Rasmus Sundqvist

In Afghanistan, the leaders of tomorrow are skateboarders

 A little while ago my girlfriend showed me this video on a humanitarian initiative in Afghanistan. Knowing Afghanistan mainly from news reports, as a country riddled by violence and suffering, I found it inspiring to see people committing themselves to making a difference for the street kids of Kabul. But what fascinated me the most was the way that they were doing it; through skateboarding.

I grew up during the 80’s and 90’s. Huge shoulder pads, punks with mohawks, looking hip in your grandpa’s old flannel shirt and the advent of house music was all part of my childhood and teenage years. And then there was skateboarding. I was 8 years old when the so-called second wave of skateboarding hit Sweden. Despite their concerns for our safety, me and my friend Tobias managed to convince our parents to buy us skateboards (and helmets and kneepads and elbow pads…). We would skate down the street outside Tobias’ house, jump over wooden planks that we found in the garage and write ’skate or die’ on our math notebooks. We didn’t really know what ’skate or die’ meant, but it sounded cool.

Unlike the shoulder pads of the 80s, skateboarding followed me throughout my upbringing. Apart from a few years’ hiatus here and there, I’ve been skating all through my life, ever since those early days on Tobias’ driveway. Needless to say, it has meant a lot to me as a way to have fun. But skateboarding has given me so much more than that. It has been a way to channel frustrations into something positive. It’s been a way to meet likeminded people and make new friends. But most importantly, it has been something that nurtured my creativity and that in many ways shaped the way I look at my life. Skateboarding is an activity that’s centered on self-expression, around creativity. No one can tell you that you are doing a trick the wrong way. You are doing it your way, and personal style is as important for professional level skateboarders as is technical skill. This mentality is at the very core of skateboarding, and therefore it supports free thinking and independence. Skateboarding is also scary. There is a real danger of hurting yourself (as my parents were well aware of back in ’88). Whenever you are learning something new on your skateboard, there is a point where you will have to let go and just do it. Take a leap of faith. That’s why skateboarding also helps to foster a proactive and powerful stance in life.

For a long time, I’ve know that skateboarding played a role in teaching me to become the leader of my life, to see opportunities where others see obstacles and to believe in myself and have the courage to face my fears. For those reasons, I’ve often sung the praises of skateboarding in the past. But it wasn’t until I saw this video that I realized just how much independence and leadership that a board with four little wheels can actually inspire in a young persons heart. Skate or die.

Find out more about the Skateistan project here: