Marathon: From Seattle to San Diego with skates and sails
by Jamie Budge
Wheeling with the wind, through the shimmering heat waves they appear like a flock of multi-colored seagulls flying on a two-dimensional plane. They soar and dive, bank into turns and ride up-drafts in a flight as real and exhilarating as might occur in the sky above. Only when they swoop closer do they turn into real people with sails in their hands and wheels on their heels, a species known as WindSkaters.
WindSkaters use standard roller skates in combination with a 7 pound, 10 foot nylon sail on an aluminum frame. Holding the sail in their hands, claim the purists, gives them an intimate connection with the wind that can only be rivalled by a skiers involvement with the snow. Indeed, the WindSkaters ride the wind in a series of tacks, jibes and turns that leave most waterbound sailors envious (to have wings on their feet as well as in the sky!).
We had all gathered together earlier in the day in Los Angeles to load sails and roller skates into various cars and vans. These dozen or so enthusiasts were eager to try an exciting new sport called WindSkating on a dry lake bed named El Mirage, about two hours’ drive away. The sport was said to be fun and easy; but it was the lure of getting away from it all to a desert playground that was enough to entice them.
The desert offered all that had been promised by veterans of earlier WindSkate safaris: fifteen miles of desert salt flats surrounded by natural decorations of sage brush, cactus, flowers and low mountain ranges. The sky is deep blue, the air very clean. The wind blew in a steady jet stream that felt free as the whole environment. The actual surface of the dry lake bed is an alkaline base, claylike salt flat. Any roller skate wheels roll easily over the smoother sections. Some skaters used wider trucks (such as Tracker) with larger 70mm soft wheels (such as Red Kryptonics) to stabilize some of the rougher terrain. The major part of the lake bed is easily ride able although criss-crossed with hair-line cracks and fissures, giving it a surreal appearance like the surface of the moon. For a number of the skaters participating today, WindSkating had become a sport within a sport. Terry Caccia is one of the originals who had watched the phenomenon of outdoor roller skating explode all around him in the city of Venice. He had perfected his disco routines, park techniques and outdoor stylized stroll to the level of a pro. Terry was the first person to Roller WindSkate. Today his rides on the desert look more like the low flight of a hang glider. In the difficult side skate position, he cocks one foot behind him and leans over backwards at about forty five degrees. Only the wind in the sail keeps him off the ground. Fred Blood is new to WindSkating but certainly not to roller skating. His antics and triple spins in bowls and pools are world famous. Here on the desert he skates parallel foot, but leans into the sail to gain incredible speeds. He is soon chased by Terry Caccia and Colin Courtman, another Venice veteran renowned for his jivey street style. All three of them head off in the distance for a flag that has been placed for racing. Approaching the flag they shift the sails over their heads for standard turning position. They all but disappear in a cloud of their own dust as they round the flag, re-position the sail on the other sides of their bodies and head back across the wind in the other direction.
And now it was my turn. As inventor of the device, I felt that I had just about mastered every technique that the sport had to offer … on a skateboard. I could explain in exact detail and with great confidence how to do it, but I hadn’t done it on roller skates. It felt very awkward to be starting all over again in something that I had learned four years ago. I joined Terry Marcellino and Connie Cook, two other newcomers to roller WindSkating. I gave them a few brief pointers on how to hold the sail and position it in the wind. Being experienced roller skaters, they both started off competently on the skates, getting used to the feel of the wind in the sail. I picked up my sail and blew easily with the wind, going rather slowly. But to be really sailing, I had to angle across the wind. My right hand held the leading pole straight up and down, just like the mast on a sailboat. My left hand held the lower pole parallel to the ground, just like the boom of a sailboat. I rested the boom on my thigh for a pivot point, and pulled the sail into trim against the pressure of the wind in the sail. The harder I leaned against the wind, the faster I would go. Speed was not high on my priority list, so I let a little wind spill from the sail and slowed down. To turn, I merely shifted the sail over my head and re-positioned it on my other thigh. Going slowly and easily, I wanted to try the more difficult "side-skate" position. I turned my right foot around in order to be skating heel-to-heel. It felt more familiar and comfortable and I gained quick confidence. I leaned against the force of the wind, remembering Terry Caccia’s body angle of ·45 degrees.
It felt great! I realized that I could be an expert roller WindSkater in no time. As I gained speed however, my right foot forgot to follow the direction set by my left one. In an instant, I was turned around backwards and then flipped into a spin by the wind in the sail. I tumbled along the dry lake bed and rolled over in white chalky powder. Fortunately, the desert surface is very forgiving, but I was marked with the white dust for ail to see my wipe-out!
I felt relieved to learn that the "side-skate" position was not mandatory for WindSkating. I returned to the group of newcomers to give some more lessons. They were all comfortable on roller skates and catching on very quickly. All they needed were a few tips on sailing techniques, and all I needed was a little practice roller skating. It was a very co-operative effort, and we all learned from each other. By afternoon, all of the novices (including myself) had become competent WindSkaters. It is late in the day and the bright orange ball of the sun sinks into a dark expansive horizon. The sky is various shades of orange and red, and the chalky surface of the desert glows with an iridescent pink from the sun. The tow mountain ranges from a dark line that splits the scene in two and the sage brush ranges cast long dark shadows across the glowing salt flats.
Far off in the distance come the last half-a-dozen riders. Like triangular UFO’s, they leave fiery hot dust trails behind them as they eclipse the globe of the sun. The back light gives a golden glow to the reds, oranges, yellows, blues and greens that denote their different identities. The WindSkaters lean one way, then flipping the sails over their heads as they turn, they lean the other. In a rapid succession of turns, they criss-cross the sage brush mogul field as if it were a giant slalom course. As the riders break free of the mogulfield, they enter the last cove of ice-smooth surface and it is time to play. They shout with enthusiasm and drift in and out in a grand finale of flight maneuvers that would leave the Blue Angels a little envious. A campfire has been lit, and the roller sailors make a few last circling approaches before coming in for the final landing and the warmth of friends by the fire. It has been several hours of WindSkating and complete detachment from all forms of urban civilization. There has been no noise of traffic, no stoplights to control the flow, no hamburger stands to pollute the skyline or your stomach, no ten-cent toilets to remind you that capitalism exists everywhere. You have been alone on the high seas of a new experience, and there is nothing unnatural to mar the sensations or the purity of the encounter.
After an experience like this, it is easy to feel a great pride in my own involvement in the development of WindSkating. The sport had come a long way since my original discovery with two broomsticks and a plastic dropcloth five years ago in a Santa Monica parking lot. On that first windy day I had approached speeds of 20 miles per hour with an elated sense of consciousness as I flew by parked cars, telephone poles, office buildings and a security guard (who told me insurance regulations wouldn’t permit me to do whatever it was that I was doing there). Undaunted, I had taken to another parking lot down by the beach where a bunch of kids rolled down a hill with skate wheels attached on the bottom of wooden boards. They stared and snickered and told fairytales about that strange person with the funny contraption on his board. But one by one, I convinced them of the joy that these wings could bring with the sea breezes of late afternoon. Soon, the skateboarders had learned to WindSkate, and surfers who rode the waves at the adjoining beach would ride these skateboards and sails on the afternoons when it was too windy to surf. And the surfers brought bikini-clad girls who would sail down the bike path on breezy summer afternoons. The surfers knew skiers who knew motorcycle riders who all liked WindSkating, and soon, I was no longer alone with my new sport (and pleasant " companions they were)!
After about two years, a new kind of person rolled down the bike path. He had wheels on his feet instead of on a board. He had rented these devices in a nearby fairyland known as Venice. And he had plenty of company, with more roller persons coming in every new day. One day a roller person name Terry Caccia asked to use a WindSkate sail. We stared and snickered and told fairy tales because we knew you had to have a board to sail. But we were wrong, and Terry converted even more roller persons to the joys of WindSkating.
Almost overnight, the fairytale beginnings turned into very real recognition for the new sport. Hundreds of articles appeared in newspapers, magazines, films and TV shows around the world. Orders flooded in and we set up shop to keep up with the demand. But my personal motivation was not the manufacturing aspect, rather the challenge of developing a sport as serious as soaring or sailing with all the fun of skating. I wanted WindSkates to sail down wind, up wind, turn on a dime and still be easy to use. To be valid, I knew WindSkating would have the simple joys as well as the difficult challenges that were part of skiing, sailing and skating. In parking lots and on bike paths a group of us worked on the designs that would separate toys from sporting equipment and develop the techniques from real sailing. When I could turn on the skateboard by flipping the sail around the front of the board, Terry Caccia would make the same turn on his skates by flipping the sail over his head. Where our basic position was resting the mast on a pivot point on the skateboard, Terry’s basic position was parallel foot while resting the boom on a pivot point on his thigh. To add challenge, we leaned into the sail against the wind in a position called "back sail." On his skates, Terry leaned out over the ground in a position called "side skating." Whatever we could come up with for skateboards, Terry could emulate or innovate on roller skates. We found plastic sails would tear and a wood mast would break. The sails had to have the right curve and aerodynamics to tack up into the wind. The perfect size for a large person would be far to unwieldy for a smaller one. Light weight sail cloth did the job best and aluminum would neither break nor bend. It all seemed so obvious, looking back after two years of experimenting !
By 1977, we discovered the desert’s dry lake beds of El Mirage. It was as if some benevolent being had prepared the perfect WindSkate resort just for us: A fifteen square mile outdoor roller rink with a backdrop that no artist could paint. Soon El Mirage had become the main target for all our photo sessions. We would wait for the strongest winds and lean into the most radical back sail tacks. Terry would elaborate on his sideskating with one heel cocked in a "shooting star." It all looked so exotic on film with glowing dust trails against crimson skies of the desolate landscape
Soon, however, the abundance of publicity created the impression that you could only WindSkate on dry lake beds after years of practice. And this was too remote and difficult for the average skater. The articles invariably mentioned that WindSkaters could go 45 miles per hour, and that I had once taken off like a hang glider in a short flight. The media likes thrills and spills. But the original idea was that WindSkating was a sailing sport that you could do any day, anywhere with average winds — a down-to-earth sailing sport that could be enjoyed by the every-day athlete. We needed a good way to demonstrate that you didn’t need a dry lake bed to WindSkate. Someone suggested that we should sail across the United States. I felt that the sea coast from Seattle to San Diego would be a lot more attractive. With the gas shortages, it seemed as likely an alternative way to travel as any.
But it wasn’t until Ocean Pacific agreed to sponsor the tour that we were really convinced that we were going to do it. The sponsorship was followed by the best skating equipment that we could ask for: boots from Road Skates, trucks and plates from Tracker, 70mm red wheels from Kryptonics, bearings by NMB-Z-Flex, safety equipment from Rector and an assortment of clothes from O.P. And it wasn’t until the last minute that we knew exactly who was going to make the tour. There were several commitments and cancellations, but when we finally loaded up the van it was Jamie Budge (yours truly), Terry Caccia, Colin Courtman and Terry Marcellino, the only girl on the trip. We left Los Angeles and headed up the coast toward Seattle driving in the van to chart the course we would be skating on the way back. It was an awesome feeling to be covering all those miles at 55 per, and then realize that we were going to be skating back! The drive to Seattle took about two days driving day and night, mostly up Highway One to check out the skating conditions. We arrived in Seattle on a Saturday morning. The center of skating in Seattle is Greenlake Park, a narrow bike path that winds 2 1/2 miles around the lake. The pedestrians walk on one half of the path and the skaters and bicyclers roll on the other. We found a skate rental shop called the Roller Company that had borrowed the basic motif and trademarking of Road Skates, so we all felt quite at home. We introduced ourselves and explained our purpose, much to the delight of the locals, who scurried about rounding up a group for the send off. Saturday afternoon we all got together at Greenlake Park for a WindSkate demonstration and social skate around the lake. The winds were good and we set up the sails, amazing to locals (who were used to skating under leg power alone). We picked out a section of the path, whisked back and forth amongst hikers and joggers and gave a few lessons. The group from Roller Company offered to wine, dine and party all night, but we realized that we would need all the rest we could get before the morning departure.
At 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 30, we all sat by the van in Greenlake Park and strapped on our skates. We did a few calisthenics and took a couple of token runs around the lake, just to get warmed up. Our friends from the Roller Company skated with us, then gave us the best directions out of town. We skated one more section of bike path and then headed out into the real world of cross country skating. The Seattle to San Diego WindSkate Marathon had officially begun.
Originally we had estimated the distance of the marathon to be about 1,200 miles (as the road maps read). However, on the coast route (with back road detours around un-skateable freeways), the actual distance was about 1,440 miles. We had a schedule and a budget that allowed for 17 days to get to San Diego. Some quick mathematics revealed that meant 84.7miles per day. We figured we would average about 7 miles per hour, which meant 12 hours per day of hard skating over some of the roughest roads, the steepest hills and the windiest cliffs in the country. But it was too early in themarathon to realize what this meant … or what it was going to mean to keep on schedule.
We worked our way through Seattle along the sidewalks, over the bridges, under the Space Needle and down to Puget Sound. Terry, Terry and Colin skated while I drove the van. There was a bike path that followed Puget Sound, so we set up the sails and WindSkated along the water. The skies were blue, colors were bright and spirits were high. Further down the Sound we ran into factory buildings, waterfront stores and a lot of obstructions to the wind. We folded up the sails and got back into street skating stride. We knew that we would do a lot of plain old roller skating in between the opportunities to WindSkate.
After about an hour and a half, Colin jumped in the van to conserve his energy for a later time. The two Terry’s worked their way out of Seattle and encountered the first major uphill. It took them about a half hour to climb to the top, and it soon became apparent what an energy drain and slow pace it was going up. At the top, Terry Marcellino jumped in the van after two hours and a steep skate. She was temporarily pooped, and I jumped out to skate with Terry Caccia.
In preparation for the marathon, I had skated 7 miles every afternoon in Santa Monica (about 45 minutes). The training was minimal, but I felt energetic and confident as I reached my 7 mph stride. Actually, to average 7 miles per hour, you had to keep up a constant pace of 10 to 12 miles per hour on the flat lands. When you hit a hill, you would slow down to about 3 to 5 miles per hour, (depending on the hill). Terry and I had a long downhill with easy speeds of about 20 mph. At the bottom Terry ended his shift and Colin jumped out to join me in the long uphill that followed. By the time I had reached the top of my first major uphill, I was painfully aware of the endurance aspect of skate touring. A lot of this was going to be just plain work! By nightfall, we were nowhere close to our goal of 85 miles per day. The new theory was to divide and conquer. I skated alone while the rest of the crew conserved energy in the van. I held the flashlight in my hand to spot rock and other unskateable objects in my path. One unskateable object ran in front of me while I was in full stride down the shoulder. At first I thought it was a squirrel, next a raccoon, then a cat. By the time I realized that it was a skunk, I had changed direction mid-air over the critter and was back in the van before you could say,"lt stinks!"
We had vowed to skate every foot of the way, but skunk gas necessitated an exception to the rule. A hundred yards down the highway I climbed back out of the van to resume my journey. There were just a few traces of the odor far off in the distance. It had been a close call!
We stopped for dinner in Yelm, Washington. By the end of our meal, the whole restaurant seemed to know what we were up to and wished us luck on our endeavor. We were now skating some real back country roads with no traffic on a Sunday night, Colin skated while we followed him closely in the van. The headlights lit the road; and as long as we didn’t get too far behind, it was perfect skating. Marcel followed Colin and they were making 8 to 10 miles per hour till about midnight.
About that time we fell under the delusion that if we skated 24 hours per day, we would be home in half the time. Caccia put in another hour or so, then I skated till the early hours of the morning. Unfortunately, by 3 a.m. we had made two wrong turns and were so lost that we didn’t know which way we were going! Part of the problem was that they don’t put road signs on the back roads in Washington, so you don’t know if you’re on the right road till you get to the next town. The other part of the problem was that we were too tired to figure out what was going on. So we waited for the morning.
At breakfast the next morning, we still weren’t able to figure out where we had been, but we did find out how to get back to where we were going. Colin was first off on a back road that was made from a mixture of coarse gravel and sticky tar. The progress was slow and painful in the feet and knees. Terry and Terry traded shifts all the way over the Oregon border.
By mid-afternoon I was re-energized and put in an aggressive 16 miles in an hour and a half toward Portland. I was so spectacular that a couple of drunks reached out their car window to shake my hand and ran me off the road in tribute. Actually, I jumped off the road because I was sure they were going to swerve into the trench! But they escaped somehow. We continued our relay and reached Portland by 1 a.m.
Tuesday was the start of our third day; the thrill was starting to wear off. We had a long trudge across open-fielded inland roads to get to the ocean coast route in Oregon. When there is not much in the way of inspirational scenery, the miles seem to drag on. However, by mid-day a strong wind had come up and I set up a sail for the first attempt at actual cross-country highway WindSkating. Using the wide shoulder by the side of the road gave me ample area to work in, and that first feeling of effortless skating was sensational. After two days of working for every foot of progress, it felt great just to lean back against the wind in the sail and glide! The local reporters jumped out of slowed cars and did instant on-the-spot photos and interviews. I continued across the highways, sometimes with the sail, sometimes just skating, depending on the wind direction. We reached a small range of mountains and Terry and Terry traded short shifts to make maximum time to the top.
At this point, Terry Caccia got his first chance to experience that other great effortless sensation ride of the marathon: downhill. It was over ten miles from the top of the range to the ocean. Terry jumped into a side stance, cocked his back foot in confidence and gave a big grin. It was like a downhill ski run all the way to the bottom, a roll that took about an hour. Whatever fatigue you might be feeling before the start of such a run would completely disappear with the rush of adrenaline that accompanied the thrill of a fast free ride.
Terry floated into Lincoln City, Oregon, on a cushion of enthusiasm, just in time to watch the sun setting in the Pacific. This was the inspiration we were looking for. The sky was orange and there was just enough wind to put on an impromptu WindSkate demonstration in a beach parking lot. Once again, reporters appeared out of nowhere with cameras and tape recorders. By morning, the whole immediate coastal populace knew of our travels.
The Oregon coastline offers an abundance of inspiration for skating, WindSkating and shooting pictures. Huge waves batter the rugged shoreline, shooting like rockets in the air as they break against the giant rocks and up through open blow holes. Highway 1 winds along the ocean, climbing hundreds of feet above sheer cliffs, then dropping to sea level again. The scenery ranges from small coastal towns to almost primeval forests with ageless trees, mist and tidal swamps. To be covering this route on skates certainly enhances the encounter far above what one might experience observing through glass, surrounded by metal at an insulated 55 miles per hour. A skater feels ocean spray, the road rumbling underfoot, as the human metabolism peaks with exertion. The surroundings could be awe-inspiring one mile and menacing the next. It’s a totally exhilarating experience.
This week on the Coast Highway established our standard routine. Terry and Terry seemed to be real good on the intermittent up hills and down hills. The free ride going down seemed to be well worth the work going up, and they made the best time along these climbing and dropping sections of highway. Colin and I would hit the fastest pace along the more level stretches of road, sometimes breaking 10 miles per hour for two hours running. The technique was something like jogging and cross-country skiing applied to skates. We made great time as long as our energy held; but when we burned out, that was the end of our run. Colin and I were the speed sprinters, Terry and Terry were the constant mileage masters.
The opportunities to WindSkate came and went as radically as the changing coastline. Where the wind would blow perfectly across the highway for one section, it would be blocked by trees and mountains the next. It would be a perfect free ride down the highway next to open ocean for several miles, then the highway would turn inland away from the wind. Every day was a combination of uphill, downhill, speed sprints and WindSkating. At night we would find a campground or trailer park, shower, eat and sleep to be ready for the next day’s roll. As we adjusted to our life of movements on the road, every day had a new focus of interest. One day we rendezvoused with my friend Michael Kevin Daly for champagne and sandwiches along the highway. Michael was one of the original photo-journalists to shoot pictures of WindSkating some four years before. The sun came out and the wind freshened in his honor, and w filmed a great WindSkate session along the sand dunes of central Oregon. We also earned pedestrian violations for drifting out of the bike lane and onto the open road while filming some roller-skating on the main highway. At the same time, we learned our rights as pedestrians to roller-skate so ling as we kept to the shoulder and stayed off the freeways…. a minor regulation that wouldn’t cause us too much trouble till we got to California.
On Saturday, October 6th we crossed the border into California. One hundred yards into the state, a highway patrol officer stopped us once again an clarified the freeway rules. Looking at the map, we realized that some of the alternative roads to the main freeways were pretty rugged. At dust on Saturday evening, Terry Marcellino skated a road known only as "D-8" It went practically straight up to a height of about 700 feet, then turned to gravel where sections had landslided down sheer cliffs to the ocean below. I had a very similar experience on Thomson’s Hill, another gravel and tar mixture that went straight up and down. Fortunately most of the highway in California has smooth surfaces and sufficient shoulders, but is not formal freeway.
By Sunday night we had covered many inland areas of mountains and redwood forests. It was early Monday morning when we reached the summit of a long mountain road that would drop 20 miles downhill back to the ocean and California Highway 1. The road wound like a roller coaster as it disappeared into the darkness, in the evening. Colin jumped out of the van and shot away in a rush of speed that made it impossible to keep up with him in the van. He could turn corners faster on 8 wheels faster than I could on 4 powered by the miracle of internal combustion … which was alright, except that he would out-distance the headlights and be skating in total darkness at 20 to 30 miles per hour around radical curves.
This was obviously undesirable. He stopped for flashlight to give him some vision when he left me behind. using a combination of T-stops to slow himself downi (dragging one skate sideways and the added braking power of a heal stop (which could bring him to a total stop in a short distance), there was adequate control. However, the overall impression was that of a downhill ski racer on a radical bobsled run in darkness, luckily, Colin reached the bottom without mishap and in good spirits.
Monday and Tuesday were charted for our final approach into San Francisco. It was still a long distance away, but our conditioning was building up to greater speeds and endurance. Weather permitting, we should have no problem. It is interesting to note, however, that in Washington and Oregon it rains 17 out of 31 days in October. We had been lucky enough to have missed any rain the entire trip … until Monday afternoon just north of Jason, California, that is. It sprinkled for a while, then came down in torrents – complete with thunder and lightning. We sat in a highway cafe, eating dinner and waiting for the storm to pass. Within just a few hours we were able to continue our journey on damp highways with a spectacular lightning show just a little too close for comfort. We continued while making wild speculations about the effectiveness of roller skates as lightning rods. We were glad we didn’t have metal wheels!
We reached San Francisco in time for a TV news WindSkate demonstration that we had scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. In unusually light winds for that part of the Bay area, we skirted back and forth along the Promenade with the Pacific Ocean and world famous Chart House restaurant in the background. Although we had managed just a few hours to spare for sightseeing in the city, we were all anxious to be on our way after the demo. By dark, we were well out of the city and camping out at a facility in Half Moon Bay. By now, the long-distant prospect of getting home was becoming a close reality.
In the morning, we flew down the highway in such a hurry that we missed another TV demonstration that could have been scheduled in Santa Cruz. Colin was energized and had put in a record-breaking 29 miles by the time we were in the Salinas Valley. The strong Pacific sea breezes were blowing in from the ocean, and many of the inland roads through the local agriculture offered unobstructed WindSkating.
With these prevailing winds, speeds of 23 to 30 miles per hour would be easily attainable with the WindSkates. However, with the road jagging at angles up-wind or down-wind, the best speed directions were not always possible. The average highway WindSkate speed was closer to 10 to 15 mph. However, this effortless speed could make a lot of difference of some otherwise arduous skating.
By late afternoon we had reached Monterey Bay. The winds were moderate, but it was still an easy sail along the smooth scenic route that lined the bay. We sailed by long lines of waves on the horizon as surfers took advantage of another kind of ride in the background. Sunset caught us on the Seventeen Mile Drive around Monterey Peninsula with the bright orange globe sinking into a gray fog bank. The wind puffed and died and left us unassisted as we stared down the long highway.
Today had represented a real accomplishment: Half Moon Bay to Monterey Peninsula, with some real wind power assist. But tomorrow would be the big challenge: Carmel to Morro Bay, over the mountainous sea cliffs of Big Sur. The chances of the wind helping out would be minimal, due to the high cliffs that deflect wind upwards and the narrow winding roads that make it a traffic hazard.
Leaving Carmel, I was first off early in the morning. It was mostly a long and fairly speedy climb and then a drop into Big Sur. The weather had presented us with it’s photogenic best; blue skies, bright sun and vibrant scenery. I climbed a steep upgrade out of Big Sur… to the point of exhaustion and broken blisters.
At the summit I turned it over to Terry and Terry, our uphill and downhill enthusiasts. They took the steep down grades in stride at easy paces of 20 to 25 miles per hour. Side skating was a good stable speed position, and sometimes they could hold hands facing each other for extra stability. Heel stops and T-stops were used when braking was necessary.
Just when the thrill of the long downhill race was feeling like routine, it would be time for another long ascent to the next summit. At the most radical peak, they reached a height of almost 1,000 feet with a sheer drop to the ocean. The last long downhill ran radical curves down to the flatlands of the San Simeon area below. Once again we found that the downhill roller skaters were more adept at handling the curves than was the van. Terry and Terry outdistanced us on the long descent.
On the flatlands below, we did some WindSkating in the diminishing winds of dusk. It was very beautiful along that particular stretch of highway, but short lived. Colin took over with one of his speed sprints across the low rolling hills and completed the distance to Morro Bay. Another landmark had been reached in our homeward trek. In the enthusiasm to get home, Terry Caccia had accumulated a total of 40 miles that day over some of the most radical terrain of the tour. The rest had been divided somewhat equally among us for about 102 miles total. Hometown Venice was just two days away.
When the crew awoke the next morning, we found a note from Terry Caccia explaining that he had started skating at 6:30 a.m. We rushed through breakfast and finally caught up with him just north of Guadalupe, some 30 miles from Morro Bay. The rest of the day was somewhat uneventful as we skated through the rough back highways near Lompoc. By ten o’clock on Friday evening we had reached Santa Barbara.
Saturday morning we headed down the coast, making good time until reaching the Ventura/Port Hueneme area. Where the winds had always been of assistance to us on the trip, we found out how much resistance they could be when they were blowing against you. A strong head wind was as bad as a steep uphill.
The setback was but a minor delay. Rounding the tip of Point Mugu realigned us with the wind and it was a clean skate south. The hills and highway of Malibu vanished in the enthusiasm of getting home. By 8 p.m. I sat in the van a block away and watched three skate missiles — Terry Caccia, Terry Marcellino and Colin Courtman fire down the Santa Monica bike path. You would never skate that fast down the path unless you were coming from 1,200 miles away! Minutes later we were all at Road Skates in Venice. In the thrill of getting home, it seemed like the tour was over. But tomorrow we had to leave for San Diego!
On Sunday we had a reception at Road Skates and Terry Caccia gave a windless WindSkate demonstration in the rink area. An hour later, the real wind came up and we continued the tour. Along the bike path through Playa Del Rey is one of the best-groomed WindSkate runs in Southern California. The bike trail weaves across the sand and down the Promenade in an uninterrupted as it covers the 15 miles to Redondo Beach. The winds were perfect, the skies were brilliant and the path was nearly empty in the Fall weather. The backlit sails looked like Christmas tree bulbs as they glowed against the dark beige sands in the background. The crew moved down the path in a tight regatta, occasionally breaking free in an adjoining parking lot for a few moments of freestyle sailing. Marina Del Rev appeared in the background, but the WindSkaters were the only sailing devices that didn’t leave the marina by water. By El Segundo, the power plant appeared, adding an ominous edifice that seemed monstrous in comparison to the mini sailors passing. At Manhattan, the bikepath turned into the beach front Promenade, and the WindSkaters continued south.
On Monday morning, it felt just like going back to work when we put on our skates. It was hard not to end the tour at home and then head out again. By afternoon, enthusiasm was returning when Terry Caccia and Colin speed sprinted across Camp Pendleton on a bike trail that was off-limits to the van. We waited in Oceanside for them to exit from the Marine Base. We continued to Cardiff by the Sea, just a few hours from San Diego. Tomorrow was the end of the tour.
The skate into Mission Beach (San Diego) was something of a fast-paced leisurely stroll. Only the up-grade to La Jolla reminded us of the agonies and endurance required of our marathon. And the downhill to the beach refreshed our enthusiasm for the free ride. We arrived at 1 p.m., three and half hours ahead of our scheduled meeting with reporters from various stations and newspapers. We assigned ourselves to important tasks such as finding chocolate covered bananas to toast our accomplishment. By mid-afternoon, the wind gave us a breezy acknowledgement and we set out the sails for a few quick runs up and down the Promenade. The photographers and reporters appeared and we recounted our adventure in grande finale form. We had covered some 1,440 miles in 17 days of skating as much as 18 hours at a time, non stop as a relay team. We had done a lot of roller skating and also demonstrated the versatility of WindSkating in some of the most unexpected environments.
It is a safe bet that it will be a long time before a farmer in Salinas sees any skaters sail by his celery field again. And very few Oregon highway patrolmen will give citations for pedestrians sailing in the wrong lane of the Coast Highway. The Seattle to San Diego WindSkate Marathon certainly did bring to the public attention some unique methods of crossing the country !
In the weeks that followed the marathon, public awareness of WindSkating seemed greatly increased. WindSkates appeared in "Skatetown, U.S.A." and "Roller Boogie," two motion pictures about roller skating. WindSkaters appeared exclusively in a television commercial for Superior Beer of Mexico. "California Fever" scheduled some WindSkating for their television series. Terry Caccia and I put on five days of demonstrations at the Exotic Sports Expo in Los Angeles. The requests for WindSkating seem unending. But best of all, more people want to try WindSkating. Our weekly trips to El Mirage are packed with enthusiasts, and WindSkates are always in demand on the parking lots and bike paths of Venice and Santa Monica. In other parts of the world, WindSkates are used to cross the Sahara Desert or to sail down the beaches of France.
In the northeastern United States, a skate sailing association hosts a membership of 500 ice skaters who spend the winters sailing frozen lakes and rivers in a form of WindSkating that dates back to the 17th century when the Dutch sailed the frozen canals of Holland. In other applications, WindSkates work on skateboards with ice blades and on flat snow with either cross-country or downhill skis. WindSkating is available on salt flats, wet sand, hard snow, ice or Interstate highways. For the everyday outdoor roller skater, WindSkating is as available as the next windy day.