Even as Go Skateboarding Day approaches, the sport is finding fans across the country—from Mumbai to a
quiet town in Kerala.
It’s 5 pm on a Saturday at the Swami Vivekananda Metro Station in Bengaluru and there’s a crowd outside. But the only wheels they will be riding are that of their skateboards. The event—organised by HolyStoked, one of India’s notable skateboarding collectives—is where the city’s skateboarding enthusiasts converge weekly to talk shop and show off their skills. Cut to Mumbai and the scene is no different. Led by Russell Lopez, Khar Social, which houses a skateboarding ramp, is abuzz with activity from noon to dusk. “We have over 2,000 serious skateboarders in the country now,” says Shashank Somanna, one of the HolyStoked founders.
The sport was first introduced in India in 2003 by Nick Smith, of Mumbai-based Advaita Collective, but it took off after he built the Play Arena in Bengaluru in 2011. Though nascent, Smith feels skateboarding is growing quickly. “I think it’s because there are no rules. You compete against yourself,” he explains. Cities like Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad have a good skateboarding culture, but it’s picking up in smaller towns, too—thanks to visitors from countries like Germany and Sweden joining hands with local skateboarders to set up parks and ramps in towns like Hampi and Pondicherry. “Other sports like surfing have been around for much longer. But at the rate skateboarding is growing, it will soon overtake a few, if not all,” says Atita Verghese, of Girl Skate India, adding that they have doctors and lawyers in their fold. In fact, their weekly meets attract people between four and 30, with the oldest visitor being a 70-year-old man. Skateboarding has also brought with it an alternative culture, with a laid back yet rebellious vibe. “In Mumbai, I’m trying to promote a lifestyle that’s fitness oriented,” says Smith, who is also building India’s largest skatepark in Nerul. With Go Skateboarding Day just around the corner (June 21), read on to find out how you can sign up.
In Hyderabad, which is yet to get a skatepark, a huge parking lot in Lakdikapul’s railway station doubles as one. “We have wooden ramps that we store at a nearby mosque and bring out on weekends,” says Tribhuvan Kokulla, who was instrumental in popularising the sport in the city. “I actually picked it up when I was studying to be a doctor in China,” he says. With about 30 serious skateboarders meeting weekly, Kokulla is working towards starting his own collective. Right now, he teams up with other skateboarders to conduct workshops at colleges and corporate officers. Quiksilver has also been quite active in conducting meets and workshops, he reveals. Next on Kokulla’s agenda is to find a plot of land to build a skate park.
Get involved: The group meets up on Sundays, at 4 pm, at the Lakdikapul railway station parking lot. Follow the Skateboarding in Hyderabad Facebook page for updates.
Gear up: Decathlon, Uppal, stocks skateboards from HolyStoked. Rs 8,000 upwards. Details: 8886017235
Go international: “My pick would be the SMP Skatepark in the Fudan Wangxi Botanical Garden in Shanghai. It is arguably the largest skatepark in the world,” says Kokulla.
It was back in 2008 that Bengaluru-based Somanna and Abhishek ‘Shakenbake’ (it says so on his passport, he states), of HolyStoked, first had the idea to set up a platform to popularise the sport. But it would take six years to materialise. “Since then, it’s been growing leaps and bounds across the country,” says Abhishek, adding, “I even know a skateboarder in Ladakh. While the rest of us complain about our gear, he complains about not having enough air to skateboard. At the top of HolyStoked’s agenda—apart from building free skateparks and ramps, and spreading the love for the sport by conducting workshops—is getting schools to include it in their curriculum. “I think that will really help popularise skateboarding,” he says. Meanwhile, in collaboration with visiting skateboarders from Germany, Australia, England, Thailand and France, HolyStoked has been instrumental in building skateparks and ramps in places like Kovalam and Vishakapatnam.
Get involved: There are two skate parks in Bengaluru—The Cave (Hegde Nagar) and Play Arena (Sarjapur Road). You can also head to Swami Vivekananda Metro station on Saturdays, at 4 pm. Holystoked conducts weekday and weekend classes. Details: holystoked.com
Gear up: HolyStoked has a funky collection of skateboards, apparel and other essentials. Rs 500 upwards.
Go international: “I think Burnside (skatepark), in Portland, USA, is one of the best in the world,” says Abhishek. Details: skateoregon.com
When the Facebook page, Skateboarding in Mumbai (SiM), was born in 2005, hardly anyone was interested, says founder Russell Lopez. “Now I get enquiries every day about gear and tips on how to get started. In Mumbai alone, there are about 200 serious skateboarders, most of whom come to our weekly meets,” he shares. After skateboarding on roads and parks meant for rollerblading, Lopez and his crew finally got a place last year, at the skatepark in Khar Social. “Nick Smith built it and now he is planning another. At over 6,000 sq ft, it’s going to be the biggest in India,” he tells us. Lopez and friends recently started an NGO, Skateboarders United Association, to help promote the sport. While they are currently busy gearing up for the Go Skateboarding Day, their biggest goal is to see an Indian at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan, where skateboarding has been recommended for inclusion.
Get involved: Skateboarding in Mumbai has meets on Saturdays-Sundays at Khar Social. Details: facebook.com/skateboardinginmumbai
Gear up: Smith’s BRGTN shop has skateboarding essentials—from boards to protective gear. Rs 600 upwards. Details: facebook.com/BRGTNapparel
Go international: XDubai Skatepark at Kite Beach gets the most votes.
While the skateboarding scene here may not be as big as it is elsewhere, it is quite promising, says Deepak Shukla, founder of the Skateboarding in Chennai Facebook page. “I’ve always been interested in the sport, so when I moved to the city two years ago, to study, I made the page to find other enthusiasts,” he says. After the first meet, with three others, an increasing number of people have been joining them every week. However, with many of the core members moving out now, the numbers are starting to dwindle. With a little over 800 likes at the moment, Shukla is hoping new members join the ranks soon.
Get involved: Shukla hosts bi-weekly meet ups at Marina Beach. With its long stretch of marble sidewalk, it’s perfect for skateboarding, he explains. Details: facebook.com/skateboadinginchennai
Quiksilver also hosts regular meets. Follow their Facebook page for updates. Details: facebook.com/quiksilver.chennai
Go international: “Museum d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. It’s not a skate park, but an internationally-renowned spot for skating,” says Shukla. Details: barcelonaskatepark.com.
In competitions, skaters are not judged just on how well they execute their tricks; judges also look at their style and attitude. “So fashion and skateboarding definitely go hand in hand. The vibe is chic yet casual—think baseball caps, funky tees paired with roomy shorts or trousers,” Verghese says. While brands like DC, Vans and Quiksilver address the sartorial aspect, for the heavy duty gear, Smith recommends Flip, Plan B, Element and Anti Hero.
Holiday on wheels
Pondicherry: Auroville boasts a metal ramp and a skatepark. Hampi, Karnataka: Built by 2er (a German skating outfit) with local help, the 2er Bowl is located at Sima Guest House. Kovalam, Kerala: The Coconut Castle skatepark at SISP (Sebastian Indian Social Projects), an NGO-run school, was built by HolyStoked and friends from Germany and England. It is used as bait to get children of the local fishermen to go to school. Others include Janwar, Madhya Pradesh and Shiva Palace, Goa.
Know the jargon
Ollie: The oldest trick, said to have originated in 1977, happens when the skateboarder jumps and the board sticks to his or her feet.
Indy Grab: Holding on to the board with your hand or feet while in the air.
Rock and Roll: This move sees the skater riding up a ramp and, at the top, rocking the front of the board over the edge. The skater then
pivots and rolls back down the ramp.
Boneless: This involves grabbing the middle of the board, and placing one foot on the ground to pop the board up. Land back on the ground with both your feet on the board.
Watch and learn
The 2016 Skateboarding Edit: This video sees street skateboarders sliding down railings, over staircases and the sides of benches and sidewalks.
Nyjah Huston Skateboarding 2016: For Huston, everything that comes his way is a potential surface to use — from walls to benches to stairs.
Richie Jackson’s Death Skateboards: While most people avoid stairs, barricades, largish boulders and
like, by jumping over them, Jackson makes them part of the action.
By Rashmi Rajagopal Lobo