Gautham Kamath remembers picking up skateboarding at the age of 24, in 2012. He didn’t own one for the first eight months of starting out. His first skateboard, in fact, was given to him by German skater Arne Hillerns, who helped build the Holystoked Skatepark in Bengaluru in 2012. The crew he was a part of comprised seven boys, all of whom shared two skateboards. Fast forward to four years later, and Kamath is in Chuncheon, South Korea, representing India at the Chuncheon World Leisure Extreme Sports Championship, 2016—reportedly the first time skateboarding and BMX freestyle had official representation from India at an international event. Up against 30 others in the street skateboarding category, Kamath had a minute to showcase his skills, and eventually landed at the 31st place.
It wasn’t glorious, Kamath admits. There was an utter lack of skateboarding events and international-level skateparks in India at the time. He felt he lacked the skills to take on the other competitors. But he felt proud of representing his country and was determined to bring a change in the home turf. The result: Jugaad. Started in 2014, Jugaad is arguably the only skateboarding competition in India, and aims to be a platform for young, emerging skateboarders. And for Kamath, this is just the beginning.
Attracting competitors from across the country—from Mumbai and Delhi to Jharkhand—Jugaad has become one of the most anticipated spaces for skateboarders to not just showcase their talents but also appreciate the form. Kamath’s efforts are also a nod to the emerging skateboarding culture in India—from Nick Smith’s skateparks in Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune and Mumbai, to the skateboarding community of Dharavi, to Janwaar Castle that brought the skateboarding culture to young girls in Madhya Pradesh’s Janwaar village. To top it all, skateboarding has been added in the 2020 Olympics.
As he prepares for the fourth edition in Bengaluru (slated to take place from December 7 to 9, 2018), the 31-year-old full-time skateboarder tells VICE why India needs a skateboarding revolution:
VICE: Do you feel that Jugaad has helped to groom skateboarders in India?
Gautham Kamath: It feels great and gives me immense joy to start such an event. We started hosting Jugaad because it was necessary. I myself am a skateboarder and there was no platform [at the time] where skateboarders could come and express their skills. My goal is to get Indians on an international platform, where Indian skateboarders can represent our country. My vision is to train homegrown Indian skaters to take on international competitors.
Could you tell us about this three-day skateboarding event?
On the first day, there will be the qualifying round for everybody. There will be different categories: Above 14-years-old and below 14-years-old, and, this year we have also introduced a category for girls since there has been a rise in the number of girls skateboarding who have shown interest in the event.
The second day will be the semi-finals for all the categories. In the above-14 section, there are three additional categories: Game of skate, Expression session and Best trick contest. The last day will be the finals.
What’s the prize?
The total cash prize is ₹1 lakh, including all the categories.
Do you get any adults for this event or do the participants only comprise the youth?
Our target audience includes everyone from school children to families and corporates to sports enthusiasts. The venue, Play Arena, can accommodate 500 people; it’s not just a skate park, it’s a gaming zone with areas for sports like tennis, badminton, football and swimming. It’s like a weekend getaway, especially for the IT crowd. Apart from that, there will be a lot of working class people and not just the youth, who will come for the event.
What have you learned over the last four years of hosting Jugaad?
I’ve learned a lot. For one, the number of people attending and that of the skateboarders registering has increased with every passing year. In the first year, we had about 20 participants. This year, we have about 80 to 100 registered participants. We also have participants coming in from Maldives and Nepal, which is a bit more as compared to other countries. We have some Russian and European skaters as well who live in India. The number of participants is growing every year, which is a good sign for us. But it also poses a challenge for me since I’m on the organising side of the event. Brands are not ready to sponsor us since skateboarding is a new and upcoming sport in India. But the whole process of organising the event is fun and to see the final outcome is amazing.
What are you looking forward to the most this year?
For this upcoming event, I’m looking forward to the hype. The skaters who have participated in the past have a fan base and these fans are looking forward to seeing their skills in person. People keep sending me personal messages on social media, asking a lot of questions about the event. There are also a lot of new skaters coming in this season. Most of them are beginners and even though they are not participating, they just come from different states to witness. So, we may get 150 skaters who register, out of which only 80 might participate. The rest are there just to be a part of a skateboarding tribe.
What message do you have for young skateboarders, especially those from small towns?
There are hurdles in all areas of life and in every sport. As long as you believe in what you are doing, there will be no issues. So, just keep rolling with the punches and keep that fiery passion always lit.
Follow Noel D'souza on Twitter.