Skating Melbourne to Cairns, a solo mission for a good cause

Skateboarder Tom Drury visits Eden on his long journey along the East Coast all the way to Cairns. He estimates he'll reach his destination by mid-March. Photo: Leah Szanto.
Skateboarder Tom Drury visits Eden on his long journey along the East Coast all the way to Cairns. He estimates he'll reach his destination by mid-March. Photo: Leah Szanto.

2020 has been a year of restricted movement, but some people are simply always on the go.

Tom Drury had grand plans to skate from Kathmandu to Vientiane this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic scratched those plans, and with a worthy cause in mind, the 27-year-old came up with a new itinerary - Melbourne to Cairns, solely by skateboard.

Chatting to ACM on Monday, Tom had just arrived in Eden after a difficult day's travel from Mallacoota, with high winds and hilly terrain along the Princes Hwy.

To his delight, when he crossed the recently reopened VIC-NSW border, he was greeted by a fan with a bottle of water, a Mars bar and a homegrown peach.

Mr Drury left Melbourne Central two weeks ago and has covered more than 700 kilometres since then, with two rest days thrown in.

The hardest stretch so far has been Orbost to Cann River, with 800 metres of elevation, roads full of logging trucks and the highway in poor condition - plus both roadhouses were closed and Mr Drury ran out of food.

He aims to reach Cairns by mid-March, and a growing number of followers and supporters are tracking his progress via social media and donating to his crowdfunding campaign, which seeks to raise funds to build Laos' first ever skate park.

Mr Drury said if he succeeds he will be one of two people who have made the same journey by skateboard up the East Coast, unsurprising given the route encompasses more than 3600km.

"It's been a cool way to travel, I've met heaps of people and seen a lot of things you wouldn't see if you were driving past at 100kmh," he said.

From Broken Hill originally, Mr Drury began skating longer distances a few years ago when he decided to see how hard it would be to skate to a pub located 30km out of town, then increasing his next effort to 50km and then 115km to Menindee.

Having lived in Nong Khai in Thailand for a few years, Mr Drury said he always loved Laos and visited a lot.

"It's the only country in South East Asia which doesn't have a skate park and skating in other parts there is huge, there are hundreds of people in Laos who are getting into it, but don't have a dedicated space," Mr Drury said.

"They're good people, and skating is all about exploring creativity, it's an outlet which empowers youth through connection.

"I want to help provide a safe place for people to skate and if we don't do it, no one really will," he said.

The "we" he refers to involves a collaboration with non-profit organisation Make Life Skate Life, which has built 10 community skate parks in developing countries and supports grass-roots skateboarding worldwide.

A community skate park built by Make Life Skate Life in Taghazout, Morocco. Photo: supplied.

A community skate park built by Make Life Skate Life in Taghazout, Morocco. Photo: supplied.

"They built Myanmar's first park, they're volunteer-run and build international standard parks, the base project minimum is $25,000 which will cover materials and equipment hire," he said.

The GoFundMe campaign has raised over $3500 in just one week.

"I called the Australian embassy in Laos and asked to speak to a diplomat, there's a lot of land not being used over there I have been trying to get a piece for this project," Mr Drury said.

Skateboarding is set to make its Olympic debut in 2021 in Japan, with both street and park competitions.

Mr Drury plans his journey week by week and will continue north with scheduled stops in Tathra, Narooma, Batemans Bay, Ulladulla and Wollongong.

He anticipated needing new bearings and shoes by the time he reaches Sydney.

"I listen to lots of music, I make my own fun... and talk to animals," he said.

"When I get to Cairns I'm going to buy a motorbike and ride to the tip of Australia and then back to Broken Hill.

"I've been getting messages from all around Australia, everyone has been super encouraging."

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