Extreme Sports in India, “that’s just a thrill seeker’s hobby, a no business market,” most critics might say. Diipti Jhangiani spoke with Nikhil Bhosale, founder Longboard Crew India, India’s first and only longboarding crew. Read on to know how they proved the critics wrong.
How did your story with Longboards begin?
I worked with Quiksilver as a skateboard trainer and brand promoter for 2 years. During that time, I came across I learnt all about board sports and got fascinated by one specific type of skateboarding called Longboarding. Visually, this sport appealed to me more than skateboarding because of the extreme nature and high speeds involved in it. The basics were the same as skateboarding, so I gave it a try and I immediately decided to take it up. I took a lot of YouTube tutorials to help me understand the sport and performance of longboards.
Tell me about your crew.
The crew is called Longboard Crew India. While I was exploring all the possibilities with the sport, I came across other skateboarders who I introduced longboarding to and two in particular instantly loved it.
They were Boris Nongthomba, 22 year old and Sameer Surve, 21 year old, both students and former skateboarders. We then started meeting up regularly at a spot we found suitable for longboarding i.e. Parsik hill, in Seawoods, New Bombay. This spot has perfectly smooth roads with gradual slopes and turns. We started jamming every Sunday, early in the morning to avoid traffic and other disruptive factors.After 2 weeks of jamming together we decided to form a longboard team and that’s when Longboard Crew India came into existence on November 15th, 2013.
What do your friends and family think about you doing this? Everyone your age has a secure job and is part of the rat race and you choose to do things differently. Your Thoughts?
Initially there was zero support from family or friends. But that scenario changed after we started getting our articles in the papers and sports magazines. It gave solidity to our activity and at our dedication and commitment. Our friends and families then started believing in what we were doing.
I had a secure Job with Quiksilver India but I felt I wanted to do more for the sport.. pursue it personally and help more people learn it. So I quit the job and took it all into my own hands to flourish longboarding across India.
“I did try approaching a popular international brand for a tie up but they refused saying Longboarding is not an extreme sport and it is more of a pleasure sport and that they want to tie with teams who do extreme sports. The very next day I see a post their Facebook page about them organising a paper plane flying contest. And I thought to myself, “Wow… that is sooooooo extreme. That’s it. That’s when I decided not to work with any brand and to march ahead on our own. It really worked, today LCI and Nightrain are successful and self sustaining.”
Is India the right place for this sport? Are people taking to it? What do you think is the scope here
Nikhil: Any place with hills and good roads is a perfect place to longboard. New Mumbai is a pretty well planned city, with well maintained roads and many hills and hence it proved to be a perfect place to longboard. So yes, India definitely is a perfect place for longboarding activities. In the begining of November 2013, when LCI started, we were just 3 of us; myself, Boris and Sameer. We made a facebook page for LCI and started promoting the sport by posting pictures and videos of us longboarding. We started getting a lot of turn up on Sunday sessions.
Mingkhwa Chang, 40 yr old Dentist from Kurla who also happened to be a Harley Davidson rider joined our crew officially and since then has been a regular for Sunday jams. within a time span of 3 months more and more people joined LCI and we became a team of 10 good riders in 3 months. in Feb 2014 we got invited for India Surf Festival(ISF) to introduce longboarding in Bhubaneshwar.
Diipti: You make your own longboards and sell them too. What made you do that, tell me about that story?
Nikhil: Last year, after we came back from The India Surf Fest in Orissa, LCI was pretty much in media, in the papers. ISF tour gave us a lot of exposure and footage and longboarding started getting recognised in Mumbai and other cities across India. By mid April we started getting enquiries from people about where to purchase longboards from. Back in those days there was no supplier or no store selling longboards, we had to import boards from abroad and it was too expensive along with the customs and shipping charges.
So we decided to start a longboard manufacturing company called Nightrain to meet the demand of good longboards, as a lot of people wanted to take up the sport. We spent 2 months doing research and calculation how to manufacture it and make it reasonable for the Indian market. We ended up making an ultra high quality performance board and that too at half the price of imported boards.
Soon we registered the company and started mass producing longboards, supplying it to the entire country. We assumed we would begin slowly with a sale of just 2-3 longboards a month but it was a shocker for us that we ended up selling 23 boards in the first month of launch. There we had a perfectly, 100% made in India first longboard. Later in 2015 after visiting ISF for the second time, we opened official Nightrain store by pooling in cash and contributing from our savings.
Have you participated in national, international events so far?
We haven’t yet participated in any national or international event so far due to lack of sponsorship. We have a plan in the pipeline to start longboarding events like Downhil Races and Slide festivals as soon as we find a brand or some sponsor to help us out with it.