The burgeoning Indian skate scene struggles to attain mainstream acceptance. We spoke to Indian skateboarding’s poster boy Gautham Kamath (a.k.a Happy) about the future of the sport that is battling for a smooth run on our jagged streets.
What’s new in the skate scene?
The skate scene is progressing very rapidly. There are more and more skaters getting to skate every day. The scene is getting bigger without any information as nobody knows how big it is (in numbers). But there are many kids getting involved in skate boarding and it is getting there.
What is the benchmark of success for the sport?
Like as a mainstream sport where people start skating regularly and use it as a mode of transport as well. Now that would be big.
What is holding back the scene from exploding? What are the deterrents or limitations?
Mainly it is infrastructure. The scene is really new and there are many skaters who are skating now and that is the only thing that is missing. As soon as there is a place automatically there are skaters. Infrastructure is the main thing what I would be looking forward for in next three years or so because there are very few spots and very few people have access to it. Then, rest will happen automatically. See, once you have the infrastructure, skaters are born, then there are more people involved, then there’s more business translating. That is where even competitions come into place.
But there is no formative competition for skaters to compete.
As of now, there is only one which is Jugaad. But, in November or October (this year) there might be a national level competition happening which will be organised by Extreme Sports Association of India.
I remember Tony Hawk associated with the Reliance Schools when he came down to India. He had workshops and skate sessions for the kids. In some ways, do you think grass root level programs with kids would help propel the scene?
See firstly, they did it in Reliance Schools because Reliance themselves brought Tony Hawk to India.
There you go, yes…
According to me, as a skater, there might have been hundreds of different ways to make it bigger than what they did because at that point of time, it was not at all necessary. There were handful of skaters in India and it didn’t really make a difference. In financial terms, I believe, they spent so much money while they could have done a lot of other things for the betterment of the scene. So, the total money which could have sustained the industry for three to four years was spent on a day’s event.
Instead of that, they could have probably built a skate park where today it would have been at least 10,000 skaters that would have been in their very own skate park. It would have been a business for them and I think that is the right way of doing it. Yeah, of course, they have money but they can do much more.
How do brands perceive skateboarding right now? Are they open to the sport?
Right now, they are opening up a little bit. See, when it comes to brands, they see the entire thing in a different way. Their whole perspective of doing this is very different. They want return whereas this community is still too small for that. They are looking at the commercial aspect. But yeah, they are opening up. I am associated with DC and they support me. We are having skate meets in five different cities, we are creating more awareness about skateboarding. Once it becomes a company also, things change, you know in a different way, things get prioritized on different pages altogether. So, once it becomes a company, it’s different, but when it’s a collective it’s different; the whole point is what you can get out of it.
So, when it comes to brands, it’s totally different. But yeah, it’s good that they are opening up and I’m sure they are clever enough to request whenever it’s needed. They would be doing their own research from their side no matter what they do.
Crews have always been a primal part of skateboarding? What is your view on the crews in India?
Yeah, there are a lot of crews in India, it is all related to skate culture because skateboarding itself is a different lifestyle altogether. Not everyone understands skateboarding. So only a person who has been skating will understand another skater. So, you know that is where the bond builds and irrespective of your caste or religion, you have a skateboard, I have a skateboard and we identify and we skate together. That’s how neighbourhoods come together and they have their own groups that becomes like a crew altogether when they start skating together. That is how they start exploring things. There are genuine crews, namesake crews, of course, all that is there but there is always a crew where they hang out and exchange ideas and do things together.
Will crews help push the culture?
Yeah, it will definitely help. It is just simple as that. The energy of one person and the energy of ten people makes lot of difference. When you’re in a group, you’re with your crew, you skate with them every day, you have a different level of energy.
Any skaters or crews that you like in India?
Oh yeah, Mohd. Khadir from Bangalore and Sagar from Mumbai, Tony from Delhi. There are a lot of skaters in Delhi and Bangalore. I like all of them – they are good, hardcore skaters.
The streets have inspired a lot of skaters. What have you learnt from the streets and skateboarding?
See, you choose to be a skateboarder. Nobody tells you go and skate, even if somebody sees you skating they will say, “why are you doing this”. They wouldn’t know because nothing is easy in skateboarding. Like, even if you see someone doing it and wanna try it yourself, there are very less chances that you’ll get it right in the first go. You’ll fall probably a 100 hundred times but the thing is you’ll have that strength. That is where skateboarding coincides with your regular daily life. If you want to do something, you will do it and won’t give up on it. It’s that commitment to what you want to do where you fall a hundred times but you still try for it. You don’t know whether you’re going to do it or not, whether you’re hurt or you’ll walk tomorrow or not, but you still go and try. That’s very unique to skating and that is what connects the skater to his or her daily regular life as well. Where you don’t give up.
That gets me to an interesting question. Which are the new tricks you are trying to land?
I have so many tricks that I want to learn and have not been able to land yet!
So what’s the latest one you’re trying to nail?
Latest one is the Frontside Alley-Oop Feeble Cry. It’s a nice trick but I’ve been busy with a lot of other things. Like handling other things, other trainers so I’ve been missing out on my regular skateboarding.
So, what is your typical day?
The thing is, it’s pretty free. You are free of anything and everything. There is nothing that has to be done then and there, at that particular time. As a skater, you’re thinking about the next trick most of the time. You are thinking about your sport.