The Poncho Push : Interview with Sam Holding

We interviewed Sam Holding who skated 1000 km across America and made a documentary about this trip. Click for videos, photos and behind the scenes info.

Was it tough being all alone?

In one sense being alone was the toughest part of the Push. Knowing that if something were to happen, you are alone. You have to have your own back. The struggle is exclusively yours. But in another sense it was the best part. Travelling solo was a big part of my motivations for the push. I wanted to be out there and take everything in by myself. The struggle may be exclusively yours, but so are the rewards.

Besides, for the majority of the trip I didn’t feel alone. Conversations with locals at gas stations, diners, and ranches gave me my social fix and stopped me feeling completely detached. I think without that, making it to LA would have been significantly harder to achieve.

What was the most difficult part of the journey?

The Southern Nevada Desert without a doubt. Around the Majove National Preserve area specifically. A combination of heat, poor terrain, and a bad mindset made pushing that a nightmare. And I think that comes across in The Poncho Push Series as well. It was one of the darkest moments of the trip and is one of the darker episodes too. I was getting nose bleeds, threw up, had nowhere to rest, fought insane headwinds, a dust storm, and 100 degree heat for at least 3 days. 

Throughout the first week of the trip I was using the filming aspect almost as a coping mechanism. It added a fun twist and made me forget about milage or how tired I felt. What made the stint through the Nevada desert so bad is I lost that coping mechanism. I had no motivation to talk to the camera or to film. I just wanted to knuckle down and get it done, which ultimately made things worse in retrospect.

What were you not prepared for?

The heat. I read the temperature stats online, I knew it would be hot, people warned me multiple times, but hearing about it and experiencing it are worlds apart. I definitely wasn’t ready for how hot it got as I made it further South.

What was your favourite moment?

This is the question I was bombarded with upon my return haha It’s still one I haven’t figured out and doubt I ever will. I guess the cliche would be the moment I made it to LA, but in all honesty I was slightly bummed it was over. 

To give some sort of answer, my favourite experience of the trip overall was exploring the landscape. I gained a pretty valuable understand on the geography and culture out there having trekked every metre of it on the ground. I feel that many live under the misconception that by flying to a foreign country and doing some tourist shenanigans for a couple weeks means they’ve experienced that country and can call themselves ‘cultured’. Being out there and seeing everything in its rawest form is on a whole nother level.

Did you hit the wall, what did that feel like?

I paced myself well enough so that the pushing didn’t become overly uncomfortable, but there were certainly times that I hit a wall and wanted to stop- never to give up though. If I hit a wall I’d just have rest. Take my pack off, enjoy the landscape, listen to some music, film some shots, then once I’d done that I felt like getting back to it. I just had to remind myself that it’s not a race.

Do you plan on doing another push?

For sure. A colder country next time though! When that will come about who knows, but I’m definitely taking this year out!

How much camera equipment did you have? 

Too much haha The main camera I used was a Canon 5D Mark iii. Along with that I brought 3 lens (For all the gearheads out there: Canon 50mm f/1.8, Canon 70-200mm L f/4.0, Canon 17-40mm L f/4.0). That alone was a lot of weight. Add the Laptop and Hard-drive I needed to manage files and we’re talking a heavy pack.

How heavy was your bag?

I actually don’t know the figures. I never could bring myself to weigh it haha When I checked it in on the flights it was below 21KG, that’s all I know. I did invest in a fancy backpack and ultra lightweight tent/sleeping bag to counter the camera gear I was bringing so it wasn’t too bad. I never encountered much trouble with back pain so the osprey pack did its job! 

Did you have much help and support?

A bunch! From a number of different sources. I did all the planning myself, but had help from my Dad who used to be in the forces with my choice in gear. Then there’s all those I met along the way who helped me with random acts of kindness or hospitality. I kid you not: I was passing through Virgin, Utah and stopped off at a restaurant to quench my hunger with a Buffalo Burger. I was the only one in there and began talking to the owner about what I was doing. On my way out, he filled up my Camelbak to the brim with Lemonade and ice free of charge. There’s a whole bunch of other instances like that which really helped me out.

I also had support in the form of sponsors and the Newton’s Shred blog followers. Those who commented with their support and companies that spread the word about the push had a major part to play for me mentally.

Then on a whole nother dimension: financial support. It’s not essential and I’d like to stress that fact. You do not need financial backing to do a trek. The trek itself was incredibly cheap. Original Skateboards and Newton’s Shred enabled me to create the series/blog which I thank both endlessly for.

Are distance pushes as hard as they look?

Yes. Even more so. What you see in videos, and definitely my series, is a carefully sculpted depiction of what a long distance push is like. I do show the bad times, but that still doesn’t undo the fact it’s an edited reality. Although I try to express my thoughts and feelings as best I can there are things that don’t make the cut, with good reason. I can guarantee other LDP series’/videos are the same. 

Looking at it from a purely statistical stance, those that have watched the series have seen maybe 16GB’s of 300GB’s of footage. You can’t understand with 100% actuality what a distance push is like besides doing one yourself. And with that comes all the harder times you don’t see or think about. Sitting in a claustrophobic tent at 3am with cramp, waking up and not feeling like waking to the road let alone pushing 40 miles on it, and so on. I don’t mean to say that in discouragement. It’s not meant to be easy- that’s the point. The challenge, the unsuspecting, the unforeseen struggle is what makes the good times that much more satisfying. Watching the sunset from your tent on a mountain range after covering a new record number of miles, carving canyon roads and forgetting about everything else. The struggle is as much of a part of it as any.

So you skated a 1000 kilometres but how many kilometres did it feel like ? 

It feels like it was less. 1000 kilometres is just a large enough distance to be incomprehensible in my mind and others too I feel. That magnitude of distance doesn’t really crop up day to day. If you asked me what’s 1000 kilometers East from England I wouldn’t be able to tell you. So beforehand it felt like this great monolith of a trek. 

After experiencing every metre of it, it becomes comprehensible and really puts it into perspective. It’s not as far as it sounds. I’m 99% confident I can mentally picture the entire route.

What was your setup, how did you choose it and is there anything you'd change about it ? 

I was riding my trusty Original Skateboards Drop Freeride 41, Paris V2 44* Trucks, Zealous Bearings, and Oranagtang Durian 80a wheels. My wheel choice was very much inspired by Adam Colton’s from the long trek series’. It fitted my needs best; good roll, but not large enough to make pushing up hill a pain. As for the other components I just happened to have them already and they were suited. I didn’t really stress the importance of my set up much! If it was a little lighter and lower that would have been amazing haha


EPISODE 1



EPISODE 2



EPISODE 3



EPISODE 4



EPISODE 5


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