Story No. 4: India Tour 2019
We all landed in Mumbai Int’l Airport the night of March 21, tired after a full day’s worth of traveling and ready to explore the country over the next few weeks. Loaded with hundreds of pounds of gear to donate, the plan was to make three consecutive stops in very different corners of India - to the south, Kovalam, a fisherman’s village on the southern tip of India; in the center, Bangalore, an exploding tech city; and to the north, Udaipur, a beautiful desert town. All the while, we would meet with local organizations pioneering skateboarding in their communities, and lend a helping hand where we could.
We loaded our bags with over 20 boards, 18 pairs of trucks, 20 sets of wheels, 30 sets of bearings, 12 skate tools, and set out on our adventure. Over the course of the trip, we really got to connect with people whose stories were as varied as their age, the city they came from, and their connection to skateboarding. We were awed to see them still in the early stages of adopting a culture that we had known and been rooted in for decades.
Kovalam is about as far south as you can get in India before entering the Indian Ocean; a fisherman’s village tucked beneath an old lighthouse that overlooks three faraway coastal mosques. We would stay in Kerala state for the next 3 days, chugging coffee and chai in between skateboarding sessions, swimming, and visiting the local fare, as well as meeting with the faculty and children of the nearby Sebastian India Social Project(s). SISP is an organization borne out of a Surf Club that started on Kovalam beach years ago. Over time, it moved inland and became a full-fledged community center focused on improving accessibility to education in the area. S.I.S.P. and Kovalam Surfclub worked with the HolyStoked Collective (Bangalore, IND), 2er Crew (Hannover, GER) and Royal Atheneum (Bruges, BEL) to build the first skatepark in Kerala, and one of the first of its kind in India.
Most people around here are fishermen, own small businesses, or participate in local tourism, and their children often end up leaving school at an early age. SISP pushes them to continue their education, incentivizing them through extracurricular activities after class, access to health care, and an opportunity to begin working for the school upon reaching adolescence. Each time we visited, we returned as better friends, and were thrilled to teach the young ones how to set up their very first boards using the gear we had brought with us. Instagram handles were exchanged, an ice cream and fruit party was organized, and we parted ways much too soon.
After a short plane ride north we arrived in Bangalore, the center of India’s high-tech industry - and quickly realized we had entered a different world. Sprawling over countless square miles are jam-packed roads, towering buildings, and a thick, hovering smog that manifests the city’s crazy energy. Kerala cemented itself in our minds as a paradise, but we were nevertheless excited to skate through this metropolis of the East. We packed ourselves 6 to a room at the BackPacker Panda hostel, somewhere in the Indiranagar neighborhood, and set out in search of even more chai and skate spots.
Through rivers of people and cars, we made our way through the city to meet up with our mates Subha and Abhishek, who run Holy Stoked, an organization that’s helping to grow the skate scene in Bangalore. By offering a DIY skatepark called the Cave, space for skateboarding lessons, and a full-fledged skateshop, they’re fostering one of the first and only spaces in the city for the burgeoning skate scene to grow. In fact, Holy Stoked is one of the first skate collectives in India, and its legacy can now be found in countless other organizations and initiatives throughout the country, including the ones we visited in Kovalam and Udaipur.
We skated the Cave and then Play Arena, a private park where one member of our crew dislocated his shoulder only the day before his trip home. After a short walk to the ER, power outages, a shoulder re-location and X-Ray (total visit costing $40 USD!), he would be sent on his way back home alongside another crew member, while the rest of the group made its way north into Rajasthan.
Rajasthan is the largest state India, covering roughly 10% of the country. The city of Udaipur was erected over 500 years ago, and is set among a series of artificial lakes that served as the perfect backdrop to its lavish royal residences and our own adventures. In the small nearby farm-town of Kempur, director Manjari Makijany partnered with 100 Ramps Skateparks, Holy Stoked, Kovalam Skate Club, and many other Indian skate organizations to craft a story about the Indian skateboard scene in the new film, ‘Desert Dolphin’. This coming-of-age film aims to make a strong social impact in the common roles and interests of women in Indian culture, while using skateboarding as a figurative vehicle to do so. One of the largest skateparks in the country was built for the movie, attracting people from all over and uniting them in sharing their experience as skateboarders.
Similarly to Kovalam, we brought a ton of gear for us to donate to local children - a combination of donated gear collected through our respective networks, as well as our own commemorative line of Giving Room skateboards. The kids could not have been more excited to set up their very first boards, and were off-to-the-races each time a new complete came down the line. We headed back into the city later that night , getting a few last sessions in and ultimately concluding our trip with a visit to Sajjangarh Fort, the Monsoon Palace that overlooks this magical city.
India has one of the most unique growing skate scenes in the world, and the Giving Room crew left already planning their next trip back. There was nothing crazier than seeing the kids out there pushing themselves in some of the harshest conditions, accomplishing so much with what they have to work with. Completely moved and inspired by everything we saw, we wanted to share the experience with everyone as best we can. India is one of the most beautiful and compassionate countries in the world, and we would recommend a trip to anybody.
If you do have any interest, contact any of the following, and drop our names: