The Epic Build
India is different and you experience this in many different ways. First of all there are the visual impressions you’re absorbing when leaving the airport, whereas a first taxi ride can easily arouse feelings between admiration and disbelief: overcrowded busses, cows in the middle of traffic, confusing roads with no road markings, and to the western eye unconventional clothing and architecture. You’re telling yourself that you know all these things from the news and documentaries; you’re expecting it to be kind of like that. But it’s what you don’t see right away that makes the difference.
You only really notice how different India really is once you try to make plans. According to western protocol, you have a goal and you take the necessary steps in order to achieve that goal. But in India, as soon as you start everything becomes a mess: every step of planning turns out different than expected, every action leads to unexpected results and in the end you find you’ve done something that doesn’t bare any resemblance to the initial plan. In the first week you have this experience doing pretty much anything: buying groceries, activating a SIM card, or getting steel delivered. It seems like nothing runs to a plan and you get the impression that people act without any real rules or fixed patterns. The uncle of one of our generous hosts explained this phenomenon one night as we sat around a bonfire in his garden: In Europe, there is one god and he has to take care of everything. For the poor guy not to be completely overrun with work there have to be gazillion of rules. Well, in India, there are more than 300 gods who take care to make sure most of things work out smoothly. The Indians simply have more manpower up there.
Before we were all able to have these experiences, a lot of preparation was needed. During a trip to India in 2012, Robin (Höning) and Arne (Hillerns) from the 2er (DIY Hanover) met the Holystoked Collective. Holystoked is a small group of skaters who wanted to start a skateshop and a DIY skatepark on their private property in the suburbs of Bangalore. Despite a lack of experience in building ramps and after only two years on the board, they had already established some contacts with American distributors who had supplied them with skate stuff, but due to the lack of experience in building ramps, the construction of the DIY park was far from being realised. As part of the group of constructors that built the 2er park in Hanover, the German travellers were keen to help out. Unfortunately, with time and financial restrictions it was impossible to even get started. A promise was made to come back in the near future and to bring help.
Back home, wild discussions started over the idea to help out the Indians in getting their project started. It became clear that building a skatepark in India would have a different meaning than building one in Europe. Skateboarding in India is so unknown that most of the people don’t even know what a skateboard looks like, let alone what to do with it. The number of skaters in Bangalore, a megacity with a population of more than 9 million, can be counted on two hands. Holystoked didn’t want to open up any skateshop but the first one in all of India!
Access to the hitherto only existing park in Bangalore is 200 Rupees, about three Euros, so, when a salary of just 35 Rupees lies above the poverty line, it was impossible for most children. A fact underlined by the big fence that seperates the park from a bordering slum. With this in mind the whole idea was to construct the first public skatepark in India, the first of its kind, where gender, cast or socio-economic background are irrelevant.
In Germany, the discussion continued about how to approach the whole thing. A shipping container that was needed for tools could later become the a shop. A calculation of building materials needed was made, lodging was sourced and, with the help of various skateshops (High Five Hanover, Harbour Distribution Hamburg, Mr. Wilson Kassel, Black Heaven Münster, Fossy Skateshop Ravensburg and Wasted Box Cologne) more than 400 boards, hundreds of wheels and bearings were collected. Every dusty board that was sitting in a basement got a whole new meaning in India.
The financing of the project in terms of flights and lodging was backed by Levi’s and the time for realisation was set for end of February beginning of March. The only thing that was missing was more concrete loving enthusiasts. Apart from nearly the entire team of Yamato Living Ramps, a skatepark construction company that evolved out of 2er, there was a mix of people with different skills. Next to the Indians who got to use the trowel for their first time, there were also full-blown professionals like Darryl Nobbs – who breathes and shits concrete. As additional support – not necessarily for construction – a few Nike team riders came over from the US.
A good deal of the 2er Crew arrived about a week earlier to arrange places to stay and everything needed for construction, everything was ready to start building from the first day of arrival.
Most Europeans used to snow storms back home, now found themselves looking for shadow in the relentless 40 degree heat. It was nearly impossible to do any manual labour from around 12 to 3pm a stark difference to the rain that dogged the first Builders’ Jam in Hanover.
Unfortunately we had to avoid working at night and as the construction site was next door to the mansion of a rich lawyer who was not too fond of listening to metal all night long. Either that or it was the two huge concrete mixers that got fed by up to 12 Indians, running day and night, which made him threaten us with a court case. In the end we came to the agreement that from 8pm on we would cut the mixers and carry on with a skeleton crew, and that the remaining beer drinking slobs would bugger off.
In general though, the reaction of the neighbours was good. Even though most of them didn’t understand what was happening, they still saw it as something positive. Whilst the presence of 25 tattooed white men doing hard labour was something they had never seen before it’s also worth remembering that understood what we were actually doing because nobody knew what a skatepark was. While the grown-ups watched from the other side of the wall, the kids from the surrounding tent settlements were not afraid to check things out first hand. From day one different crews of kids came over and spent entire days at the site, rolling around on the borrowed boards, helping to cut wood and earning high fives. It was also the kids that screamed the loudest when somebody landed a trick and they were first ones to sign up for the free skate and English lessons that are now offered by Holystoked.
Daryl Nobbs, stalefish.
The daily routine differed from crew to crew. Generally it was the English who were the first ones to get up in the morning leading to massive farts and impressive shit talk. In an apartment with only two stories and three separate rooms where every square meter was filled with mattresses and hung over dudes, this early rising led to an abrupt end of sleep for pretty much everyone else. The chaos of this holy place was wholly indescribable. But it might help if you were to imagine a low-budget tour multiplied with 100 cases of Budweiser, diarrhoea and five times the amount of people. Everyone slept on handmade mattresses which lost their padding after the first night, but to be honest there was not much sleeping going on anyways. And if you were that someone who went to bed early, it was probable that the next morning you’d find yourself with a beer fortress built around you.
There was no design for the park. The only thing that was mandatory, and the one thing Shake from Holystoked insisted on, was an over-vert pocket; he had seen the videos and wanted to take the opportunity to do over-vert slashers on a regular basis. With pleasure his wish was put into concrete. After the position of the pocket was fixed, the rest of the park evolved around it, mostly by making intuitive use of the materials available, paired with a good communication between all builders. A hip over here? Why not! After this pocket a china bank? Good idea! A volcano with a palm tree? For sure!
The Foxspot Crew from England, worldwide experts in building unskateable pump tracks, built a track around the container one-metre width, making use of the only leftover space. And before you know it a skatepark was created that would easily kick the ass of most European parks of the same magnitude. There is, amongst other things, a small funbox bordered by an Abu Dhabi quarter –constructed by Berlin’s Betonhausen, and a big quarterpipe shaped onto the front of the container with pieces of granite as extension. The flow of the park emerged out of the builder’s longstanding experience of simply knowing what ramps go where. With each passing day, the excitement grew to get to skate the park that was now presenting itself in full.
Because we were running out of time we had to get concrete trucks for pouring the flat. Ordered for 8am, the first one arrived five hours late, in accordance with local schedules, whereas a few hours prior a concrete pump with 6 workers had already appeared on the site. Once the pump nd truck aligned we started to pour the concrete just in time for the afternoon heat. As soon as we managed to level the ground, at the worst possible moment, the only rain of the entire building period started pouring down on us. With united force we managed to diminish the catastrophe by making drains and by scattering additional concrete on the washed out surface. By the evening we were ready to treat the floor with a power float, only in the meantime the guys operating the machine had got a hold of some beers and had passed out by midnight. In the end it was the builders who finished the ground.
Chet Childress, frontside feeble.
For the next day, the first time since the beginning of the build, a free day was scheduled for street skating. Afterwards, everybody came together for the eagerly anticipated first session in the new park. This was also the moment when everybody started to realise how huge the impact within the local population really was. Instantly, massive crowds of people formed on the side of the park. All available space on the tables was packed with kids and the bordering main street was completely blocked because busses and cars stopped in the middle of traffic to get a glimpse of what was going on. All the sudden there were people everywhere and you could literally hear it clicking… “THAT’S what these guys were up to!"
The first session was indescribable. Loads of kids screaming at every trick, local bands were playing on top of the container and hundreds of spectators were left in disbelief. The container and soon to be skateshop was transformed into a temporary bar dubbed “MoshMäsch" complete with free nuts, beers, vodka and other assorted drinks.
Some of the guys stayed in India for a few more weeks, built a bowl in Hampi, and experienced many other great stories; others had to make their way back home to comply with prior obligations. But each one who was there in Bangalore at that particular time will tell about this for years to come with a sparkle in their eyes.
One last thing: over the past few weeks we've worked closely with Levi's to bring you a subpage (on our site) that will host galleries, edits and information about future project. The page go live this Friday so keep your eyes peeled.