We’re glad skating is back where it belongs – in the counterculture. For decades, it’s been a preoccupation that united alternative kids in a common interest, providing a sense of community they couldn’t find anywhere else. Despite falling out of mainstream consciousness (think Avril Lavigne and everyone wearing Osiris in the early 2000s), skating is still very much alive today.
Here are three crews that are bringing a fresh new wave to the underground.
The crew that cares
Region: Cape Town
Founders: Shuaib Philander, Toufeeq Raubenheimer and Bradley Henry
Signed/sponsored members: seven
Active years: 13
Shuaib Philander is passionate about his crew, and this is evident in their approach to skating and training youngsters in the art of this sport. They pride themselves on skill and performance, and you won’t find any questionable skaters rolling with them because the whole team is dope.
“We’re situated in the Cape Flats, and we all met through skateboarding. Society labelled skateboarders as outlaws ¬– we’re changing the stereotype,” he says.
Their name was taken from the numbers prison gang, but they took the negativity associated with the number 28 and made it something entirely different.
“We approach it like we approach life – head on, despite all the challenges.”
These fellas are regarded as pioneers of the culture. They even have members who rap and produce music, and others who break dance.
Co-founder Bradley Henry says: “20sk8 helped mentor me on how to create a career out of skateboarding.”
Toufeeq Raubenheimer adds: “I’ve always wanted to be a part of 20sk8 since I stepped foot on a skateboard.”
He also came up through the ranks and is now a signed skater.
Founders: Lwando Gwili, aka Lucho Gazpacho
Signed/sponsored members: two
Active years: five
I first saw these brothers riding down one of the steepest hills in Kensington. At the bottom, they would power-slide into a busy parking lot and made it seem like light work.
Lucho tells us: “Most of the squad members are from the north of Joburg, and some are from the east. We all started skating together as kids at skate parks like Montecasino and Brightwater Commons. The name is a play on words because quite a few of the squad were vegetarians and most of us smoke our veggies … if you know what I mean.”
They approach the sport as friends and have fun together because this forms the basis of their bond with the sport.
Asked what hooked him and his crew on skating, he says: “It’s the freedom you get when you’re skating and it’s a personal outlet. An unexplainable feeling.”
Some of the experienced cats on their roster include Ol’ Dirty Barnard, as well as Daniel Miltiadou (aka Danny Ocean) and Jackie Diamante, who are signed.
The queens doing it
Girls Can Skate SA
Founders: Kelly Murray and Sharné Jacobs
Signed/sponsored members: “Unfortunately, none of us has been signed or sponsored. Female skateboarding in South Africa is not really recognised, so we don’t get much exposure.”
Active years: four
More of an initiative than a crew, this group aims to get more girls to skate.
Founder Kelly Murray explains: “We’re all from Johannesburg and we met through mutual friends who skateboard. Sharné Jacobs started the Girls Can Skate page on Facebook to create awareness of the female skate scene in South Africa, and to encourage more interest from girls.”
She says that the freedom that comes with skating is a priceless feeling.
“You get to be yourself on the board and it builds so much confidence. I’ve seen the four-wheel sand deck change so many children’s lives, and that is what makes the love for the sport even stronger.
“We are the only female skate crew that I know of in Joburg. There are a few other female skaters around the country, and we all get together and skate for fun. Joburg is full of great spots to skate, and the community is supportive and often want their children involved when they see female skateboarders zooming by,” says Murray.
A few years ago, the founders of this movement decided to get more girls in, and they’ve been scouting and holding Saturday sessions and lessons for girls only.
This is important as the other two crews all have at least one signed skater. After seeing a few of their videos, you’ll see just how slept on they are.
“We are overcoming the stereotypes that skateboarding is more a male-dominated sport, and slowly showing the world that girls are just as good as guys.”
Murray has entered the popular Kimberley Diamond Cup skate tournament three times, and won first place every time. A major challenge, she says, are the injuries.
“Skateboarding is an extreme sport and we are prone to injuries. This means having to sit out for a few weeks and then having to pick up where you left off.”