Following the hosting of the inaugural Longboard event held here in December, many people are talking about its legacy and what’s next for the event. But champion skateboarder and former St. Mary’s College student Anarcisse “Nazz” Alexander says great work is already taking place.
In this interview, the 19-year-old discusses how it all started for him and how he hopes to engage more young people to take up the sport.
Alexander: I actually got into skateboarding at age 12. At that point, I had my own skateboard, after a few months it was destroyed. I didn’t get another one until I was 17. When I got my first job, I saved up and purchased another. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else so I decided to make a living from it. At the time, I realized there was no pro shop on the island so I started importing boards and other related items for resale.
The VOICE: At what cost you would normally sell a skateboard?
Alexander: Depending on the size and brand, the boards can range from EC$250 to EC$700. I buy the parts and put them together to make sure the boards are safe to ride.
The VOICE: Do you have a good market here?
Alexander: When I started out, there was a small core group of less than 20 individuals within the Castries basin and Gros Islet. But with my WhatsApp group, that number has since doubled. I can safely say there are 50 active skaters showing interest and those asking about lessons. There are also some people who don’t want to purchase a board as yet but just want to see if it’s right for them.
The VOICE: Do you see skateboarding as a fun sport or a dangerous sport?
Alexander: Like all sports, skateboarding has its dangers. It’s a lifestyle, it’s a culture. When someone has been skateboarding for a while, just looking at them even without a skateboard in their hands — the way they dress and carry themselves, even the language they use – you’ll see how it has a positive effect on them.
In terms of danger, I was reading some statistics online that states that skateboarding is actually safer than some of the mainstream sports such as football and basketball. Surprisingly, golf is on that list as well.
The VOICE: With an increasing number of motor vehicles on our roads and the carelessness of some of our drivers, will skateboarders need to take insurance to be on the safe side?
Alexander: To be honest, whether you skateboard or not, insurance is a good idea because you just never know. In life, anything can happen.
The VOICE: Are you specifically insured for skateboarding on the road?
Alexander: No. However, I don’t skateboard in traffic on the highway. I normally do my skateboarding in empty parking lots and basketball courts, spaces where it’s nice and smooth. It’s a lot safer that way.
The VOICE: You participated in the Taj Weekes/International Longboarding event on National Day. Did you have any fear while skateboarding along the Old Morne Road at over 60 mph?
Alexander: Definitely! On the previous day, we actually took the overseas participants to that hill because they wanted to know what it was like. On race day, one of the racers asked me whether I wanted to take a try. I thought of it and within a split second, I was about to say no. But then I decided to go with it because it was a new experience and I always wanted to try longboarding. I went with it and they started teaching me some other techniques. Then I realized it was not as scary as I thought. But looking at that steep incline in front of you and knowing you are about to skate down was like ‘wow’!! I was a bit nervous because we had to go down the hill 12 times. Doing it a few times, you kind of got comfortable with it. In fact, before the event was done, I was already showing off some of the slide manoeuvres the international participants were doing.
The VOICE: With you building on your skateboarding talents, will you now look at the longboard aspect?
Alexander: I always knew I wanted to facilitate all types of skateboarding. I always had a few longboarding parts in stock but never went fully into it. Now that people are asking for them, I have already started ordering them.
The VOICE: Apart from the boards, what about the safety aspect, meaning equipment such as helmets and so on?
Alexander: I have all pieces of safety gear in stock, including helmets, gloves, race guards and knees and elbow pads.
The VOICE: How much does a complete package cost?
Alexander: For a street set-up, the cost is usually between $400 and $500 and for longboarding between $600 and $800.
The VOICE: With 50-plus individuals showing interest, you seem to be the one championing the cause of skateboard. Can we expect to see a national federation being formed soon?
Alexander: We were informed by the Department of Youth Development and Sports that in order to have a national federation we must have multiple clubs. Our first step is to organize clubs. The minimum per club is 15 members. We have 50-plus people, so it shouldn’t be a problem. The initial plan was to do so by the end of January. However, we have shifted it to mid-February when we hope to start registration and get the clubs registered.
The VOICE: Will you be looking towards having it filter into the school system?
Alexander: We intend to have it included as a curriculum activity, but want to ensure we are well organized under an umbrella body and present a total package to the Ministry of Education and the Department of Youth Development and Sports.
The VOICE: Can you share some of the daring moves that you have?
Alexander: They are endless. I do the kick flip. The ollies are very common where you pop the tail of your board and jump into the air to clear various obstacles like drains. In terms of longboarding, there are hillside and toe-side slides, which are the two first slides you usually learn.
The VOICE: What was the advice coming from your parents initially, knowing that when their child takes up a sport like skateboarding?
Alexander: My parents told me to just be safe. My father, in particular, was really skeptical about it because he is one who really stresses avoiding danger at all cost. I explained to him that it all depends on the way you ride. You can ride recklessly or you can ride safely — it’s just like the way you drive. After a while, they both pretty much accepted it.
The VOICE: What advice do you have for young people thinking of getting into the sport?
Alexander: Watch a lot of skateboarding Videos, just go on You Tube. Search skateboarding, watch as many videos as you can and soon as you get that opportunity, get your own skateboard, start slow and build it up gradually.