A Brief Timeline: The Evolution Of Skateboarding In India

A Brief Timeline: The Evolution Of Skateboarding In India

Skateboarding has seen a steady rise in the country these past few years. Read on to know more about the skateboarding community & culture right from its nascent stages to where it is now.

India is a diverse country but as far as sport is concerned, Cricket takes the lion's share by far. Cricket is the Holy Grail for sports fans in the country with football coming in at a close second. However, alternate sports have crafted their own niches in specific communities depending on a variety of factors

Skateboarding has been a popular sport in the West with one of the most famous and widely recognised skateboarder's, Tony Hawk, hailing from California. In India however, it is an entirely different story with the sport only recently seeing a slow but steady rise in the past decade.

The Beginning:

Alternative sports have had to fight for their emergence in the Indian market and the build-up to establishing skateboarding as a full-fledged sport in India can be traced back to 2006 with British skater Nick Smith deciding to take a chance by building the first fully-estabilished skate park in Goa called “Sk8 Bowl” - and the response it received was nothing like he had imagined.

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The humble attempt to introduce locals to the sport ended up making the skate park the most popular destination amongst skate enthusiasts in India. Realising the potential India had for skateboarding, Smith then took a step further and formed “Holystoked”.

Holystoked is the country's very first skating crew and collective dedicated to skateboarding. Founded in 2010, the collective started its journey with the humble intentions of primarily providing skateboarding equipment to people and setting up the first free skate park in Bangalore.

"Well our first skatepark in Bangalore (Holystoked Skatepark, 2013-2014) had to be closed down because of issues with the neighbour. But once we had a taste of having our own Skatepark, it was a no brainer to go build another one. You can never have your first spot just like that, though - you gotta earn it by fighting the forces that be. So with those learning experiences, we made the cave Skatepark."

Abhishek, Founding Member - Holystoked and 100ramps

In 2011, world-renowned skate and surf brand “Quiksilver” entered the Indian market. With that, they also took up the responsibility of opening up dialogue and spreading awareness for Skateboarding.

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In December of 2011, to celebrate their entry into the Indian market, Quiksilver brought down the legendary, Tony Hawk to Mumbai where he went on to perform spectacular tricks and defy the laws of gravity on a 50m high vert pipe (check out the insane video here)!

A show of this scale was enough to put the sport on the forefront and the brand saw a rise in sales of skateboards along with skateboard accessories. Hardcore enthusiasts even purchased different parts and made custom DIY boards! To further promote the sport, the brand launched several skate meets which took place in shopping mall premises where the stores were located to spread the word.

The Collectives:

Apart from Holystoked, the Delhi Skateboarding Academy aka Delhi SB is another skateboarding collective that has been pushing the boundaries in an attempt for the sport to gain wider recognition. Founded by Surjeet Kumar, Delhi SB boasts more than 250+ regular members. Kumar, a travel professional often visited Europe and Australia for work where he was also introduced to skateboarding as a great recreational activity.

Other collectives like Bombay SB too are dedicated organisations that are are constantly promoting skate culture and bringing together the skateboarding community, and have constructed and opened skateparks in Nerul and Carter Road in Mumbai. Additionally, the collective also hosts skateboarding workshops and events, and has series such as 'Know Your Skaters' on its Instagram page that help spread the word about both budding and established skaters in the community. The collective very recently also collaborated with Homework Studio to repaint and design the skatepark in an arcade, and X-game inspired design sensibility.

The Infrastructure:

The problem with increasing recognition for a sport like Skateboarding is infrastructure. At the moment there are very few skate parks in India and there is a need for several more to be constructed. Several individuals and companies have jumped into the fray to try building basic infrastructure to facilitate the sport's growth.

"Well more Skateparks in more cities and towns would definitely help, ofcourse. But maybe we can also have existing parks that allow people to skate there. All skaters really need is a small spot with smooth enough ground to call their own. If I had my way I wish the government would make smoother and better sidewalks - I mean, hire me! I’ll make beautiful sidewalks which will be great to skate as well. Giving people the option to open skate shops which will benefit the industry as long as skaters support brands consciously, all of this would immensely improve skateboarding."

Abhishek, Founding Member - Holystoked and 100ramps

Harsha Mandava, founder of Mojoskate, North India's first concrete skatepark in Murthal, has also been instrumental in developing additional infrastructure in and around NCR.

"India doesn’t have too many skateboard parks or pavements dedicated just for skating. So, we need at least one proper skate park in the capital city of India. Currently, we’re blessed to have a place to skate at the DLF Mall, Saket where we all get together and get to skate for free thanks to Harsha Mandava (Founder of Mojoskate)."

Jittu Hajong, Skateboarder

A company called 100ramps has been at the pinnacle of this cause and have built skate parks across the country - with the most recent Desert Dolphin Skatepark built in the middle of the desert in Khempur, Rajasthan for the recently released movie Skater Girl. Cities like Guwahati, Bhopal, Janwaar and Calicut, now too, have dedicated skateparks.

"In 2017, Darius and I started 100ramps as a company to build professional Skateparks and we made the leap from DIY to pro concrete Skatepark construction. Now we build commercial projects as well as free parks."

Abhishek, Founding Member - Holystoked and 100ramps

"Recently there was an international standard skatepark (Desert Dolphin) constructed in Rajasthan for a movie shoot. However, after the movie completion the producers left the park to be used by skateboarders - that was a great initiative. I think more samaritans should volunteer for such activities and be more mindful of helping the community out long term."

Surjeet Kumar, Founder - Delhi SB

The Drip:

Skateboarding has also had a major influence in the fashion and style of the community representing the subculture, with Skaters being very particular about the way they dress and the kind of brands they usually wear. Stemming from the roots of early grunge that meets with a more casual, breezy surfer vibe, Skate fashion has also been thoroughly influenced by streetwear and is one extension of the fashion sub-genre in itself.

"For me personally, I don’t go out for just a brand name but rather the quality and durability along with how affordable it truly is. Some of my favourites are the DC T-Funks, Adidas Originals Matchcourt and of course, Nike Jordan1 lows."

Jittu Hajong, Skateboarder

While mainstream streetwear focuses more on the details of the drip, skate fashion is far more relaxed and focuses on comfort with an edgy aesthetic in the form of plaid and flannel shirts, graphic tee's, ripped denim, cut offs etc. Streetwear and Skate culture have always played off of one another and are pretty much two sides of the same coin - Supreme, one of the biggest streetwear brands in the world currently first started out as a skateboard shop.

"My favourite shoes “brand” would probably be Lakai, but my favourite skate shoes are from Adidas. And when it comes to boards it’s Holystoked boards, ofcourse! (available at www.holystoked.com)"

Abhishek, Founding Member - Holystoked and 100ramps

It is also fairly common for skateboard athletes collaborate and sign deals with Skate/Streetwear clothing and footwear giants. Stefan Janoski with Nike, Nyjah Huston with DC and Paul Rodriguez with the Nike SB Dunk are only some examples of such collaborations.

"The most popular and easily available skateboard brand in India is Oxelo and it's available at Decathlon. It is a popular choice for beginners at the moment, however once you graduate to serious Skateboarding, skaters like to custom build their boards with brands like Santacruz, Powell Piralta, Independent, Reds, Grizzly, unfortunately none of which have outlets in India at the moment. Some Indian skate groups like ISC and Piso are also trying to compete in this space but they have a long way to go."

Surjeet Kumar, Founder - Delhi SB

Some of the most popular brands in skating have been DC, Spitfire, Vans, Dickies, Quiksilver, SUPRA, Thrasher, Converse etc. Most of these brands have yet to see a mainstream entry into the Indian market (without the involvement of reselling outlets) and in the country, Vans and DC lead the way for aspiring skaters. As far as sneakers are concerned, Nike along with Vans has a big market in the Indian sub-continent, followed by FILA and Converse.

"For shoes my top 6 favourites ar DC, Vans, Adidas, Supra, Puma, and Nike. But for a beginner, the brand of shoes doesn’t matter as long as they have a flat base. When it comes to sense of style, I would say you can wear anything that you feel comfortable and confident in. My favourite skateboard brands are Santa Cruz and Zero."

Shivam Balhara, Skateboarder

The Initiatives:

With many local skateboarders participating in competitions all over the world as well, the sport further gets a taste of the recognition and respect it deserves. Shivam Balhara, a 12 year old skateboarder from New Delhi talks about his experience taking part in the World Skateboarding Championship.

"The Roller Skating Federation of India (RSFI) conducts nationwide skateboarding trials and selects 2 to 3 skateboarders. I participated and cleared these trials. I travelled to a lot of places - Barcelona, Dubai, Nanjing, and got the chance to compete alongside some of my favourite skateboarders like Andy Anderson, Pedro Barros, and many more. Each event is a meeting place for skateboarders, exchange ideas, learn new tricks, and elevate yourself to the next level, it was an unforgettable experience."

Shivam Balhara, Skateboarder

The future for this sport seems bright and with the constant emergence of several new collectives and skate crews on the rise in cities and towns all over the country, it seems the subculture is finally growing into a bigger entity.

"Well how big anything is, is always relative. So if we compare the scene in India to any country of a similar size, then it is still not a large community. But if we compare it between now and ten years back its a huge difference. In 2011on Go Skate Day, eight of us from the holystoked crew, made a trip to delhi and pretty much the only ones there. In 2019, however, there were crews in more than 20 cities and towns having their own Go Skateboarding Day celebrations with large crowds of skaters - for me, that's a large community. There are skaters now in India, who I won’t even know of in towns where you wouldn’t expect skaters to be! Real skateboarding, in my decidedly old school opinion, will always be underground."

Abhishek, Founding Member - Holystoked and 100ramps

Several other inclusive initiatives like Beat Street by The Times of India, Rahgiriday at Connought Place and Gurgaon and Go Skateboarding Day every year on June 21st, the country is well on its way to opening up a space for the beloved activity.

"Skateboarding is permeating Indian media. It is in ads, movies, music videos - everything that is mainstream. However, that is the side which is only interested in the fashion of it, not the passion of it. The skate scene is mostly gathered around places with Skateparks or the larger cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad where there are skate crews who push the local scene. It’s all about that in the end - there has to be a local crew which is unified and likes to go skate often, because even small towns like Varanasi and Calicut can have a skate scene going if there is a local motivated crew of skaters."

Abhishek, Founding Member - Holystoked and 100ramps

Delhi SB

"For me skateboarding is not just a sport. It will never be just a sport. For me it is a form of art which shows an individuals personality. It’s freedom of self expression."

Jittu Hajong, Skateboarder

From influences in fashion, mainstream cinema, music, skate collectives and even designated skate days, it is clear that that the ever-growing skateboarding community has become an established subculture here in India as well and is here to stay.

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