Almost 200 bottles of water, dozens of Band-Aids and several ibuprofen pills later, a group of four men skated Saturday afternoon into Medford on longboards ready to complete a 363-mile trek from Portland to Ashland.
"I feel like my left foot is broken," said Chris Lewis, 25, of Ashland. During their Medford pit-stop, the men chugged bottles of water while rubbing their bare feet and observing their blisters.
Lewis was one of four men who completed the ride Saturday as part of LongBoardOR's four-day trek on Highway 99 from Portland to Ashland to raise money for cancer research. One member, Trevor Downing, 24, of Ashland, injured his knee in Roseburg and was unable to finish.
Founded by 25-year-old Ryan Blake in 2009, LongBoardOR raised $555 that year for the Cancer Research Institute, a New York City nonprofit that funds research to manipulate the immune system to fight all types of cancer. So far, the group has raised about $500 this year to donate to the organization.
Blake said all five men have a friend or family member who has had cancer. Blake's cousin died of cancer at age 4 in 1974. Last December, his uncle died from prostate cancer.
"We're just trying to raise awareness that cancer affects everybody," he said.
Lewis's 28-year-old cousin died last year of a heart attack he said was caused from radiation treatment she received for lymphoma — a type of cancer that starts in the white blood cells in the immune system. His boss, who lives in Bend, was recently diagnosed with lymphoma, as well.
The group updated its Facebook page during the trip with photos of themselves holding their longboards titled "Let's Fight Cancer" and "Cancer has no Chance."
Longboards are similar to skateboards, but as the name suggests, the boards are longer, ranging from 3 to 6 feet long. On a flat surface, Blake said, the men skated at about 10 mph, but going downhill, they can reach 30 mph.
Most of the men, who met while studying at Oregon State University, have been skating since middle school or high school. Lewis said the group spent two months training for the 363-mile ride at a golf course in Bend, working on pacing and skating up and down hills.
Tyler Dominy, 28, who drove a large, white van decorated with LongBoardOR posters with the group, said the men skated at least 60 miles every day since Wednesday.
The van carried food, water, first-aid supplies, spare boards and wheels donated by Sour Punch and Original Skate in Bend. They made four stops, in Corvallis, Eugene and Roseburg, before finishing in the Rogue Valley.
Blake said passing cars frequently honked at the group, while others stopped to ask what they were doing.
"People think it's really cool," he said.
Blake hopes to make the ride an annual event. Next year, the five men plan to skate from Portland to San Diego and will donate the funds to a specific family dealing with cancer.
"Skaters get a lot of bad rap for not doing a lot for anyone other than themselves," Lewis said. "We want to show that we're affected by horrible things like cancer, and we want to do something about it."
Reach University of Oregon reporting intern Josephine Woolington at 541-776-4368 or email@example.com.