Meet The Humans Of Skateboarding In India
Mention the words Nick Smith to any alternative soul in India and chances are, you’re bound to receive a knowing smile and acknowledgement of his contribution to underground culture in the country, in particular, skateboarding. As our resident alternative sports guru, join Nick in his valiant efforts to chronicle the unreal stories of the extremely real people who comprise the nascent skateboarding community in India.
Introducing Nikhil Shelatkar, one of the growing number of young Mumbaikars that have been completely seduced by the skateboarding way of life. He’s one of my favourite skaters and won the 1st prize at a recent, all-India competition. Aside from his obvious skills on the board, he’s a really chill human being and always seems to have a smile on his face to boot.
1) Nick: When did you first see/notice skateboarding?
Nikhil: I was a cartoon buff growing up, and the first time I saw skateboarding was on the telly, on a cartoon show called Zake and Luther on Disney. That inspired me to make my own board, which I made out of a roller skate by cutting it into halves and putting a ply on top – just like people used to make boards, back in the 90’s.
2) Nick: How long before you got to actually try it after that?
Nikhil: I was b-boying with my friend, Rishi and his gang, and we used to hang out at BKC City Park. It was fun to ride the board that I’d made there – and that’s how I got to meet the Meteoric crew and understand skateboarding. And of course, after that there was no looking back.
3) Nick: What was your first board?
Nikhil: Apart from the hand-made one, I bought a Kamachi board from a local shop whose wheels unfortunately tanked, as I wasn’t able to push the board.
4) Nick: So we met for the first time 4 years back when you came to the Third Eye Tour – what impact did it have on your life?
Nikhil: It was my first tour and I was just a regular skater with a know-how of basic tricks. That tour really helped me, since I was able to ride at the play arena park, followed by the Goa & Hampi Bowl(s). For me, it was the beginning of a new era of skateboarding.
Not only did I get the chance to meet Maxim Habanec (pro skater extraordinaire via Red Bull), but also got to learn a few tips/tricks from the man himself!
5) Nick: So where are you now with skateboarding and what would you like to see happen over the next year or so?
Nikhil: I am a 100% dedicated to skateboarding now and it’s become a way of life for me, every single day. I’d definitely want more kids to learn skateboarding and hopefully in a few year’s time, there’ll be tonnes of skate-parks in a vibrant city like Mumbai. It’s what’s really needed for the sport to grow in India.
6) Nick: BKC City Park (Mumbai) is home to a growing scene, is there any rivalry between the crew members when one of you gets boards, shoes or a paid shoot?
Nikhil: No, there is no rivalry as such. We are all friends here, especially since we spend a lot of time together. We are happy for each other and we keep trying to help each other out as much as possible.
7) Nick: Do you think the newbies progress faster in their skateboarding because they have you guys to learn from, whereas you guys had to rely on videos and the occasional visitor?
Nikhil: Yes the new kids definitely benefit from having us around to help them. The challenge a lot of the younger kids have, is the crazy amount of academics they have to deal with. I hope one day, India will take note of some of the more progressive education systems (from around the world) so that they don’t suffocate students.
The kids that start young certainly have the capability to outdo us at any point ‘coz if they fall – they heal & their bones recover faster. Also when we help them with tricks, they acquire practical knowledge which is way better than any video tutorial.
8) Nick: Is there anything else you’d like to add about what life as a skateboarder means to you?
Nikhil: What I like about skateboarding is the fact that it gives you freedom to do/develop your own tricks and style unlike other sports where there is a team and you have to follow what the captain says. What motivates me to skateboard is that I enjoy it and when I am skating, I don’t care about the time, what I’m doing or what people are thinking about me. I just skate.
Media Courtesy: The Blip