Every empire has a foundation, every hero an origin story. As the adage goes ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and neither was the steadily burgeoning world of Indian Skateboarding. Although to the untrained eye Indian sports seems to be merely a sea of cricket there is an unseen movement of alternative sports that is diligently fighting its way into the public eye. Whether it was the pioneering Longboarding Girls Crew, Slacklining at the Covelong Surf Festival and most recently the Jugaad Skating Competition, every little move is triggering a wider appreciation for sports that have been thoroughly under-appreciated or under-explored for years.
At the head of this march stands – or should we say rolls – the Indian skateboarding community, pioneers of the movement and still relentlessly growing. Though long and colourful, their history can probably be traced back to one defining moment when long-time British skater Nick Smith decided to take a chance on a country that was pretty much oblivious to the sport he had come to nurture. He created the first skating bowl in Goa and it has since become a mecca for skaters the world over.
As if one big ‘first’ wasn’t enough he went ahead and formed ‘Holystoked’, arguably India’s first and most widespread skating crew. Recognising the opportunity he had, Nick chose to stay in India and redouble his efforts to boost the popularity of skateboarding and skate culture. The Play Arena build was integral to that cause as it became the first ever public skatepark in the country. On a train to Tirapur, Nick chanced upon a sports consultant and they ended up in a lengthy discussion about the potential market for the skate scene in India. Long story short he became the founding father of the Play Arena Grind Park which was India’s first ever dedicated skate space. If you do want the long story long however, we’ve done an in-depth interview with the man himself.
Holystoked and the many other crews that followed in their footsteps have always made an effort to actively give back to the communities that they inhabit. Whether it was fundraising or creating a fun and safe event for underprivileged children many of their projects have been designed specifically to cater to people on a larger scale. This, of course, attracted the attention of skaters across the world who recognised their brilliant work and wanted to be a part of it. In this way, the spotlight slowly turned to India and the world realised that this supposed dark horse was not only a pool of untapped talent but also a new and exciting terrain to explore.
One common complaint from the community is the simple lack of dedicated skate space though. This seems an incomprehensible accusation as boarding is easily one of the cheapest and easiest sports to take up. Even the infrastructure needed is much less expensive to create than for other more sports. This leads us to the obvious question–where are all the skateparks? The simple truth is that India as a community is still in a totally different frame of mind. They would much rather fling fistfuls of cash towards a new cricket stadium while a fraction of that money could give our skaters a new halfpipe or even a whole park to build their skills.
It isn’t as if there aren’t enough people to warrant this kind of attention, there are hundreds if not thousands of longboarders as well as skateboarders just yearning for a place where they can hone their skills in safety. The long-term repercussions are also endless, perhaps a Indian skate team at the 2020 Olympics or the Indian flag being front and centre at every International skating competition, who knows how one small investment may pay off.
The skating community, though still small are incredibly welcoming. They hold regular meets and invite people of any and all capabilities to join in the fun. They have taken huge leaps in the last few years but still need a lot of support to reach the International standards that they’re aiming for. Today, the largest gathering of skaters has to be at the Jugaad Annual Skate Competition the first platform in the country where people can compete in the sport they love. In the run up to the 2016 edition let’s get a better idea of where the future’s headed by taking a look back and charting the major milestones the community has seen.
Sk8 Bowl Built – Goa
The birthplace of Indian skate. When Nick Smith built this small bowl he probably didn’t realise that it would become a hallmark of the community and a popular destination for skaters the world over.
Holystoked Crew Formed
The first ever crew, Holystoked is still considered to be the great granddaddy of all the many crews that have been formed since. They started as a small collective but are now a global phenomenon that builds and promotes skate parts across the globe. They give special attention to their work with children and believe that skateboarding can be a gateway for them to achieve any goal they want.
Play Arena Skatepark Built – Bangalore
Another venture by Nick Smith and Holystoked, Play Arena officially became India’s first public skatepark and was pivotal in opening the sport up to the public. Play Arena claims to have something for everyone, offering 30 different sports in the process. The skate park is just one of many other features, loaded with a 10 ft bowl, a 30 ft run, spines, ramps and funboxes.
ALIS Bowl, Shiva Palace – Goa
This bowl was a collaborative build by Indian and International skaters. The original bowl that Nick built was facing some opposition from the landlord so they decided to create a new space to skate in peace.
Meteoric Crew Formed – Mumbai
Skating was finally transitioning to the mainstream and moving into the big cities. Meteoric is all about chasing the thrill. Although best known as a boarding crew they also have a lot of BMX bikers riding with them.
Epic Build Skatepark – Bangalore
A project by Holystoked, Levis and 2er this build was on a much grander scale than ever before. It also claims the title of India’s first free public skatepark so any restrictions on the sport in Bangalore were officially eliminated. Unfortunately it’s no longer accessible but it made quite the name for itself during its run.
2er Bowl Built – Hampi
Another Holystoked and 2er build was the professional bowl in Hampi. This changed up the face of the sport again and with this new location came new crews and even more parks to accommodate them.
Freemotion Sk8 Park – New Delhi
Delhi’s erratic weather was probably a motivating factor behind the creation of India’s first Indoor Skatepark by Steve Weightman. This is built in a compact basement in Freedom Fighter’s Colony, which serves as a great case study for more space-starved cities like Mumbai to explore. It is expertly crafted with multiple ramps and pillars and Freemotion is also laden with new-age graffiti and sells boards and decals.
Go Skateboarding Day – New Delhi
On June 21st each year skaters across the world get together to celebrate the sport they love and in 2013, Holystoked made sure India was part of the celebration.
SISP Coconut Castle - Kovalam
Coconut Castle is in the front yard of SISP (a not for profit school), they also have a unique skating facility on the terrace. The park was only made possible by the people from the skate community in India, Sweden, Germany and England, now both areas together are spread over 4500 sq. ft, and it was entirely crowd funded. The people at SISP offer free skateboarding lessons for the school drop-outs in the area and it is also free to use the facility during school hours.
Freemotion Sk8 Crew Formed – New Delhi
With their new skatepark taking the country by storm the regulars at Freemotion decided to come together and form their own crew.
The Third Eye Tour – Bangalore, Hampi and Goa
The first ever project of its kind, this celebration of Indian Skate culture was a truly International event, with skaters coming from all over the world for the 8 day event. Curated by all the big names in the business as well as Homegrown this celebration of Indian concrete was an affair to remember.
Cirrus Skatepark Built – Goa
Cirrus likes to keep their location a secret to keep it exclusive, but we can tell you it is somewhere on the highway towards Chapora. It is quite a challenge looking for this underground art, music and skate haven, but the treasure at the end of this hunt is well worth it.
Pune SB Built – Pune
This park holds a special place in the history of Indian skateboarding because it is the first park to be built by the city’s official government body. The entire project is a brainchild of deputy mayor Aba Bagul and is estimated at Rs 62 lakhs. The small skateboard community of about 15-20 people use this space regularly to grow and better their game, the aim to is to grow the city’s alternative sports culture.
Holy DeTour – Bangalore
A 5 day skating tour organised by VANS the DeTour aimed to celebrate the DIY culture in India. A mix of professional and amateur skaters along with artists, photographers, musicians and filmmakers from across the country the tour provided a platform for everyone to interact, learn, skate and most importantly have fun.
Janwaar Castle – Madhya Pradesh
The Janwar skatepark is truly one of a kind. Located in the eastern buffer zone of the Panna National Tiger Reserve, it is India’s first rural skatepark and also the largest, sprawling over 450 sqm. They follow a ‘No Government School. No Skateboarding.’ rule to encourage the village kids to study, and it works. The park was completed in February, 2015 with the support of skate-aid e.V (Munster, Germany), Freemotion (Delhi) and 12 volunteers from 7 countries.
Cave Skatepark Built – Bangalore
The Cave opened in September 2015 and is a collaborative effort between Holystoked and Adidas Originals. The skatepark has been done up by local graffiti artists and is tucked away in North Bangalore close to Jakkur Airfield.
Sk8 Hyderabad Formed – Hyderabad
Another crew joined the Indian skate family and Hyderabad was finally put on the map.
Girls Skate India Tour – Kerala, Bangalore, Goa
A girls only skate tour, this initiative was open to anyone who wanted to be part of the 11 day skating extravaganza that ended in the matchless destination, Janwaar Castle.
Khar Social Skatepark – Mumbai
The guys at Impresario tied up with Red Bull and Nick Smith to build a community skate park like no other. This is Mumbai’s first skate park and is in the middle of an uber watering hole. We did a pretty in-depth feature and photo narrative on it here.
Active8 Sports Launched – Pune
The first dedicated online skate store. Active8 aims to bring the best brands in the business to India and help further the interest in action sports.
Jugaad – New Delhi
One of the most exciting developments, 2015 saw the launch of India’s first skate competition. Extreme sports gurus Taatvik along with Gautham Kamath and Don Bach created this amazing new venture. It was organised to promote the subculture but has become so much more. It’s a meeting ground for Indian and International skaters where for the first time they can test out their skills in a comfortable yet competitive environment.
Elevate SkateBoarding – Goa
Although Goa was the lauchpad for the sport their love for skateboarding never paled and every year new crews are bursting onto the scene.
NRI Bowl – Navi Mumbai
Another government-funded project in collaboration with skate company BRGTN the NRI bowl gave the much needed space to Navi Mumbai residents to practice safely.
India participates in Chunleon Games – South Korea
It was a proud moment for all the people who had been working so hard when for the first time, we saw India take the stage at an International Skate event. The efforts to build and expand the sport were clearly paying off.
Janwaar Castle SB Challenge – Madhya Pradesh
Another first for India, this two day camp is aimed at children between the ages of 6 and 16 to learn about and celebrate skateboarding.
India Skate and Surf Festival – Orissa
This weekend event was designed to be a 3 day celebration of adventure, art and music. Skaters from across the country came down for a spot of beachside shredding.
Nyjah Huston India Visit – Madhya Pradesh
The five-time Street League Skateboarding and six-time X-Games champion visited Janwaar Castle in November and caused quite the stir. He dazzled the crowd with his skills and showed the kids in the audience what a bit of hard work could help them achieve.
Jugaad Annual Skating Competition
Jugaad is back for its second edition and they’re giving it everything they’ve got! On the 9th, 10th and 11th of this they will be taking over the Play Arena in Bangalore so if you want to catch the ultimate skaters in the country going head to head get yourself down to Bangalore this weekend and join the boarding revolution.