What’s a skater?
Some time ago, in a country far far away, I had a short conversation with a 13-year-old skater. One of our friends was attacked by skinheads, he said. Why, I ask. Why do skinheads hate skaters? Because we’re cool, he replies, with all the assurance of activated youth.
Ok, so we’ve had some idea of skate culture from Avril Lavigne’s horrible nursery rhyming and the harmless-friendly skater dude from Clueless (Alicia Silverstone being fabulous), so many years ago. We can’t set too much store by these representations, but let’s say we got the impression that skaters loved baggy clothes and occupied streets and public spaces in interesting, playful ways.
Where are they hanging?
Walking past Vivekananda Station Metro, off Old Madras Road, I saw skaters again. They were setting up ramps, zipping up and down, and seemed to be accompanied by a beat-boxer. On the sidelines, traffic roared and normal life progressed along repetitive lines. I do my India-interested-but-not-enough gawking thing, but inside, I’m dying of curiosity.
My questions are of course referential. Are they cool? Are they subversive? Do they occupy streets and public spaces in interesting playful ways? Do I like them? This is the kind of thing that makes you hunt people down and call them up. So here’s what I found out.
Are they cool?
They (the ones I like to think of as Bangalore’s highway skaters) call themselves HolyStoked. They’re as subversive as you can be in a crowded city that considers walking on footpaths to be an act of defiance. Their favored hunting grounds are spaces beneath Metro stations, abandoned spaces, garages, parking lots.
Who do they hang with?
So, they’ve got a beat-boxer on board. They tie up with graffiti artists. They’ve tied up with Cycle Day and Open Streets. They’ve got a bus called the Holy Detour. It’s been decorated. If you didn’t manage your road-trip-rock-band dream, try joining a skate collective.
What do they believe in?
DIY, skating as breaking across class and caste and age barriers, occupying public spaces, connecting with other things/people that happen on the street.
What are they doing about it?
They’ve worked on fundraisers. They build skate parks. They sell skateboards. They sell parts. They help with repairs. They set up a free open skate park in a fisherman’s hall in Mahabalipuram and left ten skateboards behind.
What’s their gripe?
Why do they make it so hard for the public to use public spaces? What’s with all these timings and rules in parks? Why can’t we open up Freedom Park to set up a skate rink? Parks with rules like no pets, no running, no playing? Are they parks or prisons?
I might add here that I feel the same without being a skater. Where do kids actually get to play then? In apartment corridors?
Skater identity: Poornabodh, co-founder, HolyStoked
There are no winners and losers in skating. You just improve yourself. Untouched by bureaucracy, skating is still open and free. We’re just empowering skaters to develop their own style.
Man, I’m too old for this shit
“I started skating at 26. Most people think you’ve got to be as a teenager, but we’ve got people starting at all ages. We have a whole family coming in now. Mum, Dad and two kids.”