Originally from the island of Maui, Hawaii, Jin Salamack is the adventurer, artist, and entrepreneur who decided in September that he wanted to skateboard from the Mexican/American border to the very top of the state of California. Amongst San Diegans, Salamack was often better known by his Instagram handle, @sk8thestateca, and gained immense popularity and support as he prepared to embark on his long journey north. Although Jin was unable to make it all the way to the Oregon/California border because of complications, he was able to inspire thousands of adventurous souls with his go-getter attitude and his still epic journey from the Mexican border to the Golden Gate Bridge on a longboard.
When I first heard of Jin, I was intrigued by his passionate attitude and his intense drive to make his dreams come true. From the moment he thought of the idea to skate across California, Salamack had unwavering focus aimed precisely at making this dream come true, and weeks later several companies had sponsored his efforts to ensure he was well equipped for his skate across the state.
In the interview below, I question Jin Salamack about his journey north, the people he met along the way, his sponsors, his business, and the lessons he learned while skating the state (with pictures, too!). I've come to believe that we can all learn something from tried and tested adventurers like Jin. Dig in.
When did you first decide to skate the state, and how did the idea come about?
Three years back, I had embarked on a journey from San Diego to Palm Desert to surprise a girl I had met during my last weeks as a freshman at SDSU. In the midst of getting the girl of my dreams, I had skateboarded from Palm Desert to Palm Springs - a 13 mile trek (in a 115 degree heat wave).
Two years later, I drove through Palm Springs on my way to Indio, where my roommate and I were on our way to Coachella music festival. I was talking to my roommate about the skate through the desert, where I had gone to eat, the parks I slept at, the quaint coffee shops I visited, and then my roommate asked if I had known about the legendary skateboarder who had skated across America. At that moment I thought, “Has anyone skated up and down California?”
What were your feelings leading up to your departure?
Preparation was key. I had planned on doing the trip with three others and a safety car. Two weeks before my trip, everyone bailed. They told me, “it’s impossible, and we’ve made other plans this summer.” I was just about to give up, when a miracle happened. I was at Better Buzz Coffee in Mission Beach thinking about giving up, when I met Zach Luczynski, co-founder of William Painter Sunglasses, who told me his company would like to sponsor me for my Skate the State trip. He gave me hope and faith in the idea.
From then on, Zach helped me learn how to organize my time, and we reached out to adventure-based companies to gain support. Soon enough, I had Sector 9, Freeligious Clothing Co., and even AAA; who helped me plan out the route for my expedition. Feelings = grateful.
What supplies, gear, and board did you set off with for your skate across the state?
I had a Sector 9 downhill freeride 37in board with a nose and kicktail, mainly because I love to bomb hills as well as get groovy with freestyle street skating; A sweet green helmet from Sector 9, sliding gloves, 100 liter Osprey backpack, two nalgene water bottles, a three liter camelback, brand new Vans shoes, two pairs of boardshorts, three t-shirts, five pairs of socks, extra hardware, wheels, tools, loose granola, fresh fruit, Gatorade energy chews, and a GoPro3+.
How many days did it take you to skate from the U.S./Mexican border to the Golden Gate Bridge? And where did you sleep along the way?
It took me 27 days total - 21 days of skating 18 hours a day, 6 days of rest (2 throughout Mex border to SF, 4 days rest in SF before last stretch across the Golden Gate Bridge.)
The first night I slept in the bushes in front of a gated community sign (one of the best), and other nights I slept on the side of highways, in farmland pastures, on the beach, in the forest, under hidden trees with spiders, at the Henry Miller Public Library, and at a house with some people I met along the way (to show that you can live basically anywhere without having to spend money).
I have to ask: How tired did your push leg get?
After the first day, my push leg felt unstoppable, but it was in the mornings that it would give me a throbbing sensation, which made it hard to wake up at 5 am and continue my journey. Whether it was to beat someone catching me sleeping on their property or to beat the sunrise and catch the beauty while making good time, I was up early every morning. Two weeks into my skate I started to switch skate mongo, and soon enough I was riding goofy. I was then able to alternate pushing legs.
How has your perspective of California changed after touring the state on a longboard?
I thought that life in California without a car meant I was doomed to taking public transportation and/or skateboarding from point A to B. But it made me realize how incredibly strong our body and mind can be when you push yourself to your greatest excellence.
The journey made me appreciate life, breathing, the power of nature, the beauty you only taste in solitude, and the valuable time you spend with people.
What was your most memorable experience during your journey?
Having the chance to meet my childhood heroes, the life experience of living in solitude, and overcoming hardships and having the will to keep pushing. I started this journey to see where this idea could go, and it took me to places I’d never thought I’d come across & where my heart truly desired to be - the outdoors.
Who were your sponsors, and how did they aid you in your skate?
Sector 9 Skateboards - a longboard, hardware, hardgoods company, who helped me with equipment and social media attention. William Painter Sunglasses aided me with funds, a polarized bottle opener, wayfarer shades, and recognition. Freeligious Clothing Co. who supplied me with attire for the trip and believed in living the freelife, so the skate trip really embraced their motto. HDX mix - a hydroflask company who also gave me mentoring and support. Sole Handplanes - a bodysurfing handplane company, because I love the ocean and couldn’t live without surfing the coast. KD Custom Jewelry who made me a necklace out of a seed I found on my trek. Skateboarding Japan who helped me with media attention. Liquid Foundation Surf Shop who hooked me up with a GoPro & local support. And help from companies like Santa Cruz Boardroom, Liquid Force, Alliance Wake Magazine, Univ, Moondoggies Beach Club, AAA (routing most of my trip), Katin Surf Shop, and Panchos Surf Shop.
What sort of people did you meet on your trip up the California coast? What did they teach you?
Having the chance to meet Legendary Dogtown Z-boy skater Wentzle Ruml IV, WSL commentator & lead singer of band Kut U Up, Chris Cote; Forever Came Calling, my good friends who believed in me. Ryan Dalke who surprised me in Morro Bay with new shoes. Les Morales who skated with me from Santa Barbara three miles out. Jonathan H. Lee who took photographs of me and told me that I was going to change people’s lives… All of whom taught me great knowledge about personal experience and gave me great support for my true cause - to inspire.
Salamack with original Z-boy Wentzle Ruml IV
How did social media play a part in allowing people from all over the country to join you on your adventure?
Networking. Meeting people along the way and contacting the kind of people who inspired me.
What message did you hope to convey to adventurers around the world by setting off on such an epic journey?
Why was I going on this trip? Because I was raised on the island of Maui in the small town of Wailuku, where many of my friends on the island, such as Kai Lenny, Kody Kerbox, Ian Gentil, Joao Marco Maffini, Noah Yap, and Mike Stu, became professional surfers. I grew up inspired by them to pursue my dreams. All I want to do before I die is inspire someone, and to have someone pursue his or her ideas and to never think, ‘Is it possible?’”
What was the most valuable lesson you learned while skating from the U.S./Mexican border to the Golden Gate Bridge?
“Never forget that this is your journey, no one else’s” – Alistair Farland. Alistair Farland was a motorcycling vagabond on a trip from Alaska to South America. One month after I met Alistair on the road, a truck driver killed him before he was able to enter the South American Border. Alistair taught me my most honorable lesson, which helped me not give up when I was going through my lowest hour in the small town of Los Alamos. He got me to journey on from Santa Barbara County to San Mateo County. Alistair Farland is remembered as one of the most courageous Journey On ambassadors.
How did your skate the state adventure influence you to start your new venture, your clothing and accessory company, Journey On?
The saying Journey On started with a few of my best friends in Maui, Jeff Harris Jr. & Johnny Kristel. We’d go on crazy adventures throughout the islands, blazing our own trails, and making life-long friends along the way. Since 2008, the saying has been floating amongst our friends throughout Maui, but the skate trip was the first time those words truly resonated with me, allowing me to take a big leap into the greater vision.
Journey On implies: If you have an idea, pursue that idea, because you never know what could happen.
Whether it’s meeting your heroes, hearing an inspiring saying, seeing something unimaginable, breathing the most precious air, swimming in the bluest waters, cliff jumping crazy heights, etc. It can all happen for you.
As a student about to graduate from SDSU with a degree in Graphic Design, and as an illustrator, screen-printer, and overall vagabond, I said, “why not?” to the idea of starting my own adventure-based company. I have the tools and the knowledge to spread the saying “Journey On” with much aloha to the world. So myself and co-founder Cole VanMiddlesworth took that extra step to see where we could take Journey On.
Where do you hope to be, personally and entrepreneurially, in the next five years?
I want to finish my skate trip, starting at the Golden Gate Bridge and skating all the way to Oregon. I also want to SUP from the Mexican Border to Cabo (planning in the midst).
My dream job would be to travel, blog, big wave surf, and make designs and art on extended adventures. Hopefully in five years, too, I’ll be playing on stage at the Vans Warped Tour with my band, WANO, alongside acts like Forever Came Calling and Blink 182.
Whether it be working at a sustainable outdoors company doing design or field work, at Sector 9, commentating surf events, or working at Topshelf Records doing Graphic Design, I’m just looking for a career that will allow me to live happily and inspire.
I hope that people keep spreading the Journey On way of life throughout the world. It’d be great to come across an unknown passerby and hear them say “Journey On!”
What advice do you have for readers who want to set off on a journey like your skate across the state?
Never doubt your heart and take the step forward, because your heart knows you better than anyone else does. Journey On.
Salamack skating through Santa Barbara
Follow Jin Salamack on Instagram at @sk8thestateca and follow his company, Journey On, on Instagram at @journeyon