Picture this--Sunday morning, rushing downhill, gaining speed but still in perfect balance. The thrill experienced by longboarders is second to none and the sport is only just catching up in India after years of making a mark on the international skate scene. Longboard Crew India (LCI) was founded in 2012 by Nikhil Bhosale, a long-time skater who was intrigued by a video he saw of longboarders and decided to give it a try. These boards are typically longer than skateboards, hence the ‘long’ part of it, better balanced and more suited to long cruising rides and it was these qualities had Nikhil hooked, prompting him to set up and bring together India’s first and only longboard crew. Within six months they had 12 regular members who met in Navi Mumbai each week to skate and as their popularity continued to grow they were even invited to attend and perform at the India Surf Festival 2014 in Odisha.
As LCI flourished, there was also a growing number of female boarders on the scene, and among the first members were Kunjika Singh and Basica Salam. While she was a member of LCI, Kunjika came across the phenomenon that is the Longboard Girls Crew (LGC) and was determined for India to be a part of it. LGC is an internationally registered community founded by Valeria Kechichian and Jacky Madenfrost for girls in over 70 countries across the world to share their passion for longboarding. The mission? To encourage and empower women in action sports in any way they can and to combat the gender bias that has long prevailed in the sporting world.
The organisation selects the most active members in participating countries to act as ambassadors, so when Kunjika realised that LGC didn’t have an Indian chapter she contacted Valeria and told her about the rapidly growing popularity of longboarding in India. She and Basica were appointed as the India ambassadors and LGC India took its first professional steps. Homegrown spoke to these two game-changers to get some insight into the relatively unknown world of longboarding in India and their journey so far.
HG: How did you first get into longboarding?
Kunjika: “I used to skateboard as a kid. I once saw a friend wearing roller skates and going downhill! It left me thinking whether one can go down on slopes on a skateboard. I knew there was a good skateboarding scene in Mumbai so I got in touch with the ‘Skateboarding in Mumbai’ group. Through their page, I stumbled upon Longboard Crew India and I was pleasantly surprised! I talked to Nikhil got a board made and joined the crew soon after.”
Basica: “I happen to visit the long boarders during one of their Sunday sessions and decided to get on a board and since then, there’s been no looking back.”
HG: How much time do you usually devote to longboarding?
Kunjika: “There isn’t really a time we allot to boarding. It’s a sport we love and we do it anywhere, whenever we feel like. But we have weekend sessions on Sundays at Parsik hill where we get together and ride.”
Basica: “There’s no time frame as such but most of my Sunday mornings are a favourite for jamming with the crew. We also meet up in the evenings and skate around the city whenever possible.”
HG: Did you face any problems in this male-dominated environment?
Kunjika: “People around here, the skateboard guys and the longboard ones alike, are very supportive of the all-girls team. They constantly encourage girls to take up the board, support them, teach them and organise special Girls Events too. Every one of them would love to see more girls coming in.”
Basica: “Everyone has been very supportive and appreciative. Our crew members from longboard crew India helped and encouraged us in all the steps that we took as an all-girl crew. I was the only girl in the crew for quite some time and most of those times I was the only girl when we travelled around to longboarding spots and I’ve never felt like an outsider or threatened. I have always been accepted the way I am. In longboarding there are no males and females, just humans.”
HG: Are you in contact with International crews of the same type?
Kunjika: “All LGC crews in touch and up to date with news from around the world. Personally I am in touch with LGC ambassadors from France, Sweden, USA, Japan and Spain.”
Basica: “Longboard Girls Crew India is an Indian chapter of a huge International longboard girls family spread over many countries. So we are in constant touch with the crews in different countries.”
HG: What would be your advice to girls trying to make it in a male-centric sport?
Kunjika: “If we talk about male centric sports in general I have noticed that girls are often discriminated and seen as the weaker sex. Say in football, I have seen in local football matches the extreme gender ratio. I would say, be the change you want to see in the world. A pretty clichéd saying but if you don’t fight for your place or your rights then no one else will. More will join hands when they see you and get inspired. You are a girl. Just like a boy is a boy. Last time I checked the dictionary; nowhere did it describe the term girl as an inferior or a hindrance. Let’s break the stereotypes!”
Basica: “All you need is the guts and enthusiasm. Be persistent. Do it with passion and love and people will soon talk about how to longboard/skate like a girl.”
HG: What is your favourite aspect of the longboarding?
Kunjika: “The speed, the thrill the adrenaline rush the wind in the face that’s all what I love about the sport. The sense of freedom that you feel.”
Basica: “The best part of longboarding is the balance. The thrill and the tranquillity that you experience all at once. My fondest memory is of the LCI monsoon jams where we longboard in the rains and then drive down to a nearby waterfall and everyone dive into the water from a cliff (not very steep, but still scary!)“
Recently, LGC held a workshop and movie premiere at the Hive Community Festival where they screened the film ‘OPEN,’ which documents the work of 14 outstanding women in the Longboarding community. Later this year, LGC will be holding more workshops and would be happy to welcome more people into their world. They’ve also collaborated with the city skateboarders on a crowd-funded project to build India’s first vertical ramp. To share their creation, they plan to host an event called ‘Skate Stock’ where skaters, musicians and artists of all sorts will meet to collaborate and share ideas. These meets will happen on full moon nights almost every month, last till dawn and everyone is welcome. So if you want to join these phenomenal skaters or just want to meet some really cool people, this is the place to be!