Friday, July 1, 2016

Damien Rider Is Skateboarding Route 66 After Escaping Dark Past

Posted By on Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge Damien Rider is skateboarding the length of historic Route 66. - PHOTO BY JASON LEE
  • Photo by Jason Lee
  • Damien Rider is skateboarding the length of historic Route 66.
Damien Rider found peace among the sharks. 

Battling the mental demons of horrific childhood abuse, the Australian adventurer paddled himself nearly 500 miles along the coast of his homeland in 2015. He says he emerged after seventeen days in the ocean with a calm he hadn't felt in more than 30 years.

Now, he's headed through St. Louis on a skateboard, hoping to show other victims of abuse a way forward. The 40-year-old endurance athlete and a childhood friend plan to skate the length of historic Route 66 in 66 days. They started Monday in Chicago and expect to hit the Gateway City by 3:30 or 4 p.m. Sunday on the way to their final destination in Santa Monica, California.

"I just want to show people what's possible," Rider says.

His previous paddle along the east coast of Australia — recorded in a documentary called Heart of the Sea — changed his life. Men's Health magazine in Australia named him man of the year in 2015. He's also become an advocate for people who've suffered childhood abuse and resulting PTSD. 

Rider says he was beaten and sexually abused by his mother's alcoholic boyfriend from age six to nine. The boyfriend terrorized the entire family.

"So many times, I thought I'd never see another sunrise," he says in Heart of the Sea. "And times, I hoped I'd never see one again."

He now hopes to establish beach safe houses for victims around the world through his nonprofit, Rider Foundation. He hopes to raise awareness of the project as he pushes a 1985 Bones Brigade skateboard across the United States. 
click to enlarge Damien Rider expects to skateboard through St. Louis on Sunday as he travels historic Route 66 to California. - PHOTO BY JASON LEE
  • Photo by Jason Lee
  • Damien Rider expects to skateboard through St. Louis on Sunday as he travels historic Route 66 to California.
He's joined by Dan Osper, a childhood skating buddy. The two reconnected after nearly three decades, and Rider learned Osper had also suffered abuse as a kid.

"He's got some healing to do," Rider says.

He thinks this journey will do for Osper what paddling among the waves and sharks did for him. They pushed into powerful headwinds Thursday and are likely to hit rainstorms in Missouri. It'll only get tougher as they go, he says.

People can follow their progress on Facebook, Instagram and the website for the Rider Foundation.

Rider says they'd be happy to have others join them along the way, even if only for a little while and even if they're not skateboarders.

"We start together," Rider says, reciting a motto he and Osprey repeat as they go. "We finish together, and nobody gets left behind."

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.


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