Image Courtesy: Gautham Kamath

Image Courtesy: Gautham Kamath

With a population of more than 1.2 billion, we’re bound to have people with varied interests, trying to make a non-mainstream activity big in their little nook. Surely enough, this has happened with skateboarding too. Bengaluru has seen a bustling rise in the number of kids fascinated with the western sport, making it their own on their streets. The city now has a full fledged skate scene and the obsession is spreading to other cities as well.

Now, with skateboarding being one of the three new sports added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the opportunities look endless. However, the frontrunner of the skate scene, Gautham Kamath, tells us we still have a long way to go. But we are getting there.

This July, Gautham and his teammate Pravin Habib headed to Chuncheon, South Korea to be the first to ever represent India in an international skate competition at the World Leisure Sports festival. This in itself was a difficult accomplishment. They spent months looking for funding, and were eventually supported by the Asian Extreme Sports Federation. Had it taken longer, they wouldn’t have been able to compete as they just about reached in time for the qualification round. In fact, there could have been 5 more Indian athletes at the competition, had they received enough help to get passports for themselves.

Image credit: Extreme Sports Association of India (XSAI)

Image credit: Extreme Sports Association of India (XSAI)

But Pravin and Gautham made us proud. As expected, they skated with their idols and were exposed to the global skate culture. The international skaters were apparently pleasantly surprised to see Indians at the competition and the boys made a name for themselves and the sport in the country.

Although some skateparks have been around for more than a decade (the first being Sk8Goa, established in 2003), Gautham says that skateboarding has only been properly practiced in India for the past 5 years, so the country is still new to the sport and is just about getting the hang of the ride. Gautham has been skating for four years. He trains kids to help them get onto their boards, and also works as a consultant for DC Skateboards. Although this was his first time competing in an event. He has been organising and judging skate competitions for years, seeing the spirits spread like wildfire. This year, the second edition of the national skate party, the Vans Holy DeTour, touched Bengaluru, Goa, and Hampi. The skate bus carried with it plenty of portable ramps that were used to the ground by nearly 80 skating enthusiasts from all walks of life, whether professional or amateur. The participating numbers doubled in just one year. We’ve also had a long list of internationally well known skateboarders like Tony Hawk fly down to India and ride with our skaters.

But let’s be honest. In terms of enthusiasm and potential talent, we’re definitely not lagging. The problem lies, however, in how this potential is being harnessed and channelled. Nearly every Indian school-goer wants to be one the cool kids they see in western TV shows doing ollies on their skateboards. But how many of these kids actually get on a board and have the chance to master the techniques that can legitimise their participation in the sport, on a competitive level? We’re desperately trying to have smooth rides on a rugged road. We need more skateparks, and we need good ones. With an increase in accessibility, more people would have the chance to discover a passion that may not have been paid attention to. Kids can start skating more, and skating better. Better quality and quantity would not only hone young professionals at international standards, but also keep them safe from the streets.

Gautham in his element (Photographer: Gautham Nalasingu)

Gautham in his element (Photographer: Gautham Nalasingu)

According to Gautham, skateboarding doesn’t have to be something that requires strict coaching. All that is required is passion and a place to practice the passion. “The sport needs to be more commercialised. It takes a lot of courage to live out of passion, with little return. I think the recognition of the sport in the Olympics would do wonders. More people would want to start skating after being influenced by the athletes. It can become a business that will thrive. So even though we may not be prepared to compete in 2020, we should be representing the country by 2014.”

So just keep on pushin’.

Shimul Bijoor
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