In the global village, the internet is helping young populations to pick their own sports and excel in them. Aimen Fayaz profiles Kashmir’s first skateboarder community that was propelled by social media
From learning hip-hop to reading Japanese anime Manga, Kashmir youth are exploring and adopting interesting things from different subcultures. Skateboarding, apparently an outlandish sport till recently is now being embraced by adventurous teenagers. They are picking the best of the game from Youtube.
Now, they are a thriving community, Skateboarders of Kashmir‘. Initiated by a group of boys from the Anantnag, the community is using Instagram to stay connected. They gather frequently, learn and practice new tricks, create content for their social media handles to showcase their flashy tricks, and get appreciation and support from their audience.
”The idea of skateboarding community developed naturally as skateboarders started congregating at places which we had named as skate spots,” said Udhay Hussain, 17, from Anantnag. “Over time these shared spaces became gathering points where skateboarders could connect, learn from each other, and push the boundaries of sport together.”
Hussain was introduced to the sport by one of his best friends. He found the game very interesting and was drawn to it as the sport is a unique blend of athleticism and creativity. Also, the sport matches the style of the new generation, who believe it is attractive and cool. “I have been fascinated by the freedom and creativity it offers, and I have been hooked ever since to the game,’ Hussain said.
After he uploaded his videos showing tricks and twists of the game, he was inundated by the responses. People often compare skateboarders with ramblers wandering aimlessly and throwing negative comments just to bring them down and stop their movement. Skateboarding is based on diverse dynamics which are yet to be understood by the majority of the people, the players assert.
”I received more of a mixed response on my videos,” Hussain said. “While some people appreciated my videos, others expressed hate or negativity but I believe this is a common experience for most content creators on social media platforms.”
A Dangerous Sport
Skating in any form is generally perceived as a dangerous activity for kids.
Parents generally fear letting their kids pursue skateboarding because of the dangers involved. They believe it is most likely going to break their bones or some vehicle can hit them unintentionally.
“When I first started skateboarding, I faced the challenge of learning to maintain balance and control on the board. This led to a few falls and minor injuries like scraped knees and bruises. As I progressed to attempt more advanced tricks, it brought additional challenges with a higher risk of injuries like sprained ankles or wrist sprains,” admitted Hussain. “ However, with continuous practice and the use of protective gear, I was able to minimise these risk factors.”
Now, for Hussain, skateboarding is more than a sport. It is more like an escape that helps them cope with the harsh realities of the place. ”Skateboarding offers me a sense of liberation and empowerment, even in a place marred by turmoil and internet blockades in the recent past,” Hussain said. It allows me to channel my energy into something positive and creative, transcending the limitations imposed by the unrest.”
Skateboarding enthusiasts are always on the lookout for the perfect location to hone their skills. The surface must be smooth and flat. Kashmir lacks a skate park. This pushes skateboarding enthusiasts to take refuge in deserted surroundings or barren lands.
”We usually prefer downhill skating so as to enjoy the ride for the longest time, but in Kashmir, we do not have well-maintained roads or proper surfaces to skate, so we generally skate on abandoned roads where there is no scene of interruption and we spend hours skating and learning new tricks,” Amaan Aijyaz, 17, who lives at KP Road in Anantnag, said.
”While skateboarding, we usually get odd looks from the people and they even tell us that we are wasting our time in this.”
However, Amaan said his family was always supportive.
The Internet has played a key role in unveiling skateboarding to the youth. The videos uploaded by different content creators showcase attractive and flashy tricks, which attract the youth.
”My first and most difficult trick to perform was Ollie, it is a basic but tough trick,” Amaan said. “I learned everything on my own through youtube tutorials because there was no one to guide me. I failed multiple times which got me injured and bruised but I did not give up until I learned that trick. Today, I do several other tricks and teach my friends as well.”
Mohammed bin Javed, 12, hails from Sopore. He is Kashmir’s youngest skateboarder and snowboarder, who participated in various national matches in Banglore and represented Jammu and Kashmir at various other sports events. He has secured third position in the national skateboarding championship.
”I have been involved in the sport for more than two years now. I have played nationals in Banglore twice and recently I was in Mohali for my next National Inter District Championship match,” Mohammad said. “It feels wonderful to know that I am evolving in the sport. When people see me doing different tricks, they appreciate me and many elder people even ask me to teach them. This respect and love from people make me enthusiastic and more confident about the sport.”
Mohammed named some of the world-famous skateboarders who played a magnificent role in igniting the spark of buying a skateboard in the little one’s heart.
”I took inspiration from many professional skateboarders. Yuto Horigome, Felipe Gustavo, and Paul Rodriguez are my favourites. I often get stunned after seeing them doing marvellous tricks,” Mohammad said. “I want to keep on challenging myself until the point of perfection. My goal is to learn new tricks and execute every trick perfectly. I wish that skateboarding gets a proper place in Kashmir’s sports culture and more people become educated about it.”
Muneeb, 23, recollects the memory of the time when he and some of his friends asked the sports administration for opening up some space for boys for skateboarding,
”We approached the administration for the construction of skate parks, but they showed no interest,” recollects Muneeb. “They only encourage youth towards sports like Cricket and Football because it makes them good money. They once shooed us away by saying Skateboarding is just a street sport and we are not interested in promoting it further in Kashmir.”
Practically, skateboarding is a male-dominated sport. But, as they say, why boys should have all the fun, there are girl skateboards as well.
Shazreen Aslam, 14, from Rainawari Srinagar, is crazily ardent about skateboarding. ” My mother used to tell me, Skateboarding is for boys only. A girl cannot be seen walking with a board it is considered shameful in our society. My parents were hesitant about me being involved in the sport,” Shazreen said. “It took me a long time to persuade them and educate them about the sport. Skateboarding has a wider meaning for me and a different impact has been put on me by it. Skateboarding takes me into a whole different world where I see myself racing with the winds. I feel a certain kind of contentment which I cannot get from any other sport.”
The internet is actually a huge influencer. Its impact is not only in the knowledge creation or the dissemination of it. It is impacting every field of life. People watch foreign entrainment more than produced locally and this is precisely why some new sports are becoming local.
At one point in time, the internet was being accused of encouraging virtual games that added to the sedentary nature of people, mostly youth. Now they are picking challenging sports activities and moving physically.