All on board

CityPress - - News - BIÉNNE HUIS­MAN bi­enne.huis­man@city­

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

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