Skateboarder flips his way to the top
SA professional Khule Ngubane, 23, is living the Californian dream, writes TANYA WATERWORTH
THE Cinderella story of skateboarding. That’s how Durban-born professional skateboarder Khule Ngubane describes his life. His grandfather bought him his first skateboard when he was 12. By 15, he had turned professional and now, at 23, has travelled the world and is friendly with the likes of US skateboarding legends Tony Hawk and Rob Dyrdek.
This week, Ngubane spoke to Independent Media about making it in the highly competitive US market, expanding traditional perceptions about careers and visualising success.
“I grew up with my mom and grandparents in Chesterville. For my 12th birthday, my grandpa bought me my first skateboard,” he said.
“When I first saw skateboarding on television, I knew it was something I had to try.
“I took my new skateboard to the skate park at Pavilion and I was hooked,” said the former Durban High School pupil.
By 15, he was already travelling around the world and competing in skateboarding competitions.
“There was a lot of pressure from my family not to choose skateboarding as a career, but once I started getting pay cheques, they were okay with it,” joked Ngubane.
He made his first American connections when he competed in the Kimberley Diamond Cup against some of the world’s best skateboarders.
“Then I went to Florida where there are some of the best skateboarders on the planet and then on to California.
“Now I spend a lot of time in California, but have also been around Africa including Swaziland, Mozambique, Nigeria and Senegal.
“In Africa, skateboarding is a developing sport and challenges include gravel roads, fenced-off areas and few skate parks.
“I have learnt a lot in the last 11 years. We are in the transition to a new generation where we are moving away from making money by traditional ways, such as becoming a doctor or lawyer. I finished matric and started university, but then had to choose. I chose skateboarding and I have gone places that other people will never go to. If I had stayed in university, I would have been that average kid with a B.Comm degree looking for a job.
“California is full of dreamers where there are ways of making money if you are more artistic and we are living in an amazing generation, it’s okay to be a rebel,” said Ngubane.
His attributes his positive attitude and confident outlook to growing up in a close knit family.
“My grandparents are still in Chesterville and I was lucky to grow up in a loving environment with good morals and spiritual values. I was the only kid in the township who rode a skateboard and also had the stigma of having a ‘white’ accent. I suppose I had something to prove. I envisioned what I wanted to do when I was 12 years old, now I am living that reality,” he said.
Ngubane first met Tony Hawk when he was 15 and then again nine months ago.
“He helps potential skateboarders and has also helped Talent Biyela, another professional skateboarder from here. I have also met Rob Dyrdek, who is awesome,” he said.
He has a number of American and South African sponsors, including DC clothing and shoes, Monster Energy, Element skateboards and Nixon watches.
“I will spend up to five hours a day skating and follow a healthy diet to keep light. I am mainly vegetarian, but still spoil myself sometimes with chicken or fish.
“I also meditate and get on the right spiritual path to keep in good spirits and maintain energy. It works for me,” he said.
When back in Durban, Ngubane can often be found at the beachfront skate park where he helps young skateboarders.
He is also branching out into the music industry and has recorded some hip-hop. He will return to the US at the end of next month.
Durban skateboarder, Khule Ngubane, 23, who is making a name for himself internationally, skating at a beachfront skateboard park.
Khule Ngubane has found his feet on the international skateboarding stage