North & South America
ULTRA for me is not just skating, it’s a feeling that is hard to describe with words, no matter how many times I try. Every time I find new words, new feelings, and new waves of energy and inspiration. Every single time I have a taste of ultraskating I find myself in a state of zen and contentment, gratitude and enlightenment, and I’m always left eagerly looking forward to the next ultraskate.
ULTRA is a documentary filmed and edited by my long time friend and skate mentor Bruce Bales (IG: @brucejamesbales) along with help from Spencer Smith and Katie Baird. Ultra is a sneak peek into my vision of ultraskating.
Ultraskating is a style of skating I’ve been creating and traversing for myself the last few years of my long journey through skating. Documenting my ten day skate down California Coastal Highway 1 from San Francisco, California to Los Angeles, California covering a distance of over 500 miles and 15,000+ feet of elevation gain. I skated through some of the most breathtaking landscapes and extreme terrains I’ve ever faced. This was easily the most challenging and most enjoyable ultraskate I’ve ever accomplished in my life.
What is Ultraskating for me?
If you look up “ultra” in the dictionary you’ll find words like extremists, fanatic and diehard, all of which could be used to describe me and the type of skating I enjoy, but I have found these words alone don’t do justice in defining ultraskating.
Ultraskating for me is a recipe of thoughts and actions both on and off skates that if properly achieved allows oneself to reach a state of zen, which I have taken to calling “ULTRA”.
It helps to create and amplify your connection between mind, body, and soul.
Four years ago I had my first taste of ultraskating at an event in Iowa known as RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is a seven day cycling ride across the entire state of Iowa. That week I zigzagged through the small towns and country sides of Iowa, meeting the people & seeing the beautiful views. Averaging 50-70 miles a day I was discovering a new type of distance skating that I would fall in love with. RAGBRAI not only gave me my first taste of ultra it also helped me to begin building foundations and rules for defining what ultraskating meant to me.
Foundation 1: Pick a place, decide a distance.
The beautiful thing about living in a today’s modern world is that there are paved roads, sidewalks, and paths to just about everyplace you could desire to reach. So all you have to do is decide where you want to go. Oftentimes I daydream of places I think might be beautiful or places I don’t know anything about that leave me stricken with curiosity. After I select a place I study it on the map and start to plug and play distances appropriate to my skating ability.
I think my favorite thing about chasing an ultra is that it is relative to your own experience.
When I pick distances I’d like to skate I’m not choosing a number based on anyone else’s ideals or abilities. I pick what I feel is right for me, I choose routes I know will challenge me in a way that helps me to grow as a skater and an individual.
Build a ultraskate route based on one that challenges you physically and mentally, always keep in mind your own personal skill level and abilities but don’t fear pushing towards personal growth.
Planning an ultraskate should be as fun and challenging as skating one.
Foundation 3: Be prepared.
For as much fun as I have daydreaming about places I’d like to ultraskate I take the planning and preparing very seriously.
I start by planning the actual route I’d like to skate. Google maps and street view can be very useful in observing the actual layout and terrain of a place you’d like to skate. Skating and cycling forums as well as community pages on FaceBook are a few of the many resources available online to help you plan for your skate. Don’t be afraid to reach out via social media to skaters and people from the area you’re planning to skate.
Next you need the gear appropriate to your skate. I’ve found that my love for camping has tied perfectly into ultraskating. Obviously ultraskating involves a high amount of physical exertion, so you want to keep that in mind when packing for an ultra. I like to invoke the same rules that you would apply for ultralight backpacking. Carry only the essentials, get organized, make healthy decisions.
Start with the right pack. On a multiple day ultraskate your pack becomes your home. You carry it, it carries your gear, and in a way it carries you. For this particular skate I chose to use my Juice pack by Melio. Melio is a company creating Solar technology with an aim to reduce our impact on the planet while working towards sustainability. This pack is awesome, and has become a key tool in achieving my ultra’s. First of all it’s built extremely well with all the space I needed to carry my gear. it’s made in the USA out of recycled materials. Most importantly though is Juice’s built in solar system. With a small replaceable solar panel built into the pack I can keep my phone, lights, battery block and camera charged. It reduces a lot of anxiety about keep my equipment going when trying to capture the story of an ultraskate.
If your curious about this pack go to www.meliodesign.com to learn more about it.
Next is choosing the gear to put into your pack. Again it’s important to focus on the essentials. On this ultraskate I carried
• my Juice pack by Melio
• Ultralight one man tube tent
• Sleeping bag
• Ultralight cooking set
• Journal & pen
• Camera & camera gear ( 2 gopros & insta360)
• 2 shirts, sweater, windbreaker, athletic leggings, running shorts, 7 pairs of socks. (Rollerblade makes the best skating socks)
• Nalgene water bottle
• A few spare bolts and one RB skate tool.
Obviously the one thing you need most to do an ultraskate is a pair of skates. In this documentary you’ll see I’m skating the Rollerblade® Twister edge with 125mm hydrogen wheels. My skates are a stock twister setup with rollerblade frames and liners. I find the Twister comes with a very comfortable liner and I enjoy having a cuffed skate for the stability needed to carry your pack weight.
I can’t speak enough good about Rollerblade®’s Hydrogen wheel. I started the skate from SF to LA with a brand new pair of Hydrogen 125’s, with the weight of me and my pack (220lbs) these wheels made it through 500+ miles of rough roads and pavement with plenty of urethane left. I feel confident in my wheels and don’t worry about having to carry spares when I have the Hydrogen’s on my skates.
So after planning the route, collecting the gear, and getting your skates ready there is really only one thing left.
Foundation 4: Follow the law of nature, be good, do good, receive good.
Through this final foundation I build and execute my ultraskates. I call it the law of nature because it feels most natural to me. To be good is to be grateful. I find appreciation and understanding for the world around me. Each ultraskate I do is an opportunity for me to learn and grow as a person. As I experience new places, new people and new cultures my perspective changes. I feel lucky to be able to skate through so many beautiful places. Do good, an ultraskate is a journey towards reaching zen or “ultra” so every action I take on this journey has an impact on whether or not I reach that zen. I find that putting positive energy into my thoughts and actions is key to finding the mindset for an ultraskate. Be respectful of the road and all it’s intricacies. Follow the age old boy-scout rule of leaving a campsite better than you found it, and apply that to the road. Finally receive good. I have found that when I work hard, stay dedicated, practice gratitude, and do good with my energy the universe takes care of me.
On the last day of this ultraskate I woke up on top of a cliff overlooking Highway 1 and the big beautiful blue sight of the Pacific Ocean. I was just north of Malibu so today would be a 30-40 mile day, nothing compared to the 71 miles I’d skated the day prior. I was so excited and happy as I begin the daily ritual of breaking down camp. I rolled up my sleeping bag and broke down my tent. I took a few photos because I knew when I crossed my theoretical finish line into Los Angeles that I wouldn’t be thinking about taking photos.
After I finished breaking down camp and packing everything up I made my way over to the edge of the cliff. I looked to my right, north up the stretch of Highway 1 that went on into Infiniti. An Infiniti I’d just skated through. I looked to my left, south down Highway 1, it had the same vibe it has had all week. Every morning for these ten long days I stepped out onto the road and as I stared down the long road ahead of me it stared right back. It started as an ominous feeling, I was fearful of the unknown. By day 10 the feeling was no longer one of ominous unknown, instead it was welcoming, I was excited to discover what was ahead of me. The miles and moments had shaped me and strengthened my resolve.
Then I looked out over the road, out into the blue of the ocean.
Now maybe my body was just feeling crazy, after all I had just skated 450+ miles down this magnificent coastline. My body had been in a state of movement constantly for so many days. I’d climbed up and over a mountain, and subsequently gone down the other side. I’d skated over some the smoothest trails and roads, and equally some of the most grueling pavement the road has to offer. I’d skated through California farmland waving at the workers out in the fields, mooing at the giant fluffy cows as the starred at me like they’d never seen a skater before. The green of the Valleys were equally as stunning as the blue of the ocean. I had skated down miles of beaches and crashing waves, through forest and cities filled with bustling California life. So as I looked out over the ocean I could feel myself swaying with the waves. All the waves of ocean each crashing one after another in a peaceful sort of rhythm. It felt as though my physical being was being swayed by the actual force of the ocean. I was feeling ULTRA. All of my energy and all the energy of the world around me had just collided full force in an epic ultraskate adventure. I was so grateful to be there and to experience all of it.
As I made my way down the cliff side and onto the road I strapped up for the final leg. I was in total zen, total ULTRA. Those last miles felt as though time had been stretched out 10 times the distance of the road. I could feel the weight of every mile behind me, a mountain on my shoulders propelling me forward effortlessly. Those last few miles I was in a state of mind I had never reached before, I felt infinite.
I crossed into Los Angeles and filmed my final moments and thoughts as I completed this ultraskate. You will see a snippet of it in the documentary as I talk about the waves. The waves of gratitude. These are what carry me forward, the waves that create the movement in my life, as I skate in my home state of Iowa, as I prepare for my next ultraskate, as I live my life I am conscious of these waves and grateful to experience them.
I hope you find your waves.
- Caleb Austin Smith
I want to thank everyone that supported me in the creation of ULTRA
This is one of my greatest life accomplishments and I couldn’t have done it without the support of so many people.
Thank you to Bambi my partner for always supporting my visions and dreams.
Thank you to Bruce for being a mentor when I reached moments of unknown & for the capturing and editing of “ULTRA”
Thank you to Spencer Smith, JB, and Cole & Maddie for assisting in the documentary.
& thank you to everybody who sent words and waves of positive energy during this epic journey.