With more than 3000 kilometres behind him, Blair Benefield is on the final leg of his journey skateboarding from Stewart Island to Cape Reinga in his Ride Against Depression.

He made it to Hamilton on Monday night and was off again on Wednesday morning in his bid to break the silence around mental illness.

"It's amazing to get here, I've covered more than 3000 kilometres zig-zag up the country," the 33-year-old said, while regaining his breath.

"What a sense of accomplishment to get up here to Hamilton and have connected with so many amazing beautiful kiwis along the way."


The Ride Against Depression (RAD) campaigner started his journey in February. Benefield has raised over $11,000 for charity on his Givealittle page.

A few years ago, the former New Zealand Army soldier experienced his darkest days of depression.

He tried therapy and antidepressants but when his thoughts turned to suicide he resolved to fight for his life.

"I knew if I didn't do something big that I wouldn't survive," he said.

"I just couldn't cope anymore with the day-to-day life. I wasn't fulfilled in the job I was doing anymore, I didn't feel like I was achieving financially. My relationship, I didn't think I was doing well finding a partner, all these things...

"When you're depressed everything compounds and it got to a point, I had to break away from life for a while and reconnect and find myself again."

In January, Benefield opened up on Facebook. His message was that vulnerability is okay and that sharing your emotions was a strength.

"The amount of love and support that flooded in from there was just huge," he said.


Benefield had not planned his route and he built his skateboard himself. And he maintains its unique braking system himself.

He says there is a need for maintenance everywhere - for maintaining awareness, maintaining discussion and maintaining the normalisation of mental illness.

Blair Benefield with the skateboard he made himself. Photo / Horiana Henderson
Blair Benefield with the skateboard he made himself. Photo / Horiana Henderson

"We all have a story, we all have a purpose, we all have knowledge to share and something to give. Anybody is capable of achieving their own greatness," he said.

Throughout the seven-month trip Benefield has often slept on the ground, skipped meals and fought against head winds but the experience, he said, has made him physically stronger and more confident.

Now, a toot and a wave from a passing vehicle bolsters him on.

"You discover so many hidden talents you didn't know you had, and hidden strength you didn't know you had until you just take that leap of faith and do it," he said.

He had only expected to be away from home a few months but celebrated his 33rd birthday on the road in Kaikoura and has had 99 per cent positive experiences with traffic on the road.

His body was starting to feel the burn and he was onto his second set of all-terrain wheels but he said "they'll go the distance".

The RAD rider's aim was to regain his confidence and to help others realise their own strength and now he says, "life is amazing."

"This is only the beginning," he said.

On the final road north, Benefield was already thinking about how he can continue to work with everyone he has met along his journey to "normalise" the discussion around mental wellbeing.

And he has one message for those that are going through a rough patch.

"They just need to not struggle in silence. Everyone can find their own purpose and passion and just realise how beautiful life is.

"We all have a deeper purpose, life is not all about work and money, life is about love and connection, and this wonderful land we have here in New Zealand we're the guardians of."

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