and swerving into the other lane to avoid oncoming vehicles. Over the course of 57 days, tens of thousands of cars flew by him. Not getting side swiped by a distracted driver (though he had close calls) or falling on a pebble at an inconvenient time, Chad had luck on his side.
Chad has dealt with years of knee problems, tearing his ACL, PCL, MCL, and meniscus many times over. He started this mission with a lateral and medial re-tear of his meniscus, so re-injury was an ever-constant possibility. Along the way, he battled incredible shin splints, a chipped tooth, chafing everything, pinched nerves, rashes, bruises, blisters, hot pockets, ingrown toenails, plantar fasciitis, sunburns, and oddly, a moth flying into his ear. Yet somehow, his body held up. Midway through the trip, his body had grown so adjusted that he stopped stretching and icing.
A Confident Switch Push
To keep his body balanced, Chad also pushed a significant portion of the trip switch. When riding in sketchy conditions through traffic, you need a dependable push, and his switch push is one of the strongest I’ve seen, nearly indistinguishable from his regular push.
The act of skating across the country itself is wildly monotonous. All day on the same road with the same scenery doing the same motion with nothing but your thoughts. Two months of relentless pushing. For every scenic day, there were 10 through farmland that all looked the same.
As a long time meditator who loves his alone time, this suited Chad nicely. He spent his days enjoying the solitude, occasionally making calls or listening to music. By the end of the trip, he grew so comfortable on the roads that I saw him casually scrolling Instagram as he skated by cars whizzing past him at 60 mph.
If skating the long distance wasn’t enough work, he also managed to film, edit, and post daily videos documenting the trip. From 6 AM to midnight every day, Chad was either skating, eating, editing, laundering his single outfit, or hunting for Wi-Fi to upload to Youtube.
Keeping this rhythm required such an extreme focus that he was reluctant to let friends visit along the way, claiming they distracted him too much. I only received his permission to tag along by assuring him I’d piss off in the evenings and wasn’t there to chat his ear off. Maintaining this rigid punishing routine requires an ascetic headspace, and being around others enjoying their creature comforts seemed to take him out of it.
Not Longboarding Across America
Chad made every effort not to longboard across the country. The line between cruiser and longboard is murky, but Chad made sure his hybrid board is still considered a skateboard: big (but not too big) wheels, a nose and tail, and capable of completing a different flatground trick at the finish line of every day. Imagine varial flipping a cruiser as your end-of-day reward for riding 80 miles…
Setting a Guinness World Record
To achieve the Guinness record for fastest solo skate across the country, Chad kept tedious records using a GPS watch, multiple tracking apps, and photo records. His approach was regimented, ending his daily rides at identifiable landmarks and starting the next day in that same precise location.
While Guinness approval is still pending, he’s undeniably set a record. However, Chad’s not the first or last to do this. In 1976, Jack Smith and two friends completed the first ever cross country skate, tag-teaming the ride with a support vehicle. A few other longboarders have completed the ride solo and Mark Williams skated across the U.S. and through all 50 states, albeit over the course of multiple trips.
Since Guinness doesn’t distinguish between skateboarding and longboarding, Chad suspects his record will soon be usurped by a longboarder with massive wheels and a drop-deck.
Forrest Gumping It
Chad’s voyage had a Forrest Gumpian spirit with skateboarders finding him along the way to join in, though even the most seasoned skaters struggled to keep up with him for more than a mile or two. He also became a magnet for human kindness along the way with strangers and fans offering support however they could. He was given meals and hotel stays, good luck charms and helpful supplies, and a whole lot of much-needed route advice.
Chad chose to prioritize speed and efficiency for the trip, carrying only the bare essentials. He managed to ride the same setup across the states, even though his wheels looked like cheese graters by the time of completion. His bearings even managed to hold up through multiple rainstorms.
The Grand Finish
The final 10 miles were glorious as skaters tagged along, a police escort accompanied them, and a crowd of supporters cheered him across the finish line. After a celebratory flip in the ocean, the odyssey was complete. The mayor of Virginia Beach, Robert M. Dyer, gave a speech proclaiming May 19th to be Chad Caruso Day.
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