Skateboarding across Canada

Chris Koch is seen here with two new friends from the Whiteside area, Barb Malcolm (centre) and Rhona MacDonald. Koch passed through the area on July 24, as he hitchhiked across Canada. Koch, from Alberta, has no arms or legs, but relied on his skateboard and the kindness of strangers to cross the country. For more on his journey, see the Sports section.

WHITESIDE: It’s not uncommon for folks to pass through the area while traveling coast-to-coast.

Often, people do it by car.

Occasionally, people do it on a bicycle. Some have even done it on foot.

But early last week, Albertan Chris Koch passed through the area under circumstances that, safe bet, have never been done before and very possibly will never be attempted again.

“I travel a lot with my work as a motivational speaker, and when I’m not doing that, I’m always seeking out an adventure of some sort,” Koch told The Reporter on Tuesday of last week, sitting in the kitchen of Rhona MacDonald’s home in Whiteside.

“I was looking to do something and I looked at the map, looked at my calendar, and realized I didn’t have to be anywhere until July 27. So on July 6, I decided I’d try to hitchhike across Canada. On July 7, I was off.”

That would be an adventure for anyone, but Koch’s situation is a unique one. He was born with no arms or legs.

“When I first took off, I actually didn’t tell anybody,” he said. “I didn’t want anyone trying to convince me not to do it or offer me rides. I just wanted to straight hitchhike.”

Koch had his trusty skateboard with him, along with a knapsack and a Toronto Blue Jays cap. Other than that, he was on his own. He made the trip with no support team whatsoever.

It didn’t take him long to hitch his first ride.

“I was boarding along the highway for seven minutes on the east side of Calgary, and I was offered a ride to Medicine Hat,” he said.

After that first day, Koch started updating people via Facebook of his adventure. Due to that, he began getting messages from folks saying they were willing to drive him along various legs of his trip. It was due to Facebook that he was approached by Barb Malcolm, who took him from the Causeway to North Sydney as well as a quick trip down Route 19 to see a bit of Inverness County.

Malcolm is the sister of MacDonald, whose kitchen played host to Koch while being interviewed by The Reporter.

“People have been amazing, and that’s one of the things I wanted to highlight on this trip, the kindness of strangers. Every aspect of this trip has far exceeded my expectations in every shape, way or form. And I had pretty high expectations to begin with.”

By the time this story hits print, Koch will have completed his trip. However, he can still be found on-line at www.ifican.ca. The phrase “if I can” is one that resounds through his work as a motivational speaker.

“If a guy with no arms or legs can snowboard, surf, work on a farm or hitchhike across Canada — or just live a happy, independent life — anybody is capable of anything,” he said.

“We’re all capable of doing some amazing things. We just have to get out of our own way and let ourselves go for it. I’m far more afraid of regret than failure.”

It’s possible we’ll be seeing Koch again, as his motivational speaking takes him many places across Canada. Last May, he spoke in Antigonish and there’s been interest expressed in having him visit StFX.

Anyone interested in contacting him for a speaking engagement can do so through his Web site. He can also be found on Facebook.