Once a sport for misfits and rebels, skateboarding has achieved Olympic status and IIITH is not far behind. Here’s ollie you need to know about the newest club on campus and more.
At the Robotics Research Centre (RRC), an aerial object whizzing past your head or an ambulatory one crossing your path is all in a day’s work. But when a student began cruising down the hallway on a skateboard, it definitely grabbed eyeballs. “We were in a bio-bubble of sorts last August with very few people on campus and the sight of Kaustab Pal on a skateboard was intriguing,” recalls Swati Dantu, a Master’s student. Like many others from the same lab, she approached him to try out the rollers herself and there has been no looking back. What started as a bunch of RRC friends interested in learning to cruise has led to regular Tuesday 10pm tutorial lessons in front of the KCIS block. The crew soon realised that in order to accommodate the growing interest on campus, they needed not only more skateboards but also protective gear. “In March 2022, we applied to become an official club in IIITH with Rahul Sajnani, Jhanvi Shingala, Swati Dantu and Amarthya Sasi Kiran Dharmala and I, as founding members,” says Kaustab.
Anybody Can Skateboard!
Kaustab himself is a self-taught skateboarder, something he picked up during the pandemic-enforced lockdown. Chided by his parents for wanting to indulge in what they termed a “falling sport” that was more apt for someone younger, he rebelliously bought a cruiser board with the first stipend he earned. “Since the place where I used to live in Kolkata was generally crowded with a lack of smooth surfaces, buying a normal skateboard wasn’t an option. Cruiser boards are smaller, have sharper turning radius and are hence more portable,” he explains. He quickly enough learned two essential rules that he still imparts to any newbie: One, when stepping on the board, always lean forward so that even if your legs move forward your centre of gravity passes through the board. Secondly, never try to skateboard in a place where there is not enough free space to move. Nevertheless, falling off a skateboard is a given especially if you are new to the sport. Hence, the right technique to falling is taught alongside finding one’s balance on the board. “We teach people to just jump off the skateboard and start jogging if they feel off-balanced. So that way, you are slowly using your inertia instead of coming to a sudden stop right away. Plus, there are methods like the roll when you’re falling. It’s a soft landing and ensures you won’t hurt your bones or joints,” says Swati.
Into The Mainstream
Owing its genesis to surfing, skateboarding began as an emulation of riding the waves, albeit on land. In fact it was originally called “sidewalk surfing”. Associated with dark alleys, rebellion and even crime, it went on to acquire notoriety through the ages. Skateboarding’s acceptance in the mainstream however got a much needed boost with its debut in the Tokyo Olympics last year. “Cricket is not recognised yet by the Olympics Sports Committee, but skateboarding is. That’s how popular this extreme sport is!”, exclaims Swati. She adds that with more girls participating in the event and 13-year-olds like Sky Brown winning medals, it has contributed to its popularity among the fairer sex on campus too. But ask if it feels empowering in any way and the general consensus among the skater girls is that this gender-neutral sport is more about having fun.
Kaustab, Amartya Sasi Kiran & Rahul
Keep Calm and Skateboard On
Shirley picked up skateboarding at the age of 9. “I learned to skate first at 7 and then moved on to skateboarding,” she says. According to her, the only prerequisite is a pair of shoes. “If you’re wearing slippers, you won’t have a good grip. Initially we teach balance with just one foot on the board almost like waddling along. And then we teach how to balance with the second foot too on the board. Next come tips on jumping off a board if it goes out of control, or a bit too fast or if there’s uneven terrain. You can’t really jump off and land safely unless you have shoes.” As someone who has been cruising around for years now, she calls the sport therapeutic. “Once you can just stand on a skateboard and balance properly, It’s very relaxing and peaceful. If you get enough speed that you don’t have to keep pushing it, and just stand on the skateboard and roll around, it’s an amazing feeling,” she gushes. Like Shirley, 20-year-old Jhanvi too uses the skateboard whenever she faces a mind block. “It’s liberating in that it helps us think clearly and gets the creative juices flowing,” she says. With no fixed rules in place, she likens the sport to dancing where one is in a creative and relaxed space.
Swati & Jhanvi
In a recent ‘Guide to Socialising’ published in the student magazine, Ping!. Srijan Chakraborty listed a bunch of hacks for surviving the initial college years. The one that topped the list was ‘Join Clubs’. “IIITH has a club for every interest…Whether it be nerding out over the most interesting theories about world politics or serenading your crush with the right romantic song, clubs in IIITH help you find your true, inner-self. Once you find that, making friends is a cakewalk,” he says. If the surging numbers at the Tuesday meets is any indication, the skateboarding club’s popularity as a way to mingle is taking the campus by storm. From kickstarting the club via word-of-mouth to sending Whatsapp messages about meetups, the group has moved on to the Discord server. “With funding now in place, we are buying more skateboards, helmets, and other protective equipment. We also hope to have some pros come in and teach us some new tricks, and conduct events and competitions. In addition to this, a trip to the Wall Ride park, a state-of-the-art skatepark in Hyderabad, complete with obstacles et al, is in the offing,” says Kaustab. For those on the fence about acquiring this new skill, it may be reassuring to hear Swati say, “I have like zero balance. I’m so clumsy; I fall when I’m walking.” And this, while she performs the Ollie – jumping off the skateboard and landing right back on it.