The New Forest : Wild Skate

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Tom Gee and Alasdair Gorniak, the guys who bring you Distance Longboarding UK, shared with us their wild skate across the South Downs and now bring you Round 2 : The New Forest. Tom tells us more about their trip, including all their kit and caboodle…

Skating through the South Downs National Park, from Brighton to Haslemere didn’t kill us off, despite some navigational fails, hairy crashes and minor bouts of hysteria: so where to go next?

As part of a challenge to experience all of the 15 UK national parks within 2020 (currently put on hold), Alasdair and I decided to do another long distance skating trip. Being based in Surrey, the South Downs was on our doorstep and functioned as a good introduction to long distance skating and a trial to see if 2 days of my company would drive Ali completely up the wall, or to the closest bus stop home. Luckily, we ended up having a great trip, as evidenced by our earlier video.

For our next trip, we decided upon the New Forest, which was both close enough for a weekend visit and had suitable non-technical terrain for a ‘rainy weekend’ in February.

That decision ended up being a good one as we watched the weather warnings come flooding through the few days prior to our trip. Weather warnings and ‘Storm Dennis’ (‘The Menace’) highlighted that a weekend on Dartmoor would have been cold, wet and quite dangerous.

With 50-60mph winds predicted for the weekend, I bailed out and booked a B&B, not wanting to be struck by one of the many trees that would go on to fall that weekend. This felt like a bit of a cop out, but in fact added to the experience, being able to meet our very friendly and anecdotal host and saving us getting thoroughly wet and potentially pancaked by a huge Beech tree at 4 o’clock in the ruddy morning. (Editor’s note: so not so much a wild skate … but still fairly wild!)

Weather
Upon arrival at Southampton station and when we returned 2 days later, the weather was consistent; strong gales and heavy showers, only broken up by visiting cosy coffee shops we could find along the way.

Luckily, we had both packed decent waterproof gear that kept most of our kit dry and us damp but warm. One of the realities of any sort of outdoor activity in such weather is that despite how hard you try, water will get in eventually, it always does…

However, we had plenty of layers and were skating hard enough to keep us warm throughout the trip.

Boards
On our top layers, Ali and I got similarly wet. We discovered one key difference in our boards which turned out to be very beneficial for me!

Alasdair’s board is known as a double-drop, meaning the foot platform is dropped closer to the ground and the trucks are mounted on the top side through holes in the deck. This puts it very low to the ground, which is far easier on the leg muscles over long distances.

In comparison, my board is top mounted, without any drop. This means the trucks are mounted on the underside of the board, allowing for a wider shape and different geometry. On wet saturated roads, what this ended up looking like was a huge amount of water being sprayed directly onto Ali’s legs, and lots of the surrounding water finding its way to his bathtub shaped board. As my board was in the way of the spray from my wheels, my feet stayed mostly dry. Brilliant.

Roads
Despite plenty of slippery, waterlogged or even flooded roads, road surfaces in the New Forest had a big role in boosting our morale over the trip. In comparison with the roads of the South Downs (looking at you West Sussex), the New Forest graced us with many sections of smooth, reliable roads which made skating with a 50mph crosswind much more bearable.

Whilst we did have sections of chattery, chip seal and loose gravel schmutz, these were countered by many miles of smoothness, including some very well maintained sections of cycle lanes in Southampton itself: 7/5 stars.

Kit
Little of the kit we took, in our opinion, was unnecessary. The main things of course: board, waterproofs/active clothing, helmet, lights, food/drink and tools are a given but additional bits of kit go a long way towards increasing the comfort factor when the conditions are tough.

Long charger cables meant that we could charge our phones on the go allowing us to continually navigate with the battery packs safely stowed away in our packs.

A coffee brewer of some variety, in our case a Turkish coffee pot, which is light, fairly portable and definitely added to the dirtbag traveller aesthetic whilst also providing several valuable caffeine boosts.

Gloves! Regardless of the weather, I would say that gloves would be a valuable piece of kit to any long distance skate trip. With the amount of picking up and dropping the board, falling over, climbing over things and generally getting weathered, gloves really help to reduce the amount of wear on the hands.

Highlights
Being able to skate somewhere new, with great friends is always fun. Our Southampton trip provided many highlights; from the challenge of having to skate through truly sketchy weather, to stinking out coffee shops with the smells of mud, sweat and stale crumpets.

Low Moments
The lowest moment on the trip for me was when Ali declined the offer of a lift on our behalf. This was really painful.

I joke, of course. The only unpleasant moment was having to change trains at Fratton.

No, no. In all seriousness, the few unenjoyable moments came on the busy A roads. Having to skate on slippery surfaces, and sometimes in the dark, with national speed limit traffic felt quite dangerous at times. In our route planning we avoided such roads at all costs but of course sometimes this was inevitable. For future adventures and anyone seeking tips, this would be the main advice I would follow: plan your route carefully!

Next
With everything going on in recent weeks and with the current restrictions on travel and outdoor time, the next long distance skating trip has been put on hold. This has not stopped us from planning, researching and maybe even dreaming about future trips. As we are all restricted from the activities that we love, you can rest assured that when everything returns to ‘normal’, our next trip will be particularly spicy indeed. Snowdonia? North Yorkshire Moors? Let’s see then…

Video : Tom Gee & Alistair Gorniak

Words : Tom Gee

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