Skateboarding in Afghanistan

The adrenaline inducing sport of skateboarding was started sometime in the late 1940’s when surfers wanted something to surf on when sea conditions were unsuitable. It would appear that people came up with similar notions concurrently, for it is not known who made the first skateboard. These first skaters made the first boards by accessorizing a wooden box with wheels pried off of roller skates. These were soon upgraded to planks. When this new activity started gaining attention, companies decided to jump on the band wagon by pressing wood together to make more polished looking versions. These were comparable to what people skate on today. During this time, it was referred to as “Sidewalk Surfing” because of the similarities to its wave-based mentor.

Skateboarding in Afghanistan

Creative Commons Photo by Michael Hvorecky

Some firms, such as Makaha, started building decks and putting teams together to advertise their merchandise. This became so trendy that a national magazine was started called Skateboarder Magazine and the 1965 championships were broadcast on television. The growth of this sport at that time made Makaha rich, with sales of ten million. For some reason, the popularity of skating wavered by 1966. Sales plummeted and the once sought after magazine stopped printing. It was only in the 70’s that interest in the activity began to rise again.

Skateistan

This is an incredible story about two Australians who managed to bring children of different cultures, religions and ethnicities together to learn through the enjoyment of this sport. It has inspired the making of two documentaries – one short and one full length feature – and has gained media attention from all over the world. The institution even sells brand name skating equipment.

Creative Commons Photo by Michael Hvorecky

The people who founded it go by the names of Oliver Percovich and Shana Nolan. They arrived in Kabul in 2007 with only three skateboards, which received immediate attention from local kids. In a country where half the population consists of those under eighteen, these two quickly discovered that skating drew the youth to them in droves. They decided to give these children lessons in the sport, which started in an abandoned Russian fountain.

Using only the skateboards they’d brought, these informal classes nevertheless were a huge hit. Kids came to learn from all over the town, no matter how different they were from each other. Percovich and Nolan, buoyed by this success and motivated by skating’s ability to integrate youth of conflicting backgrounds, decided to expand. They brought more decks back from their own country and sought help from donors. Equipped with this they established an indoor skateboarding school.

Creative Commons Photo by Michael Hvorecky

Since then, they have received enormous support. It was listed officially as an Afghan Non-Governmental Organization in 2009 and it has received hundreds of donations and volunteers. It is Afghanistan’s first skateboarding school, completely non-profit, and it uses the appeal of this activity to give over 350 children an education, 40% of which are girls. They spend an hour skating, and an hour being tutored inside. The students choose what they want to learn, and they’re given a safe environment in which to do so, together.

In a country so filled with conflict, achieving something of this magnitude is nothing short of amazing. Skateistan is still going strong today, and they welcome the support of anyone moved by their story.

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One Response to Skateboarding in Afghanistan

  1. Chris Hughes says:

    Great story of how sport brings people together, Looking forward to the documentary.
    Chris @ Les Arcs Chalets

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