Shillong, Aug 26, 2018:
The gradual transformation of Shillong in the last 10 years from a once ‘quiet hill-state’ to a ‘sought after destination’ has steered the city to a whole new outlook. The adoption and experimentation of cultures of a varied nature — be it lifestyle, sports, fashion or business has seemingly added more shades to the already lively city.
But whether the city is ready to embrace such changes is something which is still ‘debatable’.
Talking about change in the sporting sector, one would agree that other than football (a sport well-received by the masses); there are also other forms of sporting events which are slowly growing in the state like motorsports and other types of adventure sports.
But what about BMX and skating culture — A sport which involves mostly teenagers and bike lovers, a sport which requires skills and passion, a sport which increases your metabolism, a sport which requires dedication and focus – What about it?
It is here – and it is struggling to survive amid the countless challenges. Though not very popular, this culture has already made a mark for itself and has got many young boys and girls glued to its intriguing, challenging yet adventurous aura.
Six years ago, seven young Shillongites set out on this adventurous journey and within this short span of time, they have managed to raise the pedestal and project Shillong in a good and sporty light.
Introducing Neville Wayne Suting (24), August Phawa (21), Akash Bhawal (20) and Winward Sangma (19) – all BMX riders and Gordy, Jerry and Debashish – Skaters, the young enthusiasts who are trying hard, in their own little way, to popularise this culture and get more youths involved.
The journey was rough, unpleasant and demoralising of course, but that did not stop these young cyclists from striving forward like a company of determined soldiers, prepared to take in all the heat.
When they ride the streets of Shillong and stop at an open place to showcase our skills, stern-looking and curious faces wearing a ‘who do you think you are’ looks block their skilful gazes, forcing them to retreat many a time.
“Many a time, the society often consider us street boys (not taken seriously), youths with no future or having no concern whatsoever about the surrounding. But that didn’t stop us from doing what we do best,” said 24-yr-old BMX rider, Neville Wayne Suting.
“We are always judged, we had problem with location, financial problems, occupational hazards, and expensive gadgets are some of the challenges we face,” added Suting.
Despite the odds, the young team who are members of the ‘Ground Rule-Shillong unit’ have trod the uncertain path and found themselves in quiet an interesting situation. Their passion has taken them as far as Bangalore where their commitment, skills and talents have helped steer the wheels in a different and interesting direction.
After earning a name and respect for their team, the youths came back to Shillong with an idea of popularising this culture and providing an open space for interesting riders to be part of the family.
It started as an idea which slowly turned into a reality in the form of a VIZIBILITYZERO BMX/Skate park’ at Langkyrding in Shillong. It took 3 months for them for to get the job done. The park was opened recently. Thanks to one of the team members, August Phawa, who happens to have a huge plot of land and generous parents!
The park was built on a 8000 ft plot of land. It is ‘arguably’ the first skater park in the Northeast.
“The idea came to us about a year ago. We have travelled a lot across the country to take part in various competitions and in the process realised that as young aspiring riders, we lag behind in so many ways and one of them is the space to practice and further sharpen our skills,” said another rider, Akash Bhawal.
“We have always wanted a permanent place to practice and have also approached many government departments for this purpose, but nothing materialised,” said Bhawal adding that all that were given to them were mere assurances and promises which never did see the light of the day.
Interestingly, in 2016 after the team have successfully managed to project Shillong as one of the destinations of BMX racing and skating, 2015 BMX World Champions, Viki Gomez decided to come to Shillong and experience the mad adrenaline rush.
“It was the times of our lives to be able to meet Viki and watch him perform live in Shillong,” said another team member, Winward Sangma adding that during his visit to the city, they were given a chance to perform in front of the World Champion. “That boosted our morale and our determination to keep this trend alive,” he added.
Setting their priorities straight, the team is firm on their aspiration to keep the culture alive even as they claimed that amongst the riders in Northeast (Assam and Mizoram), Shillong tops the chart. “We will continue doing our bid to popularise this sport and to change the perception people have towards this sport,” said the optimistic young riders.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)