December 3, 2011, was a landmark day for skateboarding enthusiasts in the city when American pro-skateboarder Tony Hawk came to India for the very first time to perform at Bandra-Kurla Complex. Twenty-eight-year-old Nikhil Bhosale, who had then been skateboarding for about two and a half years after being inspired by the Heath Ledger-starring movie Lords of Dogtown, was ecstatic but also a little cynical about how many people would actually attend the event.
“Until then, I could’ve counted the number of skateboarders in the city on my fingertips,” he says. He didn’t expect more than 500 people to turn up, the majority being kids who know of Hawk through the immensely popular Tony Hawk Pro Skater computer and video games.
Imagine his surprise, then, when more than 6,000 people turned up for the event. He says, “It looked more like a rock show than a skateboarding event.”
Bhosale is one of a growing handful of skateboarders in the city who believes that the Tony Hawk show has sparked interest in a sport that, until now, had few takers. Jimmy ‘Graves’ Hilloo, 19, agrees: “I’ve been skateboarding for about nine years and I’ve never seen this kind of interest before.”
Hilloo, a Gowalia Tank resident, has been at the forefront of the skateboarding scene in the city, having established the now-two-year-old Facebook community ‘Skateboarding in Mumbai’, which has gathered 200 members in the past six months. When he organised a skate meet two years ago in Bandra, only 30 people showed up. A year later, that number had tripled to 90. “Since the Tony Hawk event, another 50 have joined our page. The growth has been extremely rapid,” he says.
Bhosale and Hilloo estimate the number of skateboarders in the city to be about 400 to 500 people, but are optimistic about seeing even more growth.
“It’s more than just a sport; it’s an art form that can be graceful and yet physically demanding,” says Bhosale. “Age is no bar either.”