At dawn Tuesday, while the rest of Durango woke up, a local skateboarder took a backpack full of socks, banana chips and peanuts and started skating.
His destination: Long Beach, California – 800 miles away.
Jeff “Hot Dog” Markman, 34, set wheels to pavement for more than the long-distance skate. He is skateboarding to raise awareness for a Durango-born fundraiser, Boards for Brazil.
Markman, and local skateboarder Tim Schaefer, 26, created Boards for Brazil to send fully assembled skateboards to kids in or near Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil. The Boards for Brazil fundraiser, created Sept. 15, has raised $1,425 of its $3,000 goal. For Markman and Schaefer, the fundraiser is a way to give back, to let others know Durango cares and even to move a step closer to who they want to be.
“I can’t be who I am, I can’t be who I want to become, unless I do this,” Markman said.
Markman faces a Nov. 1 deadline, the end of the fundraiser, to reach Southern California where he grew up. He’ll be skating 30 to 50 miles a day for two or three weeks, over mountains and through deserts until he reaches Cherry Skatepark in Long Beach. When he gets there, he’s going to post a video showing he made it, then eat a huge meal and go to sleep, Markman said.
It’s a pretty intense idea, said local skateboarders Gabe Wilson and his son, Romeo Wilson, 10. They don’t know anyone who has done a similar trip on a skateboard, they said.
John Agnew, owner of The Boarding Haus and a sponsor for the fundraiser, agreed.
“I think he’ll pull it off,” he said. It’ll be tough: The side of the road is gravelly with shards of glass, and Markman will essentially be doing lunges with his riding leg the whole way while wearing a heavy backpack, he said.
“I think it’s kind of crazy that he’s going to skateboard that long,” said Romeo, who is donating a skateboard to the effort. “It’s really cool that he’s willing to do that to give skateboards to kids in Brazil.”
Once the deadline passes, Schaefer will purchase skateboard parts through Fortaleza companies to support the local market. Because both Markman and Schaefer are funding their own trips, 100% of the fundraiser proceeds will be used to buy skateboard parts, they said.
Markman, his skateboard leaning against his leg and tattoos poking out from under his shirt sleeves, said the fundraiser is about positivity above all.
Markman and Schaefer want to let people know that the Durango skateboard community was grateful for the city’s investment in the skatepark. Now, they want to show that the community cares by helping others, in the state and beyond, Markman said.
They chose Fortaleza because Schaefer learned about the 3.7 million orphans in Brazil while doing volunteer work in the community. They want to give those kids, or others who can’t afford a skateboard, the chance to have fun, join a community and find an outlet through the sport.
“I think it’s a really unique idea,” Agnew said. “Skateboarding does help so many kids, especially, not just troubled kids, but people that are on their own or by themselves a lot.”
Sitting at a coffee shop and wearing a pair of jeans ripped from a skateboarding fall, Schaefer explained that, for him, skateboarding has always been an outlet and a way to get through tough times.
As a teen, Schaefer experienced homelessness for a year. He partied; he got in trouble. His friend, a 16-year-old skater, died in a car crash. After that, he threw himself into skateboarding. He pushed himself harder, fell again and again, until he learned a challenging trick and felt the pride of getting it right. Through skateboarding, he found support and a community.
“Skateboarding has given a way to still be productive, and put our efforts into something creative, and ultimately get a beautiful outcome out of it,” Schaefer said.
“It’s family,” said Markman, who also leaned on the sport through tough times. “We all know each other, and we all are very supportive. ... If someone is really in need, they’ll be taken care of.”
Schaefer and Markman said others can find the same outlet in skateboarding, especially kids who might need that community but don’t have the means to buy a skateboard and join.
“(Skateboarding) is the only way I know to share love and equality,” Schaefer said. “Everybody has the power to make a difference, no matter if you believe it or not.”
While Schaefer plans his trip to Brazil, Markman set off to accomplish one of his life goals: making the trip across the West and getting through the exhaustion, loneliness, excitement and dangers along the way.
“I’ll be able to be like, ‘Look what I did,’” he said. “‘And I just went with a backpack with a lot of socks.’”