I recently started au-pairing for a little bit of extra income. During the quiet months in Knysna I make an effort to source an out-of-the-ordinary challenge to couple with endless drawing, writing, photo exploration, skate park inspiration and as much outdoor time as I can possibly fit into one day.
For the time being I will reside in a small little cottage on a farm just a few kilometres outside of Plettenberg Bay. Surrounded by indigenous forest, an ocean view and a secret surf spot just a stone’s throw away, there is little to complain about.
My first day off falls on a Saturday and, not sure what should take priority, I receive a text from Roland, fellow surfer and friend, mentioning that he’ll be skating a competition in George over the weekend. I RSVP and my weekend plans are made.
The first time I met Roland I knew that we’d be friends, and I am rich for knowing him – he’s earthy, a passionate conservationist, open minded and spontaneous. From crazy surf missions to long conservation walks, between loads of laughs and endless discussions of love, life and spirituality, Roland is a friend worth having.
Saturday morning comes and I get lost in research for my next community project, unanswered emails and family reunions. I see a missed call on my phone – it’s Roland. I try to call back a few times but there’s no answer. I check the time and it’s 2.15pm! I drive as fast as the speed limit allows and arrive at Skatelab, the humble yet soulful host of the skate event, at 2.45pm. The first round is already done and dusted, the second round is a few minutes from starting – I hear Roland’s name being called over the sound system.
On entering the contest area the energy of adrenalin-spun skaters moving to the rhythm of the music swallows me: the sound of skateboard wheels on the half pipe, the decks and trucks of the boards connecting with the rails adding to the existing beatbox effect. The skate park comes alive with spectators, fans young and old, graffiti-decorated walls, checkered shirts and bearded men in skinny jeans; sunglasses, hoodies, beanies and high fives all round.
I recognise a familiar pair of Ugg boots at the end of the pavilion. Everything Roland owns has a story to tell and only that pair of boots could belong to this kind of guy. I make my way over to find him and his crew sitting on the wall discussing manoeuvres and gear in a language that to any normal guy on the street would be classified as foreign. I greet Roland, apologise for my late arrival, and quickly become comfortable between skaters and acquaintances as Roland heads off to skate his final run; he made it to the final.
I take time to observe, breathe, and free my soul; I drift away and get lost in the music and the magnificent explosion of inspiration that all the colours bring – luminous sunglasses twinned with tweed hats, black vests. The coupling of the bright and brand new with something dull and quite antique. The skating culture is home to a breed of individuals putting their stamp on life loudly through crazy hairstyles, an out-of-the-ordinary choice of trousers and shirts, the cool they carry not because they try but just because they are. Straight caps, unbuttoned shirts, girls in frills and frays with leather boots and sexy leggings.
With Redbull, Figure It Out, Session Skateboarding Magazine and the National Skateboard Association of South Africa as sponsors, prizes are plentiful. Roland takes a proud second after mentioning that he has not skated in a year. Quality.
The day ended with another round of high fives and the sun setting over the skate park. A few lone shadows fragmented by the half pipe and other skate park fancies. The skate culture is a splash of colour and inspiration, boho mixed with everyday modernity. Skaters are poetry in motion, wearing that which they are on the inside on the outside. They paint with the colours of their souls.
Join me for the next story as I talk to one of the editors and artists of the Session Skateboarding Magazine – from London to Cape Town to joining us here on the Garden Route.
’til next time…