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Skateboarder crosses Australia

By Rosie Tomkins for CNN

Dirk Gion
Dirk Gion took 17 days to cross Australia on a kite-powered skateboard.

(CNN) -- A German man has become the first person to cross Australia on a skateboard.

Propelled by nothing but kites, self-proclaimed "Earthflyer" Dirk Gion took 17 days to cover the 1,850 miles (2,976km) of the continent.

"I couldn't believe no one had done it yet," said Gion, who described his trip earlier this month as "a highly emotional experience."

The Stuart Highway across the Australian Outback paved the way for what was dubbed "the Down Under Tour."

Gion's travels took him from Adelaide on the southern coast of the country through deserts and prairie all the way to Darwin, the most northern town of the continent.

His equipment comprised a pair of kites, one measuring two square meters and the other 10, and a special 1.3 meter-long skateboard featuring air tires and brakes.

Gion carried spare parts, water and food in a backpack, slept on the roadside and renewed provisions at gas stations en route.

A television crew caught Gion's entire trip on camera against a breathtaking backdrop of desert, salt lakes and Australia's famous red rocks.

Despite traveling during the Australian spring, the best time of year for winds in the Outback, Gion experienced inconsistent conditions and wind speeds.

"The speed of wind would vary so suddenly and with such violent gusts that at times I would lose control or have to travel by scooter instead," he said.

The unreliable winds also proved to be dangerous at times.

"I had a few injuries... nothing serious but let's just say at times I came off the road when I didn't intend to!"

Unperturbed, Gion is already planning his next venture: an attempt to go "around the world in 80 days" starting in April 2005, alternating between his skateboard and a specially-designed wind-powered boat, although he says shifting winds make it impossible to predict how long that journey would actually take.

Having traveled alone across Australia, Gion also admits he would find crossing the oceans technically difficult and would like to take a companion with him for physical and psychological support.

"People like that are unfortunately not easy to find," he said.

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