"Like flowers growing in concrete cracks, skateboarding always finds a way." — Nestor Judkins, Salad Days of Skateboarding.
The capacity for bodies to create art with movements that seduce and defy gravity is a global phenomenon. I am talking about skateboarders and their brilliance, bravery, and community-building capacities.
As posted in Thrasher Magazine, SkatePakistan, a Salad Days of Skateboarding project, is raising money to build a skatepark. They just released "First Push: The Blossoming Skatescene in Pakistan" to circulate and celebrate the project.
In February of 2022, Salad Days members Nestor Judkins, Keegan Guizard, Kenny Reed, Zack Mack, Kiril Korobkov, and Evgenia Korobkova all traveled to Lahore.
Salad Days of Skateboarding "is a 501c3 nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles, CA, and operates around the world by visiting developing and underserved skateboarding communities, donating skateboard equipment, providing mentorship, and partnering with other local nonprofits to spread the gift of skateboarding. Founded by professional skateboarder Nestor Judkins, and developed through years of traveling and connecting with skate communities around the world. Our mission is to promote skateboarding as a vehicle to create community, break down barriers of economic inequality, and racial and gender division, and provide a joyful respite from the pressure and difficulties of daily life through self-expression."
The video begins in the Punjab city, Lahore, the "cultural heartbeat of the land." The script is poetic and detailed, specific in examples about culture, the intimacy of conversations, and singular in the humility of approach to collaboration and solidarity: "the ancient meets the modern on every corner."
There are no markets or shops to purchase a skateboard. Before traveling to Lahore, Salad Days had shipped a dozen complete skateboards for the project and brought many more. They also brought a board press to make the first skateboards designed and manufactured in Pakistan. The video is fantastic as a cultural and historical mandate for learning more about a country often vilified in the media and a chronicling of the emerging popularity of skateboarding. It serves as an important reminder to skaters to learn about their visiting places, culture, history, and politics.
Shaihan Hassan initially invited Salad Days to Pakistan. Hassan was born in Peshawar and grew up in Abu Dhabi, where they learned to skate. Hassan returned to Lahore at age 18.
"Skateboarding was something that I carried with me, and I tried to find a platform to connect all the skateboarders and people skateboarding and interested in skateboarding in Pakistan. There were no skateboarders here and no skateboards here. Skateboarding requires a lot of passion to pursue. That passion, I feel sort of transcends social boundaries, which we normally encounter, especially in Pakistani society, where class boundaries are very pertinent. I'm glad to see that in the Lahore skateboarding community and the Islamabad and Karachi communities, we are seeing people from different backgrounds getting together skateboarding, making friendships, working on projects together, and it is really heartening to see."
The burgeoning skate scene self-organizes two weekly meetups where people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds come together.
Maheena Bidsandhu explains the social and political significance of skateboarding for girls:
"There is like this conventional mindset for a lot of the older people…people need to change their mindset. It's really hard for girls to go out. We get stared at a lot all the time. Why is she outside? I think it is pretty cool though. I think people can feel inspired. There is a sense of freedom in skating. I think it is really good. I think it will be really good for women to start skating in Pakistan. I've seen few, but I'm pretty sure the community will grow."
Like other areas around the globe, because of traffic, weather (heat), and lack of space, "skateboarding retreats into a nocturnal act." Basketball and tennis courts are a global nighttime skatepark.
Shopping at the public market, organized by item and trade, as a group project, the international team of skaters built the first quarter pipe ramp in Lahore. The group traveled to Islamabad in a rented van to meet Quasim Sharif, with whom they had been in previous contact. The goal: support connections among the different regional elements of the emerging Pakistani skate scene. A history-making session ensued, with skaters from Russia, Afghanistan, the US, and Pakistan. Fun all around. Maybe this was one of Donald Rumsfeld's famous "unknown, unknowns."
Two girls, Hamzah Hasan Quasim Sharif, share their perspectives in a shared statement,
"[we] hope to see more girls skateboarding. When you do it together… it's lots more fun and you learn a lot, and it also creates a whole community. You are skateboarding together and hanging out and feeling good. My favorite thing about skateboarding is the persistence and determination it requires because you have to overcome your fear…with every trick, you have to overcome something. It's a very good life lesson as well."
Finalizing official connections with a local Pakistani authority, Yasir Gillani, Chairperson of the Parks and Horticulture department, the official offered the group land in "any park in the city" to develop a skateboard park. After a brief tour of parks, the group found a perfect space between a football field and a cricket field. Stay tuned.
As Quasim Sharif stated at the end of the session in Islamabad, "This event is a great example of the power that this great wooden toy gives us all."
Salad Days of Skateboarding have organized projects in Cuba, Bhutan, and Tajikistan. Friendship and skateboarding as a basis for solidarity.