“It is frustrating at first, but you gotta stick it through to reap the rewards” – Atita Verghese

Inspire Crew (IC) caught up with ‘India’s first female pro skateboarder’, getting an inside dig of her journey and how it all began. Sipping on some afternoon tea at her place in Agonda and dreaming of catching some waves in the evening, Atita takes IC for a walk into her past talking of her days and experiences thus far.

Photo Credit - Norma Ibarra

What was life like before you learnt about skateboarding?

I was always an active person. I was in a lot of sport teams in school and I trained to compete in Kanteerava Stadium for four years. I was a national level athlete.


My main events were 60 meter hurdles,100 meter sprint and triple jump. I trained in diving and swimming for another two years.


My mom was such a driving force behind all this because when you’re a 9 year old, the last thing you want to do is wake up every morning at 4 am. But that was my life for a few years. Early morning training before school and after.


Shout out to my mom and my school the Frank Anthony Public School for supporting me so much.


Like my mom, the principal of my school understood the importance of sports and allowed me leeway to pursue both education and sport. These are our major support systems as kids.


How long have you been skating for and how often do you skate now?

I’ve been skating for about 7 years. I skate the least now than when I started out. I’m currently living in a spot in Goa where there’s nothing to skate. I’m surfing more than I ever had so that’s that. I would like to skate everyday though if there was something here.


Your first day skateboarding...

My first day of skating was at Play Arena with my friends Abhishek and Nico. We just drove up there and cruised around for a bit. It was totally empty because skateboarding was so new back then. There were a handful of guys skating every now and then but that day it was empty.

Photo Credit - Norma Ibarra

What was the first trick you landed? And your favorite trick is...?

Rock Fakie was the first. Smith grinds on pool coping is my favorite.


With skateboarding picking up more and more in the present generation, we have seen many who have a lot of passion for the sport at first, and gradually the passion dies out while other interests become priorities. But not you. What’s driving your passion?

I think a lot of people are attracted to it at first because it looks super fun and new but what they learn after a while is that it’s a lot of time and work that goes into the smallest things. Like just to land an Ollie took me about a year and it was so frustrating but you gotta stick it through to reap the reward.


I guess for me it became such a big part of my life that it just stayed with me. A year after I just started I got really into it and went to skate almost every single day. It felt weird to go by the day without skating in there somewhere. So yeah, skateboarding is the driving passion.

You have earned the title of being ‘India’s first female pro skateboarder’, your thoughts on it? What has changed since?

It’s really weird. To be a pro skater literally anywhere else in the world means to have your own pro model board but in India I got this name by the media.


I have sponsors that support me to keep skateboarding but I have that because they want to support what i do. I’m not sponsored because I skate on a pro level or anything.

I’m a flow team rider for Vans India and I'm on the Extreme and Stanley, Dewalt Black & Decker team as well.

Having sponsors support what you do is rad and I’m grateful to live this life. I want to make it last as long as possible and enjoy it while I have it.


Your current board setup...

I'm riding a 8.0 Nozbone skate shop deck, 52 mm Nozbone wheels and 149 Indy's.

The Caves Skate Park, Photo Credit - Owen Roberts

What is the current status of this sport in India, in terms of other pro skaters/ sponsored skaters, jobs in the industry, competitions, and events?

Ask me again in a few years when that exists because now it's DIY or die. You do it yourself or it doesn't exist. If you want a job in skateboarding you have to create it.  

There are few people that are on flow for Vans but I don't know too many others who are sponsored. We just aren't there yet. Skateboarding in India isn't what it is in the west or even China for that matter. 


As much as the skate community needs support from the government and corporates to promote it and make it an accessible sport for all, we need to also work on ourselves more as skaters, as communities.


There needs to be more culture and more facets towards skateboarding in India that is created by skateboarders. More creativity, more inclusiveness, more solidarity.


Photo Credit - Poornabodh - Holy Detour - Goa

There's one or two contests in the whole country. One isn't really worth it in my opinion because you have to spend to compete. You literally get nothing out of it in the end, except a medal that doesn't mean anything or maybe a watch or something. Watches don't pay bills.


The other one is better because you get paid for winning. But there's a flaw in this one, the gender pay gap is wild. This is an outdated contest model as the skate industry is transitioning into a mandatory equal pay model in the run up to the Olympics.


There's another one called the Rev Jam that started newly. I haven't been but it looked like it was fun.


100 ramps is killing it. They're carving a space for themselves as skate park builders within the industry and are churning out new parks as we speak.

 

The Desert Dolfin film - India's first film on skateboarding, which is being worked on right now and set to release next year is also another push in the right direction.


The Orb Movement did a girl skate clinic of their own the other day in Mumbai.


The Kamali Film is also another Academy Award winning milestone in Indian skateboarding.


Where all have you skated? Which place has left a lasting impression on you?

I’ve skated North America, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Nepal, Maldives,

Sri Lanka. Colorado was great. I loved it out there. Best people, parks and spots sprawled all over the place and a rad scene for skating!


How has your experience of building Skate parks been?

I’ve learned how to use multiple tools and machinery which I never really got to learn anywhere else.


I’ve met some top people from around the world and built with them and had so much learning and fun in the process. But it’s hard work and you get to be really dirty all day. It’s great. Love a little DIY every now and then.

Photo Credit - Anthony Acosta

Is it easy to find a helping hand when you work on building these skate parks?

Yes, I do! I have been lucky that way. I have come across alot of people around the world who are willing to come forward and lend a helping hand. They focus on community services.


Mahabs Build, Photo Credit - Ariana Kaiser

India is fast advancing. It is a country that’s fast learning too. Do you think women are still deprived off support?

Patriarchy. The whole system we live in, every aspect of our lives is based on a patriarchal structure and within this framework it can only be expected that women are left behind.


How do you think India is evolving in terms of extreme sports in general?

There’s a lot of young people in India who want to make career in extreme sports but unfortunately it’s not the most viable or reliable career option. Without more corporate and government support and funding it’s quite the challenge to have any infrastructure like parks and public plazas to skate.


But in general I think it’s getting really exciting to see how there’s more people in it now, more women, more talent. Be it slowly but it’s evolving and I can say mainly because of the grassroots people who are into the sports and those who are passionately and organically growing it.


India is in a dire need for funding and support in Extreme Sports by the corporate, people, governments and organisations. If you’re not actually involved with any of it yourself and want to help then get in touch with the communities themselves and share dialogue with them to understand what you could do best and how for these communities.


Photo Credit - Samuel Farreira

What kind of struggle are you still facing in terms of support in India?

There is a HUGE lack of infrastructure to skate.


India is big but the streets are too crusty/ damaged or crowded mostly and there’s not nearly enough parks anywhere.


There was a time where I wouldn't travel somewhere that didn’t have anything to skate but that was quite limiting cause there aren’t too many places with spots here. Now that I have my van and i'm travelling around more often it really sucks when I go places and there’s nothing around to skate.


We really need the government to recognize it as something worth pursuing and investing in and then the attitudes of the everyday people will change.


We need free public skate parks all over the country, more awareness about skateboarding, more public spots/ plazas assigned for skateboarding, more corporate and government funding.


But mostly a space for it and the freedom to use the spaces. Indians are very conservative about seeing people, especially girls and women falling.


What is the current size of girl skaters in India since the time you started?

When I started there were around 3 girls including myself that I knew of at least. Now, approximate there would be around 40 - 50 out of which about 10-20 are regular skaters that skate every week or so.


Photo Credit - Norma Ibarra - GSI Tour Vol.2 - Janwar Skate Park, Madhya Pradesh

What sparked the idea of 'Girl Skate India'?

It’s simple. I wanted girls to skate too. The two week Kovalam Skate Club build I did in 2014 and doing the girls clinic at the end of it with Louisa and Lisa also triggered something.


What is it like while training these kids into skateboarding?

It was fun. I used to teach for about 4 years regularly. It’s inspiring to see kids getting more confident through skateboarding and setting goals for themselves.


Girls Skate Workshop, Photo Credit - Bobbys Road

Do you have another Girl skate tour planned?

Yes, I'm planning on another one maybe around the end of the year. But it's hard to say anything solid right now. I want more local skaters to be involved so I have to plan around them mostly.


Where in India will one find the largest number of female skateboarders as per your knowledge and why?

Kovalam, Kerala. ‘SISP’, an NGO that has a skateboarding programme called ‘The Kovalam Skate Club’ is doing great work in growing and maintaining the number of female skaters. I’m pretty sure they have around 15 girls skating there now.

Photo Credit - Virginia Fernandes - GSI Tour - Kovalam Skate Club, Kerala

Children need mentor-ship to maintain and run a functioning skate facility. In India, girls, in particular need an environment of where their guardians are convinced is safe. They also need that extra push and motivation to step out of the submissiveness that is expected of them as girls in our society. And they get this here, thanks to Vineeth and Paul and the rest of the team.


What’s the next big thing you are hoping to happen in India that would boost Skateboarding as a sport in India?

The next big thing would be if the government would actually provide funding towards building parks and spots for skateboarding. Now that it’s an Olympic sport, there is even bigger reason to invest in skateboarding.


However, India just has other bigger, pressing issues to deal with whether or not we want more skate parks and skate-able spots but I do hope this changes soon.


What are the best spots to skate in India?

In India there are new spots coming up all the time now. I like the parks in Chennai and Rajasthan and the Cave Skate Park in Bangalore of course. I haven’t been but the parks in Assam and Gwalior look great too.


A message to other girls or boys skating out there, to keep things gender neutral?

Skateboarding is something you can enjoy with anyone no matter how different you seem to be. It's that love for riding that unifies us all and that's really the essence of it.


Your thoughts on inspire crew?

Anybody doing something to promote girls and women in sport is fantastic. We're just beginning to scratch surface here.


There's so much more work to be done in terms of female participation in sport in India so any nudge in that direction deserves applause and support. Keep doing the necessary work ladies, you're appreciated.


A quote you stand by...

“If you need a hero just look in the mirror” - Kali Uchis

Photo Credit - Norma Ibarra

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