A Passage To India
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Day 1 - After a flight of 15 hours, 39 minutes, we walk off the plane into a country we have never been to. It feels like arriving in the early 1960s. At the Bangalore airport, the staff behind the desk are wearing private clothing, not uniforms, in a very unique combination of shorts and mustaches. No advertising or anything commercial is calling your attention compared to other international airports. Everything seems to be quite relaxed – until we walk out through the last gates of the airport into the city. I never realized how fast a relaxed feeling could change into a stressful one. We were looking for a reliable taxi driver who would bring us safely to our hotel. After we didn’t find any, we gave up and focused on the one who seemed to have the best working car. Being way too tired for talking, thinking or counting, we just agreed and paid. We made it to the main hotel and passed out right away.
Waking up way too late, you don’t even know where you are and what to do. It is always the best solution to order room service to get up – finding yourself and planning the day. Of course first thing that came to our mind was, where is the closest skatepark? The best spots to film? Where do the people skate, and where do they hang out? The only contact we had so far was Nick, a guy from England who created the first skatepark in India and is there to push the scene. We didn’t think for long; we decided, that’s the place to be, so we caught up with him for the next day.
Just the opposite of Day 2, we woke up way too early, to get ready to skate the streets of Bangalore. But first we had some good breakfast, which was a bit different and a bit spicy compared to our usual breakfast. On the way to Nick’s skatepark, we chose the hotel shuttle instead of a regular cab. After an almost two-hour drive – for a way we could probably make in one hour – we finally arrived at the park. It was in the middle of nowhere, but full of skaters. The park includes a giant flatland area surroundedby banks, plus two bowls (one is bigger than the other), and a small street course as well. We skated the whole park, until we got surprised by the monsoon rain. We escaped to Nick’s office and had to continue the next day.
Back in a cab. Different driver, different company, but still the same problem. The driver had no clue at all, and we had to guide him the right way to the X Games sports park. Arriving at the park, we met Aaron, a very good friend of Nick’s from the U.K. and a talented skateboarder. He was rocking every single part of the skatepark and always pushing his limits to the furthest extremes. After a hard session, Aaron was starving, and he recommended a lunch break at the total mall, just five minutes from the park, where we had the best lamb burger ever. We got back just in time for a bowl session, which was off the hook. At the bowl session, we got introduced to a kid named Amit Subba, also known as the “The Searcher,” who has probably the most insane story to tell of all India. When Amit was 14 years old, he got inspired by Danny Way, and decided he wanted to be a skateboarder. But when he told his parents about his idea, they didn’t allow him to skate, because where he came from, people had no idea what skateboarding was and what it was about. So he decided to tour just by himself in search of skateboarding. At the age of 17 he started to earn his first money by having painting classes for kids. He used the money to buy skateboards and for his tour. He wanted a good skateboard, but the only skateboards he could find in India were of terrible quality. He started traveling all around the country but ended up with nothing. In December 2010 he found out about the skatepark in Goa, more than 550 km (345 miles) away on the west coast of India. The next day he decided right away to go to Goa. But all of a sudden he got a message that the Goa skatepark was derelict. After two difficult weeks of depression, he came up with the idea to look for skateboarders in India on Facebook. A couple of messages later, he found out about the Bangalore skatepark. And of course moved there as soon as possible…
Like the last five days, the morning started again with rain, so we seriously had to check the weather conditions from then on. It didn’t look too good – rain for the next seven days. So we had to came up with a brilliant idea to cover the next days and turn them into skating wonderland. There was just one person who could really help us: Nick, the skatepark builder. After two short calls with Nick, the decision was made; we had five hours to pack all our stuff and get ready for Palolem Beach, Goa with Nick and Aaron. We made it just in time for our 12-hour bus ride to Goa. At 7:00 a.m. local time, three exhausted skateboarders and one photographer made it to their final destination at Palolem Beach. We couldn’t believe how beautiful nature could be. It was off season in Goa and nobody else on the beach for miles. For the rest of the day, the beach was there just for us. The good times could start.
First time waking up at our new sleeping place. It was four dollars per night, with palm trees all around, and it could not have been any closer to the ocean. It was time to check out all the untouched skate spots. It seemed as if nobody had ever skated them before and there was the possibility to be the first person to land a trick there on camera. Sounds easy, but it isn’t if you are on tour with skateboarders who love to have a long sleep. So much time passed by that photographer Bjorn Dunkel and I decided to explore the east side of Palolem Beach to capture some skate tricks in the crowded jungle. On the way there we got almost hit by a coconut. We usually think they are small and brown, but in real life they are much bigger, with a green cover. We stopped and tried to break the coconut with our bare hands, which turned into an hour-long challenge. But we finally did it. The taste was incredibly good and gave us enough energy to have a nice skate session.
Another day in a different world – hard to believe this is real. But we set out with full energy to finally find the secret spot we were looking for. We packed all the camera gear and made ourselves climb over the rocks on the west point break of Palolem. Not even five minutes later, we found the first beautiful spot to skate: a little concrete area between the rocks of an old hippie village, with an amazing panorama view over the ocean. Landed some great Primo triple-flip variations and no-hand Butterflips. Addicted to find more , we climbed up the next hill in front of us, feeling like the Christopher Columbus of skating, and ended up at probably the most gorgeous skate spot of all Goa: a smooth concrete flat surrounded by palm trees, on the top of a hill with a view over the whole beach. Unfortunately, the monsoon rain suddenly came back and made us leave our new favorite spot. The rain got stronger and stronger while we were running along the beach to reach our apartment
Such a frustrating day for the group because the rain just didn’t stop. But everybody was motivated to discover the new secret spot and try to find out how creative we could get.
Finally the morning surprised us with a well-deserved sunshine, which brought good vibes for the day. Right in front of our apartment, the catch of the day just happened. A group of old fishermen was working as hard as they could to get the best seafood out of the shorebreak. We joined the local BBQ get-together and enjoyed the freshest fish you can imagine. With a full tummy of fish, prawns and crabs, the time had us back in life to focus on the hill. Not being on a search anymore and knowing where to go this time, made the way up pretty quick, and I believe Aaron had the same first impression as I had: Is this real? From one second to another, the quiet place became a battle of freestyle tricks vs. street tricks and we broke out on the entire hill, trying to find any new obstacle to skate. We were constantly pushing each other from the first moment on, to see what was possible. I ended up landing my first Primo 540 flip pivots. I barely had any chance to enjoy the feeling of it before Aaron topped my trick bigtime by wall-riding the palm trees, so stylish and far up that I couldn’t wait to see the shots.
Last time breathing the fresh air of Goa and chilling along the beach with our U.K. friends, who planned to stay a couple more days after we left. We brought a ton of great memories with us in the crazy-bus back to Bangalore. We hoped we would have a better ride this time, but the old man driver was even worse. We’d never seen somebody driving a bus that insane. That old man had some real potential to begin a new life as a rally driver. A few bruises more and another 12-hour bus ride in our journey, we fell straight into our beds at the hotel.
There we were, 9:00 a.m. local time, about to plan the last full day in India. Hundreds of different ideas were rushing to our minds, but no idea sounded perfect enough for the last day, until we came up with the idea to drive one hour out of Bangalore, close to the slums, and skate a spontaneous show for the kids. The idea was quite a success. Before we had been skating even two minutes, people were coming to watch from every corner. Cars started to stop in the middle of the street, and he crowd got bigger every minute. After skating for 20 minutes, I involved some kids to show them how much fun skateboarding is and what the feeling is like. Each kid surprised me by not showing any fear to the sport and being super-excited to try their first skate tricks. Unfortunately, it quickly turned into a bit of a problem, because the kids didn’t want to stop or let us go. We finally had to escape to the closest taxi. The next show followed at the main train station. Exactly the same story as the show before. We were having such a good time presenting skating to people who have never seen it. Then suddenly everybody got sidetracked by a little monkey that was sitting right above me. But I got their attention back while feeding it bananas. I saved my last impressions right there, where all the people around me were laughing and having fun times. CW
Written By Kai Dunkel