Skateboarding is hip and happening in Harare

Dash Nkebe
Falling is part of the learning when it comes to skateboarding. Dash and Shaun
Broke Boys Pieter Retief, Dash Nkebe and Shaun Ditolo
Broke Boys Pieter Retief, Dash Nkebe and Shaun Ditolo
Khayelitsha skateboard pioneers Pieter Retief, Asakhe Shaun Ditolo and Oluhle “Dash” Nkebe

Who says clever kids can’t be cool? Skateboard buddies Oluhle “Dash” Nkebe, 20 and Asakhe Shaun Ditolo, 22, from Endlovini, in Harare, in Khayelitsha, founders of the Broke Boys Skating Club, are living proof. The two, along with other friends, have become a familiar sight at the Grassroots Football of Hope centre. But, instead of kicking a ball, they’re kicking it on their skateboards.

Dash, a problem-solver since his school days at the Cape Academy of Maths and Science in Constantia, and Ditolo, connected through their shared passion for skateboarding.

Together they conjured up the notion that they would start a club and get other youngsters interested. But first they needed a venue.

“We thought we should have a place where we could practice. We did not want to build a big skatepark, just a place where the community could come together, sit back and enjoy what’s on offer,” said Ditolo.

Thanks to a little bit of help from their friend Pieter Retief, whom they reached out to on social media, they were able to convert a portion of the area next to the Football for Hope centre into a makeshift skatepark.

“We got in touch with Pieter and told him about a dream we had. He said he’d try to make a plan and after a few meetings, we got the opportunity to make our dream come true,” Ditolo said.

Retief connected them to RedBull SA, a company known for its involvement in sporting activities outside the mainstream.

It was a match made in skateboard heaven, as RedBull through its Do it Yourself (DIY) programme, provides support and material to kick-start the creation of DIY spots in local communities, encouraging those who have never built skateparks before and allowing those experienced to try something new.

The idea is not only to assist in the development of skate spots, but also to give the local skaters a platform to showcase their talents and DIY creativity.

Enter Retief, who runs Where To From Here, a company involved with similar projects since 2017.

Dash and Ditolo spotted him online, doing DIY initiatives, fixing skateboarding spots across the city.

“We focus on brand activations, event management and the production of skateboarding obstacles, mainly specialising in concrete,” said Retief.

“We’ve worked with global brands like Vans and Adidas to execute campaigns locally and abroad,” he said.

The Cape Town-based company does work all over South Africa and recently assisted with an activation based in Lagos, Nigeria for international Go-Skateboarding day on June 21.

So when Retief received a call for assistance from Dash and Ditolo, it was right up his alley.

“Where To From Here partnered up with Red Bull to execute smaller DIY projects around South Africa. The goal is to fix old and new skateboarding spots and build obstacles where there were none before. They truly keep the DIY ethos alive with the objective to give back to the skateboarding community,” he said.

Dash, who’s been skating since 2016 after a friend introduced him to it while living in Johannesburg, says its been an exciting ride.

“It’s been a real opportunity getting this place in terms of our own infrastructure and doing what we love.

The young skater remains upbeat despite the recent heavy rains that flooded much of their skating area, including the adjacent artificial soccer pitch, a legacy of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

“The whole idea of building this skatepark was to educate people about skateboarding and that soccer is not the only option you have as a sport. Skateboarding is really fun and equal to any other sport. That’s how we started.

“The coolest thing about skateboarding for me is the mindset that it gives you, the idea and the perspective it gives you in life.

“If you fall every time on a skateboard, you always get up and try that trick again. What it teaches you is that you won’t fail at anything if you consistently try. Eventually, you’ll get it right,” he said.

To get the skate park project off the ground they needed buy-in from the community and the necessary permission.

Work got underway to erect skateboarding obstacles after getting the greenlight from the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading(VPUU), a community -based organisation that aims to improve the quality of life for residents through a range of urban improvements and social interventions.

The VPUU began as a partnership between the City of Cape Town, the German Development Bank (KFW) and the Khayelitsha community, in 2005. Since then the partnership has been extended to include the Western Cape government, national treasury and a host of other NGOs .

“So the project started about a year ago when we started with the conversation and eventually about a month ago, we managed to install the ledges here,” said Retief.

“We looked at what we can do, we put a couple of slappy curves in place. We realised we need to do more than just fix ledges, we actually needed to build new ledges.

That’s how the conversation started, that’s what brought me here. That’s how my relationship grew with Shaun and Dash.

“So with all of these DIY initiatives, there’s always a first tier of the project, which we would see as this part. In the next four to five years we hope to add more obstacles here, we need to do more transitions, more embankments. We just want to keep that relationship going with the VPUU and the City of Cape Town to really try and grow this space. We’re not trying to build million dollar skateparks, we’re just trying to do grassroots activations, ledges, rails, things that make a difference so that the youth can actually learn and they have the facilities in their backyard,” he said.

football for hope centre: The area around the Football for Hope centre, in Harare flooded after the recent heavy rains.