I’m not too sure if there’s ever been a skateboard tour that has featured, of all the crazy things in the world, a homebuilt micro-camper. But, this one will! If you’re not familiar yet with my micro-camper, I’ll give you a brief synopsis to get you caught up to speed: I designed, and built, my little camper about three years ago now. It’s built on a Harbor Freight utility trailer, and is made of wood… much like a skateboard ramp would be. It weighs about 700 lbs (or so), features a queen-size mattress (with a memory-foam pillow top), and tows easily behind my little Toyota Yaris. The same Yaris, by the way, that I took out on my 2008 Tour. Back then, the Yaris was brand spankin’ new. Today, it has a compiled a lovingly reliable 187,000 miles. I just realized that, by the way, as I was writing this paragraph. My, how the time flies. The camper has been through a few revisions, and has had some press over at Tiny House Listings… Google “Bud Stratford camper” to find the articles, and they’ll pop right up, three articles in total. Since I built it, the camper’s probably racked up well over 30,000 miles, and has been all over the western United States. You could probably build one for about $2500 or so; of course, I have a bit more than that invested in mine, with all the various revisions and rebuilds over the last three (or so) years. But even then, I’d be shocked if I had more than $3500 invested in the whole project. Given that the Yaris still gets about 28 mpg while towing the camper, this is probably the most fun, functional, relaxing, and enjoyable way to experience the vast, wide-open wilds of America, on a threadbare budget. Whatever “vast, wide-open wilds” that remain, at least. And trust me, there aren’t that many left. I know, because I’ve been looking. The camper was originally designed and built with long-distance snowboard expeditions in mind. Like, to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for my annual pilgrimages to Mt. Bohemia. It didn’t dawn on me until quite some time later that this thing might actually work pretty well for summer camping, too. I can be a really short-sighted idiot like that, sometimes. At first, I was a little disinclined to agree to, and follow through with, yet another overly-ambitious summer tour. I really didn’t think that I had it in me, and in any rate I suspected that the ‘ol knees would immediately protest and/or veto the whole shenanigans. But once I remembered the camper… all of a sudden, I was all about it. How much better could it really get, than to combine two of my favorite lifelong loves… skateboarding, and camping… into one big, epic adventure…? I turned it over in my head a few times, and quickly realized that it cannot possibly ever get any better than that. The Tour was a go, and I was off like a herd of turtles.
Welcome to a new feature that gives you insights on what it truly means to be a skater. These are personal stories that we know will resonate with you. If you have a story you’d like to share, email us. We’d be happy to get it up on our site!
It’s something that everyone was yearned and hungered for at least once in their lifetime: belonging. It motivates us to become who we are, to pick up an identity and stick with it. Without it, we get lonely and we seem to lose track of both who we are and what goals we want to achieve in the long run. We lose sight of what’s important and we start to wander off into places that have no meaning.
I’m no stranger to this lack of belonging, having grown up as a slightly strange kid in the public school system; my first many years of school were filled with awkward conversations with my classmates and weird crushes on girls and some kind of strange social tension that I could never seem to relieve. My radically academic upbringing left me undeveloped (to put it nicely) in terms of social skills and I never really did discover the meaning of a close friend until I entered high school last year, at the ripe age of 16.
Here, I made it a goal to become outspoken, less awkward; to become someone that people could relate with and hang out with without feeling weird like many of my past acquaintances may have at many points of our shallow friendships. Well, it kind of worked, I developed some very fun friendships, went to my first parties, got my first kiss, and had my first late-night conversations in a circle-of-bros around a backyard fire. But that didn’t work out; I had a scuffle with some guys towards the end of the year and that all kind of turned into a burning pile of ash and smoke. This turned me into a licorice-flavored rotten Jello filled with little solid pieces of misery and loneliness and longing for a place to belong.
That summer, I was fresh out of things to do. Utterly bored. Unused. I didn’t have a girlfriend; I didn’t have any friends to hang out with. Slowly, people started departing and I was undecidedly left to myself for the coming two months of summer. My previous plans, my list of things that I wanted to do that required more than one person? Gone. Scrapped. And I was imaginatively, completely helpless and depressed about it.
And then I bought a skateboard. It was a very hot, sunny day, and my family decided to take my brother and me to the little homey town of Banff, where I bought a small Sector 9 Wedge skateboard for a small investment of $170 dollars (my whole life savings at that point). I then spent the next month learning to push, to carve, to stop and on the way to the final goal of the mastery of the cruiser skateboard, also had my first falls and injuries.
I had a few mentors along the way, but there wasn’t really anybody who was outstandingly amazing at the sport. They just invited me out to go cruising along the riverwalk or maybe come over for a round of video games and go out and push along the creek for a bit. You know, the really simple stuff. I never thought of this as anything beyond casual hanging out. Nothing to really poke the mind or emotions, nothing that would really invoke any feelings of being any more wanted than a bit of company here and there.
But I was still hooked. Not onto the cruising with other people notion, but to the feeling of rolling over paved ground. I felt free of the confines of any social expectations that I and other people had forced upon me for so many years; I was on a skateboard, and I was alone, enjoying rolling over the little bumps and bruises in the ground, and I was okay with that.
It felt blissful.
And this turned into an addiction for me; a way for me to relieve stress when I had it. I remember so many nights when I hopped out of bed, put on a jacket and jumped outside to skateboard at 2 o’clock in the morning because something was bugging me. I remember that I pushed myself to exhaustion and when I came back in, I could sleep soundly and forget about what was bothering me.
It’s strangely therapeutic, really. I’m sure other people have different reasons why they skate. Some people just find it fun, some people are just really good at it. I know people just like to skateboard because it’s something they can work on. But for me, skateboarding was always an obsession for me because it was the only respite I had in a schedule of heavy workload and emotional strain.
And this pushed me deeper and deeper into the sport. I started to experiment with different gear. I bought my first longboard; it was a Dusters Kosher Glow in the Dark; something that I went to my local store to buy because I decided after reading some articles and guides that I would indeed need something longer if I wanted to go faster. This was kind of the start of what would eventually lead me to the greatest thing about longboarding. But
I’ll get to that in a bit.
I got this longboard and I started to ride it instead of my little cruiser board. I rode it obsessively. To school, to the hospital, to the grocery store. I even rode it down my short little street just to get mail! I seriously think that I just didn’t walk anywhere for a while. That longboard became my legs. And I started to upgrade it. I went on these weird longboard sites and got all these different types of weird tips and tricks, stuff that would actually lead me on an extremely wrong path filled with really bad information and lots of wasted money, but fuel my passion it did, and I was okay with that. I got the wrong bushings, tweaked it around, got some new trucks (Caliber IIs, my first RKP trucks), and put those on. I got new wheels (Free Willies; I slide those to this day), and rode that for a while.
Then, I discovered some online communities, such as Silverfish and Reddit’s /r/longboarding, which is the one I go on the most. When I discovered this online community, I was like, “wow! There’s more of us! More people who love what I do!” and I was absolutely blown away. I spent hours and hours on the live chat, with people actually guiding me in the right direction. They told me to get the right bushings. They told me to get a new board, and new wheels that were much faster.
Funny thing about this forum is though, that I met one of my better skating buddies on there. He picked me up on the site and he pointed me to my local scene’s Facebook group, and that’s really where the juicy stuff starts.
When I entered this group, I was met with outstanding friendliness from all parties.
My pleas for help with sliding and downhill were met with people coming from all over telling me they could help out; that there were clinics here at this time, and that there was a race going on at this place. But most importantly, I was invited to this one weekly ride that we do every Saturday night, by one of the better skaters in the group. He messaged me personally and he told me that there was a nice, easygoing run every Saturday that he really wanted me to be at. He told me that people were friendly, that people were totally okay with me being there! And so go to the ride I did.
You know, in these many months that I’ve been skating, I’ve never really found anything more beautiful than what I felt that first night. For the first time in months, I felt supported. People were pushing me forward, propelling me constructively and building me back up from the mess that I was a few months ago, when I first bought that skateboard. I felt wanted again, that people were genuinely excited to have another person there that was skating. I finally felt that cohesiveness with a group of people that I’d been searching and yearning and working towards for years.
I felt like I belonged.
If I was to tell a prospective longboarder something about this community, it’s that this community has the power to make you feel amazing inside. In this community, you’ll find a passion that you can share with many other people, and through this shared passion, you’ll also find brotherhood; a scattered family that knows when to come together when it matters. An incredibly diverse group of people where not one person is left out and not one person is looked at for their flaws. Indeed, it’s a group of people where everyone has something to offer.
And I feel that I have something to offer every time I go skating on Saturday night.
And you can bet that I’ll be skating this Saturday too.
Skateboarding is absolutely everywhere in Brazil. I went there two months ago and I spent a couple of weeks in Rio de Janeiro, just before the Olympic fever. In the center of the city I came across a very nice longboard community called Guanabara Boards. The two owners, Alex Batista and Teresa Madeline Geer Batista, have an ‘escola de skate’ (longboarding freestyle, dancing school). The school is for everyone who wants to learn or develop their board skills. All the equipment is provided, including a variety of boards and safety gear. The two have more than 30 years of skateboarding experience to share with their students. They are expert teachers, who can certainly be considered as pro-longboarders, teach in both Portuguese and English. Guanabara Boards is made up of ten amazing Brazilians and one sweet British girl (Teresa), who ride almost every day. For them, longboarding means passion, fun, freedom, happiness – it’s a way to live. They are passionate about sharing longboarding through their classes. They want to stop people being scared about riding and to learn in the safest way possible, whether you are a child, a woman, a man, a parent, old or young – you can start learning this sport at anytime in yourlife. They show their students that it is totally normal sometimes to fall down after trying new tricks and they teach how to fall down in the safest way and that the most important thing is getting up and trying again, to keep pushing yourself. I first discovered Alex and Teresa on a YouTube video called “Dancing, Freestyle, Freeride, Downhill’, when I was at home last summer, in Mont-Tremblant, Québec, Canada. I soon got addicted to their videos where I also discovered Ana Maria Suzano, one of the Guanabara Boards team and student of Alex, freestyling barefoot by the beach. When I saw her dancing on her board, all I could think to myself was – I really want to do that! I was hungry to find that freedom and share that happiness. Ana Maria Suzano was like spark of genius in every move that she perfectly executed. She was inviting me to try dancing too. The Brazileira has gained millions of views on her Youtube videos since 2013. She’s globally appreciated for her talent, style and control of the board. Since I was 12 years old I’ve always had a board under my feet, but here, in North America we don’t see a lot of longboard dancing tricks, because we have so many places to downhill and practice freestyle. So for me, it was a new challenge to try dancing and I decided to contact the Guanabara Boards team to help me with my new mission. I booked my flight ticket to Rio, a city that everybody told me was a paradise for riders. I can tell you personally, that this totally true. When I arrived I was stoked to ride by Ipanema beach, the incredible view of the ocean and the rocky mountains, Dois Irmãos (the two brothers), marking the landscape. The city’s cycle paths are perfect to ride on, and there are also skateparks in almost every corner you roll. On Sunday, the main roads right next to the beaches of Ipanema, Copacabana and Flamengo are closed so you can enjoy car-free concrete with your bike, rollerskates, board or even just jogging or walking. In all of my travels, I’ve never seen so many people riding a board – kids, families,workers, surfers and even tourists – everyone is riding. Another amazing place to hang out on weekdays is Lagoa. It has kilometers of perfect bicycle patharound a lagoon with that exceptional view of the surrounding mountains andCristo do Redenter. The father of Guanabara Boards, Alex Batista, born in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, rode a street skateboard since a young age. Unfortunately, a few years ago he had a very bad back injury which prevented him from riding. At that time, his skateboard was a huge part of his life and was riding at a professional level so it was a huge blow to have to stop. He put his head down and built a chain of IT businesses, and although he was becoming very successful, something wasn’t right in his heart. He decided to sell the business to search for something with more meaning. Afterseeing some longboard videos, he realized that he could apply his street and classic freestyle skateboard skills to a longboard, which would be more stable for his back. He started doing his tricks with a longboard and began to develop the longboard dancing freestyle scene in Rio. He soon started giving lessons to share his passion with everyone who wanted to learn too and the Guanabara Boards Escola de Skate was born. One day, Alex was teaching in one of the most beautiful places to ride in Rio, Aterro do Flamengo, and he saw a pretty woman, Teresa, about to ride down a hill with her Penny board. She, of course, fell and bumped her cute face on the concrete on the way down. Alex saw her falling, came to her and got her to the hospital. She told me of the romantic moment, her savior came to her, and I can believe it, because last year they went to Teresa’s brother in Australia and got married while longboarding by the amazing beaches of Queensland. It’s the kind of love story, we usually only see in the movies, but this awesome story isreal. Teresa is a professional photographer and video-maker. She is the producer of many Guanabara Boards videos. She is also the creator of Boardettes in her homeland London. She has also now brought Boardettes to Brazil. Boardette’s mission is to initiate women and girls to learn boardsports or to deepen their skills andchallenge themselves. It’s a digital and real-life community of powerful female riders. They now run Guanabara Boards together with it’s escola de skate. Alex and Teresa are excellent teachers, together unifying the perfect match of technique and fun. I learned very quickly with them and I am still practicing a lot here in my town. Guanabara’s vision is about challenging yourself, being free and finding your balance. They run workshops all over Brazil, including in Sao Paulo, Fortaleza and Brasilia. Beyond skate classes, the team are currentlyworking on making their very own Guanabara’s longboards in Brazil.When the crew aren’t teaching skateboarding to their students they can be found at the square outside of MAM (Museu do Arte Moderna). Here, I learned dancing with the local skateboard community who meet up regularly to encourage riders to keep pushing, and remind everyone that, first and foremost, is the fun. The four year company has grown up very fast. If you are a rider or if you plan to travel in Brazil, just take your backpack and go to explore the breathtaking country. Head to Rio de Janeiro, the cidade maravilhosa, and meet the awesome Guanabara team and learn to live the Guanabara Boards lifestyle. PHOTOS: Teresa Madeline Geer Batista