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A member of Skate Connect, a community of skateboarders of Sikkim, showcasing his skills in Gangtok
A member of Skate Connect, a community of skateboarders of Sikkim, showcasing his skills in Gangtok|EastMojo image
SIKKIM

Skateboarding gaining ground, giving new ‘high’ to youth in Sikkim

Skate Connect, a community of skateboarders, is leading a new urban sub-culture in the Himalayan state; helping underprivileged kids to find passion in sport, keep them away from drug abuse, violence

Pankaj Dhungel

Pankaj Dhungel

Gangtok: Among the urban sub-cultures to rise in the state, skateboarding with its community approach has made the roof top of Kanchenjunga Shopping Complex in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, as a go-to hub to watch young enthusiasts showcase their skills.

Despite the sport not being recognised in the country, Skate Connect, a community of skateboarders of the state, is slowly but steadily gaining ground. In fact, Skate Connect is one of the only three skateboarding communities in the country after Bengaluru and before Chandigarh, to come up on their own recently. It also stands with the distinction of being the only skateboarding community of the Northeastern, as per some claims.

Now, six skateboarders from the state are all set to take part in an international-level skateboarding competition in Bengaluru, interestingly named 'Let’s Jugaad for Jugaad' at Play Arena, a devoted skate park in the Electronic City from December 6-8.

There are around 60 skaters with 30-40 being actively involved in Gangtok, Namchi and Jorethang as part of Skate Connect, Sikkim’s skateboarding community
There are around 60 skaters with 30-40 being actively involved in Gangtok, Namchi and Jorethang as part of Skate Connect, Sikkim’s skateboarding community
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Leading the all-men pack of qualified skaters is Skate Connect founder Tenzing Tsundu Bhutia along with MD Tarik, Thupden Sherpa, Passang Tshering Sherpa, Legain Tenzing Namchu and especially-abled skater Joseph Subba, all of whom will represent the state in the upcoming competition in Bengaluru.

Skate Connect began in 2016 on the streets of MG Marg, on the roof top of Lal Bazaar, and virtually across social media when young boys took up the sport as a community event. Addressing the media at Press Club of Sikkim recently, founder Tsundu said, "Today, we have around 60 skaters with 30-40 being actively involved in Gangtok, Namchi and Jorethang as part of Sikkim’s skateboarding community. The sport, which has been recognised to be part of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, doesn’t have a devoted national federation in the country because the culture of skateboarding hasn’t risen in the country.”

“Coming to Sikkim, we have a community but we lack devoted space for a skate park. Where we are currently skating are marred by concrete floors with injuries happening often while confronting cops on a regular basis has barred us in a way from taking the sport to a different level,” Tsundu added.

Devoid of funds, Skate Connect aims to organise funds for their travel to Bengaluru through a fundraising event in MG Marg on November 29
Devoid of funds, Skate Connect aims to organise funds for their travel to Bengaluru through a fundraising event in MG Marg on November 29
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Despite such hurdles, the skateboarding community has in a way uplifted many underprivileged children to find passion in the sport keeping them away from drug abuse and violence, shared Tsundu.

"Skateboarding across the world has a very street side aura about itself, it’s been a revolution in the urban spaces around the world to recognise it as a sport. It has been our own society who has looked down upon or not understand the skateboarding community, but the sport has been a major influence to teenagers because they find skateboarding to be cool in a way. That cool quotient has been instrumental in keeping teenagers away from drug abuse and violence,” he added.

Skateboarders in Sikkim come out with a powerful message for the youth ‘to stay on board and off drugs’
Skateboarders in Sikkim come out with a powerful message for the youth ‘to stay on board and off drugs’
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Skate Connect received a letter for participation from the festival organisers but have been finding it equally hard to garner funds to be a part of the festival. They have now opted to organise a fundraising event on MG Marg in Gangtok on November 29.

"There is a lot of passion with regards to the sport hence we are trying to promote it in a better way. But for the same to happen the qualified skaters need to be part of the competition, so we are initially collecting funds from all the shop owners here at Lal Bazaar as the cooperative society functioning here has been very supportive of our endeavour. Next up, we are trying to organise a fundraising event on MG Marg on November 29. We have also approached sports minister Kunga Nima Lepcha who has appreciated our endeavour and has also given his consent that the state will have a ‘Skate Park’ in the future,” Tsundu said.

In February, Skate Connect organised a skateboarding event on MG Marg along with the celebration of World Skateboarding Day on June 21
In February, Skate Connect organised a skateboarding event on MG Marg along with the celebration of World Skateboarding Day on June 21
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The community has so far organised a skateboarding event in February this year on MG Marg along with the celebration of World Skateboarding Day on June 21.

"Since the event on MG Marg, there has been an increase in the number of skateboarders joining the community with as many as six women skateboarders also joining. We are also trying to combine other urban sub-cultures such as rap music, b-boying, parkour, graffiti, and beat boxing to involve more youths into the the sport and keep the youth away from drugs and violence. On a personal level, I counsel the youth to keep away from drugs and violence, keep up to fitness for sports and show them how even I can devote to a injury-prone sports like skate boarding. There aren’t any major injuries, but minor bruises and I motivate them how such bruises shape us up,” added especially-abled skater Joseph Subba.