Longboarding duo cruise through Barrie for a cause
Submitted Mike Harris, a 27-year-old former Barrie resident, and Jeff Abbott, 24, set out from Vancouver’s city hall on May 1 to ride coast-to-coast to raise awareness for helmets in action sports while also trying the raise $100,000 for the Brain Injury Association of Canada.
A brain is a terrible thing to waste.
That’s the message two men are trying to pass on as they longboard across the country.
Mike Harris, a 27-year-old former Barrie resident, and Jeff Abbott, 24, set out from Vancouver’s city hall on May 1 to ride coast-to-coast to raise awareness for helmets in action sports while also trying the raise $100,000 for the Brain Injury Association of Canada.
“There’s too many kids out there not wearing helmets while playing action sports. You only have one brain,” Harris said. “(When I suffered) my fourth concussion, I cracked the helmet that I was wearing.
“And if I wasn’t wearing it, I might not be here today.”
The duo have encountered snow, rain, strong winds and severe heat, but the message is too important for them to give up, Abbott said.
“It’s become a fashion statement these days for people not to wear a helmet. We’re just trying to get the word out there because one fall could crack your head and end your sports career,” he said.
“It’s really a simple message, and it’s just to wear a bucket (helmet).”
The association’s goal is to raise money for brain research with the hopes of bettering the quality of life for those who have been affected by head trauma.
When the pair first hit the road, they were averaging 50 kilometres a day, but as the trip went on, the duo picked up momentum and they now average 110 kilometres each day.
From the lush forests of B.C. to the open skies of the prairies and the granite shield of Northern Ontario, the duo hasn’t lost sight of their goal.
“Both Mike and I are into action sports and all those sports are sports that you know you’re going to fall in,” Abbott said.
“Both of us have had four concussions so we know the importance of wearing a helmet,” he added.
Despite losing all their gear while spending a night in Winnipeg, the experience has been one both men won’t forget.
“We were parked downtown and somebody smashed the back window and stole $5,000 in gas and food vouchers, our health kits and boards. Everything. They cleaned our van out,” Abbott said. “Switchback longboards over-nighted us boards and it was a huge help.”
Abbott started longboarding three years ago and got Harris into the sport a year later while living in Waterloo. But when Harris returns home to Barrie, he’s hoping to educate local youth about helmet safety.
“We’re almost in Barrie which is awesome,” he said. “We’d love to get as many people out as possible. I’d love for everyone to come out and support us.”
The pair are set to roll into Barrie around 7 p.m. on Saturday where they are scheduled to meet with Mayor Jeff Lehman at the city’s waterfront before inviting local boarders to join them for a ride along the lakeshore.
“We just want to raise as much awareness about helmets as possible,” Harris said. “We’ll be longboarding on the paved path on the lakeshore.
“I remember rollerblading on it when I was a kid.”
Harris called Barrie home for more than 20 years, and said seeing the city will be a welcomed sight.
“It’s been an incredible experience. We’ve seen some amazing views and met some amazing people,” he said. “It’s going to be awesome and I can’t wait to see everybody (in Barrie).”
The trip will take the boarders through Ontario, Quebec and the East Coast where the tour will come to an end at city hall in St. John’s, N.L. later in the summer.
When they roll into Toronto on Sunday they estimate being greeted by 250 to 2,500 longboarders as they plan to skate through the city’s downtown.
“It’s definitely a way that not too many people get to experience Canada,” Abbott said.
“Anybody can come as long as they’re wearing a helmet.”
Donations can be made through the brain injuries website at biac-aclc.ca.
You can also follow their journey at Shred4acause.ca.