"I am 100 per cent accident prone, with or without longboarding," admits 20-year-old Kunjika Singh, who took to the sport two years ago. She is one of the two Indian ambassadors (along with Basica Salam) for the Longboard Girls Crew (LGC), an international community that encourages and empowers women in action sports.
Riders descending the Ramon Crater in Israel, in the documentary Open
"My family was positive about my taking up the sport as long as it didn’t affect my studies and more importantly, I stayed away from injuries, which is not the case most times. I had always wanted a skateboard and was gifted one on my 10th birthday.
I couldn’t do any of those tricks then but enjoyed cruising on it. I got in touch with a skateboarding group in Mumbai, which is where I learnt about Longboard Crew India, the country’s first and only longboard crew," says Singh, adding that LGC chooses female ambassadors in each country where longboarding is a sport. The community aids them in developing the sport by holding workshops and providing the required aid and gears.
The LGC crew at Tel-Aviv. The team includes Katie Neilson from Vancouver, Amanda Powell from Boston, Cindy Zhou from Toronto, Marisa Nuñez from Florida, Cristina Sanchez from Barcelona, Jenna Russo from Melbourne, Gina Mendez from Panama city, Micaela Wilson from New Hampshire, Cami Best from Jamaica, Eider Walls from Barcelona, Gádor Salís from Madrid, Jacky Madenfrost from Venezuela, Valeria Kechichian from Argentina and Ishtar Backlund from Sweden. Pic courtesy/Matt K
"Although skateboarding still has a great scene around Mumbai and a few other cities, longboarding isn’t too prevalent. There aren’t any girl teams in India as hardly any girls practise it here. Awareness is high in other countries, especially Europe and North America," she says.
Singh points out that though Indians recognise a skateboard, they can’t always tell the difference between it and a longboard. "My friend, Nikhil Bhosale, founded Longboard Crew India in 2013.
We have had talented male longboarders, who could use sponsors. It has members of all ages hailing from different backgrounds. The oldest is a 50-year-old dentist, who is also a biker."
Singh has experienced countless challenges as an Indian longboarder."The unavailability of affordable longboards and accessories is a problem. Gear like sliding gloves and longboard helmets are not easy to find in India. Another challenge is the dearth of smooth roads," she rues. Being a downhill sport, it needs long stretches of smooth road and slopes to slide on, unfrequented by automobiles and civilisation. "Bandra is a nice place to cruise around, particularly the quieter inner lanes off Hill Road," she recommends.
On Saturday, Singh along with LGC, will present Open, a documentary directed by Daniel Etura. "It is a full-length adventure documentary film that aims to introduce spectators to a new experience through a skate journey of a group of 14 talented female riders, from various countries, exploring the land of Israel. Each girl has a unique story of how she got there. When the film was shot two years ago, India didn’t have an LGC ambassador," she says, adding that she, along with 24-year-old Swedish longboarder Ishtar Backlund, will also hold a workshop for beginners on the day of the premiere. "I started out at a time when the sport of downhill skateboarding was new. When I was 19 and had graduated from college, I packed my bags and board thinking that will be gone forever. I explored the world and took my passion as far as I could," shares Backlund. "The female scene [for longboarding] is growing strong today. I feel blessed and thankful to be a part of a great community and give back to it with workshops like this," she says.
A longboard is a skateboard but longer. While skating uses ramps, longboards are used for downhill racing and getting from point A to B.
Cami Best ripping through Jerusalem’s rooftops. Pic courtesy/Katie Nielson
Long and short of Longboarding
1. Longboarding is a contact adventure sport that is the art of riding a longboard, often on tarred-roads, down hills and any surface suitable for riding. It is an action sport that involves speed. You can always go cruising or free riding, but if you really want to take up the downhill aspect, you will need to put in efforts and sweat it out.
2. Don’t be scared of falling off the board or getting injured once in a while. Nothing comes easy.
3. Backing out is not an option. If you have decided to take up this sport, stick around for a while, devote yourself to it and let go.
4. If you ever chance upon or discover any sturdy skate-able spots around, it’s good manners to let your fellow longboarders know about them too.
5. Don’t scare anyone off by telling them that longboarding is a dangerous sport; instead, share with them about how they will instantly become cooler once they start.
6. Teach and lend your board to anyone willing to learn.