India's DIY skatepark
How did some of the biggest names in skateboarding end up in Bangalore, India building the first free skatepark in the country? The story behind the Holy Stoked Skatepark is an international account of skaters helping skaters.
It started back in 2010, when British skateboarder Nick Smith was building Bangalore's first skatepark -- Play Skatepark. He introduced two locals to skateboarding, letting them roll around while he worked. Abhishek Enbake and Shashank Somanna, fondly known by their nicknames "Shake" and "Soms," were immediately hooked which led them to found Holy Stoked, a local collective dedicated to promoting skateboarding in India.
"It is very new here (India). Most people have never seen an actual skateboard and get quite amazed when they see anyone skateboarding," Shake explained.
In 2012 German skaters Arne Hillerns and Robin Höning traveled throughout India and met only two skaters, Shake and Soms, in a country of more than 1 billion people. The two locals told the visitors about their dream of building a skatepark, and as fate would have it, Hillerns and Höning had built a do-it-yourself skatepark called "2er" in their hometown of Hannover, Germany.
"When we met the guys, it was clear that they wanted to get things in motion but were lacking experience and resources. We visited the property where they intended to build the skatepark. We told them about our experience building the 2er Skatepark and that we were interested in figuring out a way to get a build funded. When we visited the empty property and imagined obstacles, it became clear to us that we wanted to come back and help build the park," said Hillerns.
Hillerns had worked with Levis in the past and reached out to them to finance the Holy Stoked Skatepark project.
Once the design was finalized, 2er's team of builders, local skaters from Holy Stoked, European professional skateboarders Lennie Burmeister, Jan Kliewer and Rob Smith and U.S. pros Omar Salazar, Chet Childress, Al Partanen and Stefan Janoski arrived in India ready to work and spread the gospel of frontside grinds.
With few modern conveniences -- no earthmovers or tractors -- building in India is incredibly challenging. Everything had to be done by hand. Skaters from around the world, working together, moved 20 tons of sand, set 6,500 feet of steel and laid 3 tons of cement during the building of Holy Stoked.
"This build was anything but typical," said skater Al Partanen. "In just over two weeks, a crew of 25 dudes transformed an empty lot into a fully shred-able park with an over-vert cradle, hundreds of feet of granite coping and a volcano with a king palm in the center. We were all working together to make the best park possible with the time, space and resources available."
Shake and Soms, working side-by-side with some of the best skateboarders in the world, explained, "To us, everyone was like a pro skater, not just the actual pros. We hadn't seen skateboarding like this in our lives, and there were 35 people who were all rippers. We couldn't really differentiate anyone as a celebrity."
"During the build, many kids from the surrounding settlements of construction worker families became curious about what we were doing," he said. "And of course, they were instantly into skateboarding. Once the park was ready to shred, the kids were blown away by the fact that something like that was now in their neighborhood and that they could take part in it," said Hillerns.
Local kids and adults have already started taking skateboarding classes offered through Holy Stoked. "We have plans to construct skate spots in three other cities in India this year alone," said Shake. "We know the way forward for Indian skateboarding is to have more skateparks."