All on board
They glide over the tarmac, curve, flip their skateboards up and down the pavement, pop and fly. Some fall, bleed, and then get back on again. The Queens Beach parking lot in Bantry Bay, Cape Town, resonates with crunching wheels and voices as the sun dips over the sea. Promenade Mondays, a weekly gathering of about 100 longboarders, trick skaters and a smattering of kindred spirits on rollerblades and bikes pulsates with energy.
From 6pm each week, people pour in and, for an hour, mums, dads, kids, teenagers and young adults wearing chunky helmets hurtle around next to art deco and glass-encased apartment blocks.
This Monday, Pang Isaac (21) from Observatory was airborne, plaits flying. The electrical engineering student at False Bay College hails from Sudan and is happy his exams are finally over. He takes a train to Steenberg Railway Station each day, then rides his skateboard the three remaining kilometres to class.
“I’ve snapped my ankle,” he says. “I’ve hurt my wrists and have lots of scratches on my back. But as long as I have legs, I will skate.”
He describes his skateboard with affection: it has an 8.25-inch (20.95cm) deck with “indy trucks” – the metal axles that hold the wheels. “I have cruising wheels, so I can push really fast,” he says. Also in the mix is Décio Lourenço (26), one of the top 10 skateboarders in the world, who went viral in 2013 when a video of him propelling down Kloof Nek Road in Cape Town breaking the speed limit went viral. At the time, the city charged him with reckless driving, but the charges were later withdrawn.
Central to the Queens Beach throng is a white, open-backed van stacked with longboards on wooden slats. It belongs to Daniel Domancie of Kingdom Longboards, board manufacturers from Montague Gardens.
Domancie and his friend, photographer Curtis Pow Chong, pitch two ramps, which kids queue up to roll and leap over.
Domancie wears a floral shirt and speaks slowly and loudly. He points to a cotton ball in his ear: “Sorry for speaking loudly, man. Popped my ear surfing the other day,” he says.
Every week, Domancie imparts skating tips for free and lends out the odd board. They are expensive – between R500 and R2 000 each.
“We lost a skateboard three weeks ago, but fortunately got it back just now,” he says.
Skating culture is growing in Cape Town, where, at informal clubs in gang-ridden areas such as Elsie’s River, Bridgetown, Kleinvlei and Bonteheuwel, it has birthed a new subculture laced with opportunity and status. Skating provides a viable alternative to gang culture.
Organisations such as the Indigo Youth Movement, based in Kleinvlei, and the Nebula Youth Development Programme in Gugulethu, are facilitating skateboard donations and providing training.
Promenade Mondays were founded by Andre Bird, who runs a skating club in Bridgetown; ace rollerblader Earl Abrahams, who teaches rollerblading in Bonteheuwel and Nyanga, and works for the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation; and Marco Morgan, who has taught skating in Green Point and Salt River, and has worked as a Western Cape city planner for the past nine years.
The idea was hatched inside a Golf Chico in 2012 on the N1 between Kimberley and Cape Town. The three friends were returning from the international Maloof Money Cup Championship – now known as the Kimberley Diamond Cup World Skateboarding Championships. They wanted to create a social space where people of different backgrounds could meet.
“We wanted to show six-year-olds to 60-year-olds, white and black, how diverse skate culture is,” says Morgan (30).
On Monday at the Queens Beach parking lot, he balanced on a slow-moving board with his son Pablo (1) perched on the front. As soon as the board stops, Pablo starts to cry. “Do you mind, I need to keep him rolling,” says Morgan, who also chairs the National Skate Collective, which represents their interests to authorities.
As a city planner, Morgan is often frustrated by the pace at which plans to reverse segregation in Cape Town are implemented.
But voluntary National Skate Collective projects are his dreams of shared spaces and urban redesign made real.
“Skateboarding is a tool. A skate park provides a place for youth to connect and to feel independent,” says Morgan.
Apart from negotiating Promenade Mondays with the council and ratepayers’ associations in 2012, their triumphs include new skate parks in Gardens, Valhalla and Athlone.
Cape Town has 18 public skate parks, of which 13 are on the Cape Flats. Most are in dire need of upgrades though.
Morgan started skating when he was six and was later inspired to excel by local heroes like Elsie’s River’s Andre “Arnie” Lambert, South Africa’s first sponsored coloured skater.
“I started skating way before it was cool,” he says. “But hey, the hipster culture that’s grown around the sport isn’t hurting us.” Still, Promenade Mondays elicit occasional complaints. Morgan shrugs. “Most people are really stoked about this,” he says.
Even scoot skateboards are welcome
DADDY COOL Marco Morgan takes his son Pablo for a ride on his skateboard. Morgan founded the National Skate Collective. By day, he works as a city planner for the Western Cape provincial government
ON A ROLL Saniyah Bey captures herself on a GoPro using a selfie stick as she takes in the Sea Point promenade on a skateboard