Vail Valley women launched nonprofit by skateboarding 300 miles |

Vail Valley women launched nonprofit by skateboarding 300 miles

Duchess Ride founders - Claire Altenau, Carley Finke and Jaime Schulte and Carissa Bisnar – skateboarded 300 miles from Santa Barbara, California’s Skaters Point to the U.S./Mexico border for their inaugural Duchess Ride.
Bo Bridges|Special to the Daily |

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AVON — Forget glass slippers. These four Duchesses are shattering glass ceilings.

The Duchess Ride founders — Claire Altenau, Carley Finke, Jaime Schulte and Carissa Bisnar — skateboarded 300 miles from Santa Barbara, California’s Skaters Point to the U.S.-Mexico border for their inaugural Duchess Ride.

Duchess Ride is a new nonprofit board-sports program designed to encourage girls to try everything — even that.

“We wanted to do something big and inspire other girls to do big things,” Altenau said.

“Duchess Ride is designed to inspire tenacity in young women through participating and progression in board sports,” Altenau said.

And you simply cannot ride a skateboard in glass slippers.

Duchess Ride by the numbers

The Duchess Ride box score reads like this:

• 300 miles

• 16 days

• One broken wrist

• Countless crumbling roads

• Endless hills through Southern California

The biggest day was 26 miles. Most days they covered 20 miles, which was usually big enough.

Every night they iced their feet, calves and knees. Every day they got back on the boards and pushed toward a better world.

SoCal’s Southern charm

Like the rest of the country, people were nicer the farther south they rolled.

“At first we heard a lot of ‘Get out of the road!’” Altenau said.

Malibu was the least friendly, but as they rolled south people were more relaxed and supportive.

A newspaper in Orange County did a story about them, and people began to recognize them, which was fun.

“People would say, ‘Hey, you’re those skateboard girls!’” Altenau said. “They’d stop us and want to take a picture and talk. Believe me, we were always happy to stop.”

A wife was driving her husband to chemotherapy and she stopped — over his objections that he didn’t want to bother the Duchesses. If you guessed that the wife got her way and they stopped, you guessed right.

Fun, even uphill

Some parts were more fun than others. Downhill was fun. Uphill, not so much.

They had a support truck that hauled lunch as well as a photographer and videographer. Mostly, though, they had no help. When they got to San Diego, Altenau called a bunch of friends in a scooter crew. They ride Vespas.

The four Duchesses tied makeshift water ski ropes behind a Vespa and were pulled the last couple miles, which works out well because the last couple miles were uphill.

So, was it worth it?

“There were days …” Altenau said laughing. “We had no idea what we were in for. You see the next hill in the distance and you think, ‘Aren’t we supposed to be going downhill?’”

“But we all did it. We all made it.”

SoCal soujourn

Their reasoning for selecting Southern California is unassailable: There are lots of people there, lots of skateboard and snowboard manufacturers, and two of them are from Southern California.

“It gave us good exposure, but it was exhausting. While it was mostly fun, it was completely exhausting,” Altenau said.

The next thing is to run their program. They’re talking to Copper Mountain’s Powers That Be. Altenau is the Duchess Ride program director and teaches snowboarding at Beaver Creek.

The winter program is designed to mentoring and to inspire young women to be more tenacious through board sports.

They took this skate trip to test their own tenacity and to start the conversation about what an inspiring woman does in today’s world, Altenau said.

“To us, an inspiring woman does more. It’s not about what she looks like, it’s about the things that she does, her actions and the impacts those actions have on our world,” Altenau said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935.

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