The demand for a skateboard park in Kochi grows louder

sports


A community of skate boarders numbering 200 and growing, pitch for a public space

A community of skate boarders numbering 200 and growing, pitch for a public space

Every day at 7:30 in the morning, 49-year-old German Tibor Kiss makes his way to an abandoned hall in Mattancherry. He is joined there, by a group of young boys and together they skateboard. The cemented flooring, “formerly a badminton court,” in the outdoors of the house is suitable for the sport. For the next two hours, the group indulges in skateboard tricks like shove-it, ollie and kickflip to name a few.

Like them, there are groups of young boys and a few girls who have taken to this fairly new sport in the city. “We are now a 200 plus strong community,” says Tibor who is leading the pitch the city keepers to build a skateboard park.

An architect, Tibor has experience in designing trains, trams and Metro rail equipment. Skateboarding is his childhood passion. When he decided to relocate to Fort Kochi from Berlin, “after touring 70 plus countries in three decades of professional life,“ he resumed his hobby. “I was surprised to find a young boy skateboarding on the road in Fort Kochi,” says Tibor who connected with him to find that they are a group of six doing that. He soon realized that the city has a growing but fragmented skateboarding community and desperately needs a dedicated public space.

Now, an Olympic sport

“I am a foreigner and new to the country but I will try and get the city a skateboard park,” says Tibor, reminding that the Kovalam Skate Club was founded 25 years ago by a Belgian Paul Van Gelder.

In 2020, skateboarding was one of four sports added to the Olympic program for its “jolt of youthful rebellion”.; it is also provisionally approved for the 2024 Summer Olympic games.

Tibor recalls that in the 80s, when he was a young boy into skateboarding, Germany had no infrastructure to support the sport. “I find it so here now and wish to create awareness about the need for a space for the sport,” he says.

Tibor also speaks about how the game is popular with teenagers and youngsters in an age group that often gets lured into anti-social habits and addictions. Skateboarding offers them meaningful recreation and an outlet for their youthful energy, he says.

In 2016, 25-year-old Sreekumar founded Fly Squad Skateboarding which today has 25 active members who meet daily or weekly for training sessions at Kaloor Stadium in Palarivattom. The leading sports store, Decathalonin Kalamassery, is another of their popular haunts.

“It has been such a struggle,” says Sreekumar, ”We used to be shooed away wherever we tried the sport. Now there is some awareness,” he adds.

In February 2022, Tibor and his group created a social media campaign about the need for a dedicated park for the game. It resulted in a huge gathering of Skateboarders, BMXers, Hip Hop dancers and other street performers at Jos Junction, on MG Road.

“Skateboarding is an individual sport and an inclusive one too. It rallies the community and In India, it can have a very positive impact on social traits of teenagers,” believes Tibor. He also speaks about the Netflix film Skater Girl (2021) which has created awareness of the sport.

Sreekumar recalls how a friend from Bengaluru introduced him to the sport, “I first saw a skateboard through him,” he says. In those early days, he used to skate on the roadside all by himself until the sports chain Decathlon opened and began conducting classes.

Local competitions

Tibor Kiss with skaters of Fort Kochi at a training session in Mattancherry

Tibor Kiss with skaters of Fort Kochi at a training session in Mattancherry
| Photo Credit: Joseph Rahul.

“I love the sport, it gives me great happiness,” says Sreekumar. He laments the absence of a skatepark as the community cannot practise for any competitions. “A park is mandatory for holding competitions,” he says, ruing that he has not participated in any competition despite six years of experience. Last year he conducted a one-day workshop for the children of the Government High school in Ponurunni. He now teaches the sport at Decathlon.

Rizwan K A, 20, set up Memo Skateboarding in Palluruthy two years ago. Today the group has 25 members, of which five are girls. They often practice around the Parade Maidan in Fort Kochi. Rizwan learned the sport from watching YouTube videos. “Though people ask us to move away from public spaces, many are curious and like to try the skateboard,” he says. “That is the reason our numbers have grown”.

An entry-level Indian made skateboard costs ₹ 5,000 and customized ones can be double that amount.

A couple of weeks ago Flying Squad held a tricks competition at Decathlon space where almost 200 skaters participated.

Meanwhile the community has met with the DTPC and GCDA officials and presented their case for a dedicated space for the sport.

Tibor has a few good designs too. Ahmedabad, he says boasts of a waterfront skateboard park which has gone a long way in promoting the game and keeping teenagers occupied meaningfully.

“A couple of 100 people are waiting for a skateboard park in the city,” he says with hope.



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