Pro skateboarder hiking 800-mile Arizona Trail to raise money for Phoenix nonprofit

AZ Family (April 12, 2021) by Nick King

Every year, a couple of hundred ambitious hikers tackle the entire length of the Arizona Trail, which traverses 800 miles through the state, from Mexico to Utah. This year, that includes a Valley professional athlete.

“I’m a little nervous, but honestly just excited as hell,” says Ryan Lay, in a video he posted to YouTube at the start of his thru-hike.

Arizona’s Family caught up with Lay in late March as he passed through the Superstition Mountains, about 300 miles under his belt. “We live in a very high-paced world, and it’s been really nice to kind of tune out and get back into the rhythm of the earth,” says Lay.

The professional skateboarder says the highlight up to this point was hiking in the snow over Mt. Lemmon. There was one thing he was struggling with, though. “Just the blisters have been pretty rough,” he says. “I don’t get a lot of blisters, usually, skateboarding.” Those blisters are serving a greater purpose. Lay is also the co-founder of Phoenix nonprofit ‘Skate After School,’ which teaches underserved elementary schoolers how to skateboard.

Last year, with no kids in school, they transitioned to refurbishing old boards, and giving them to kids for free. “But unfortunately that doesn’t keep the lights on,” says Lay. So he’s using his long-distance hike as a fundraiser for the nonprofit. It’s called “Heck of a Trek,” and it blew past the initial goal of $8,000. The total has now exceeded the extended goal of $12,000 as well, up to more than $14,000.

“I think a lot of people are really anxious for things to get back to normal,” says Lay. “So they’re bending over backwards to help their local small businesses who’ve been hurt really hard during COVID.”

This is Lay’s first thru-hike, and he’s doing it mostly solo. As is typical for this type of journey, he’ll send bags of dehydrated food ahead of him, to post offices at gateway communities. Lay’s covering anywhere from 20-30 miles a day, and is expecting to finish sometime in mid to late April. The fundraiser for Skate After School will remain until then.

To watch the news cast, click here.