Skateboarding is a universal language. A simple piece of wood with four wheels attached can cut across all kinds of social and cultural barriers.
I grew up near Plumstead and Woolwich in south east London, which is home to one of the largest Nepalese communities in Britain. One of my closest friends, the illustrator Gaurab Thakali, is from this community. He was born in Nepal and lived there for the first 10 years of his life. I met him skateboarding, and we've been skating and working together for years.
In 2015, we decided to travel to Nepal together to make some work – about skateboarding, but also about everyday life and rebuilding in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake that occurred in the country. He was the insider, and I was the outsider.
There's only one skate park in Nepal, a DIY park in Pokhara. It's a small but thriving scene of determined individuals. Skateboarding for me was a tool of communication, a middle ground that allowed me to immerse myself in this community and get to know it on an intimate level.
The park in Pokhara was built and is entirely funded by a man called Ram. Ram has put his whole being into skateboarding because he wholeheartedly believes it is a positive expression for the kids of Nepal. He has spent years trying to convince the government to fund a skate park, to no avail.
The skateboarders ranged from young kids who had only just stepped on wheels, to kids with absolutely no fear, attempting to drop in without shoes on the day after first seeing a board. Some of them had watched American skaters on the internet and had such an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm, I was reminded of how I felt when I first got into it 10 years ago.
The signs of the earthquake were evident everywhere – though not so much in the destruction that I saw, more in the rebuilding that surrounded us. From what I heard, many people's attitudes had shifted after seeing the tragedy that the natural disaster had brought. People had begun to live life more in the moment, spending money in a more carefree way. The skateboarders of Pokhara already lived in this way – they're young and have a tunnel vision for skateboarding, but within there community there was a positive outlook and a fearlessness that I'm sure existed before the earthquake. Just like kids in England, their main concern was getting through their schooldays so that they could go skate, or getting some work so that they could live and still afford to skateboard. It's their life.