Around the world in 850 days - on a skateboard

01:43, Jan 31 2009
Four-wheeler: Rob Thomson can claim the Guinness World Record for the Longest Journey by Skateboard after travelling 12,159km.

In the spirit of true adventure, a Christchurch man has skateboarded across continents fending off wild dogs with a pole, partying with fiddle-playing rednecks and eating horse-penis salami.

Now, 28-year-old Rob Thomson has come home with a Guinness World Record and a taste for wheeled transport of the non-motorised type.

This week, Thomson returned to Christchurch after a 2½-year journey.

By the time he arrived at his parents' Halswell home he had worn out three pairs of shoes, three sets of wheels, three skateboard decks and had endured three crashes over the 12,159km expedition.

He spent $15,000 during the 850-day trip, but returned with only a $1000 debt that he planned to pay off by writing a book about his adventures.

The Canterbury University graduate was working in Japan as a co-ordinator for international relations when his contract was up for renewal.


Instead of renewing it, he decided to take a "long detour home" and cycle from Japan to England.

Somewhere near Switzerland, the man who was "definitely not a skateboarder", ditched his two-wheeler in favour of four wheels.

"I only planned to trial skating 1500km from Switzerland to England to see if it was an efficient way to travel," he said.

"I'm all about efficient transport. If it was going to be some macho thing I had to push through, I wouldn't have carried on but it was fine more physically demanding than the bike but not so much that I couldn't take it."

Thomson's plan had been to fly home from England but the call of the skateboard was louder.

So, Thomson crewed for passage on a catamaran that took him to the Caribbean. He was stranded there for six weeks until another boat could take him to the United States.

Unfortunately, Thomson's visa for the Caribbean was only valid for four weeks so he took a razor blade to his passport and doctored the date by two weeks.

In northern Florida in 2007, he spent New Year's Eve with bikers. "Think of the biggest rednecks you can imagine and it was these guys, but they were so nice.

"We spent the night around a bonfire, one of their neighbours played the fiddle and they were shooting each other with Roman Candle fireworks. It was amazing."

With so many unusual interactions, Thomson was in no hurry to end the trip.

"I wanted to be able to do this and still have enough energy to communicate and connect with the local people. It wasn't about skateboarding, it was about getting round and experiencing where I was.

"I'm just keen to promote travelling under human power. It has so many benefits; it's sustainable and good for your health."

Thomson skated through the 45deg "furnace" of north-western China to the minus 23deg winter of Turkey.

By this stage he had been in contact with the Guinness record people and was travelling with a GPS to track daily distances and collecting witness signatures. The Guinness World Record for the Longest Journey by Skateboard was claimed somewhere in New Mexico.

Halfway across the United States, Thomson realised he was not ready to quit skating. He flew to China to skate on.

Thomson proclaimed the United States and Uzbekistan as the most hospitable nations.

"They are in such contrast to each other politically and religiously, but it shows the humanity of people no matter what their background is. They both had such a spirit of generosity."

Thomson said he got along with 99.99 per cent of the people he came across.

And that 0.01%?

"They were drunk."

The strangest food he tried was horse-penis salami in Kyrgyzstan, which tasted "like the smell of a sweaty, old, dirty horse".

In China, Thomson was invited to dinner by a nomadic family who killed a sheep for him. But there was no lamb dinner at the end of the evening they sold the meat and used the sheep's innards for his meal.

Thomson was looking forward to someone breaking his record.

"It's not something that requires much skill, just a lot of time and a bit of determination."

Ironically, despite its huge population, Eastern China was home to his loneliest hours and in Kyrgyzstan, where he did not see a soul for six days, he never felt lonely at all.

Alpine passes provided Thomson with the greatest thrill.

"Your lungs are full of breath, your legs are alive, the surrounding environment is quiet and still with massive views. The air is thinner but you just feel alive."


The Press