How 2 Mumbai girls are challenging sexism in a little-known action sport

Not a bird, not a plane and definitely not a man – its the Longboard Girls Crew (LGC) India set to fly away on their boards, hurtling past sceptics and leaving them agape. So, the next time you run into a bunch of gear-clad women on a not-so-frequented road in Mumbai, you know who they are: The India chapter of LGC, which is chipping away at sexism in adventure sports, one slide at a time.

Fact check: A longboard is a longer version of a skateboard. (And, no, its not similar to a surfboard.)

Basica Salam in action; Image by Mahendra Bhaindarkar

For all those girls who think sport is more than Tic-Tac-Toe in childhood and Pass the Bottle in adulthood, Longboard presents itself as a very real alternative. From high speeds to an adrenaline rush, there is enough adventure for those embracing the sport. Kunjika Singh and Basica Salam, Indian ambassadors for Longboard Girls Crew, share their journey of shattering stereotypes and taking the sport on to the fast track, literally!

The first slide

Unlike its globally renowned mother group from Madrid, Longboard Girls Crew India had humble origins – it began its expedition at the Longboard Crew India, a community of action sports loyalists that has both men and women. It was here that Kunjika met Basica, and they eventually decided to get in touch with Valeria Kechichian, the founder of the international Crew, who quickly appointed them ambassadors for India.

Challenges were plenty, recounts Basica. In a country where women have to plead their way into a badminton court, participation has been patchy. Some thought it was dangerous, while others were either too caught up with work or family. But, as is usually the case, the ones with passion didn’t only survive, but are also thriving. And that’s enough to keep the rollers in motion!

Antima Bisht vrooming high up on a vert ramp; Image by Basica Salam

The Indian terrain

With an open door policy – which means you can just walk in, get a couple of lessons and are good to go – the game has got a serious impetus. Sample this: the oldest member at Longboarding Crew India happens to be a 50-year-old dentist. Several members are either working or in college, and some have even left mainstream college life to pursue their passion!

But it hasn’t been a smooth sail always. A few years back, buying the longboard was a challenge given its price of Rs 20,000-30,000. The group, however, came up with an alternative – they started manufacturing their own brand of 100% Indian grown Nightrain Longboards, which are sold at half the price. They made DIY sliding gloves and sometimes make do with heavy bike helmets. Respect!

The Longboard Girls Crew after the screening of OPEN; Image by Oscar Avila Akerberg

Behind the scenes

Leading a bunch of rad girls, Basica and Kunjika are working tirelessly to take this sport to the masses in the country. But they are not the only ones. Both strongly acknowledge support from the trio of Nikhil, Boris and Sameer from Longboard Crew India in building up a base.

Success stories are many but the one they cannot not talk about is the Crews screening of OPEN, a documentary featuring 14 international female longboarders, at Mahindra School in Mulshi, Pune. For the first time, there were more girls than guys attending the event. Initially scared but once on board, they ripped it and rode like pros! “Thats the kind of zest we want to usher in, says Kunjika!

Ayn Sayed and Kiera Chang during a slide; Image by Prameet Singh

Practice spots

Their favourite jamming spots are several, but Parsik Hill in Navi Mumbai is one of the favourites given its smooth and unfrequented roads. Plan to experience the zeal before signing up? You know where their jamming adda is.

They are also fond of the slopes in Lavasa, and call it one of the best they have practised on till date.

Catch a glimpse of the documentary OPEN here:

For more information visit their Facebook page

The main image features Snehal Pagire on her board. Image by Mahendra Bhaindarkar

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