By KIERAN FINNANE
“You can find yourself freely, rolling on four wheels. It’s a self discipline thing to do. It’s also some form of mediation as well, just rolling a board and balancing yourself.
“And as you fall off you pick yourself back up and then you try it again. I think that teaches skateboarders a whole different way of life.”
This is Nicky Hayes talking. He’s been skating since he first shared a board with primary school mate Tully Lowson in Alice Springs back in the late ‘90s.
Now he’s the first accredited Indigenous skate-boarding instructor in the Centre – “I think, and I’m not sure if there’s anyone else in the NT”, he notes modestly.
In early 2020 he led a First Nations Skate Tour to Brisbane of youngsters he’d coached from his home community of Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa). He was building on the momentum of a skating program he’d started as part of the youth recreation offerings in the community.
And in the coming week he and collaborators are launching their own merchandise line, Spinifex Skateboards.
(That’s Nicky in the centre of the photo above, with young ones promoting the brand. All photos supplied.)
The launch event takes place next Thursday, 30 July from 6pm at Watch This Space in Alice.
There’ll be a pop-up shop where you can buy locally designed boards and other merchandise, with all proceeds going towards the next First Nations Skate Tour; there’ll be music, skating demos, a barbecue.
The pop-up shop will be open on Friday as well, along with an exhibition by the Ltyentye Apurte Traditional Craft Centre (their traditionally crafted spears pictured below).
The community, through its Atyenhenge Atherre Aboriginal Corporation (commonly known as “TripleAC”), embraces the contemporary alongside cultural traditions when it comes to enterprise creation.
Spinifex Skateboards is the latest, building on the success of the Traditional Craft Centre, for whom this event will be their first exhibition in a gallery.
These are their enterprises looking to engage with a broader market, while their local economy supports a second hand furniture store, a coffee cart, a hair salon and a nutrition program, Merne Mwerre.
Program coordinator for AAAC and its Santa Teresa Enterprises group is Georga Ryan.
The new business is very much a collaboration between her and Nicky, backed by a group of Alice friends as well as by the Ltyentye Apurte community.
It began with setting up the skating program in 2015.
“Myself, Georga, Rainer, Cairns, our group of friends, we all came together,” says Nicky. “We put down the strong aspect of the program, the ramp in the rec hall, how it was going to be built, but also why it was important to have the program in the community, as something different and why that’s important. And also what I’m teaching to these kids, the reasons behind that.”
Nicky, who is 36 now and a dad, already had years behind him as a competitive and sponsored skater in Adelaide. The move to coaching began in clinics there, but the accreditation came about after he met, at an Alice skating competition, the man behind the Australian Skating Federation, Donny Fraser.
“I entered that comp just to have fun. I think I came fourth (he chuckles). I didn’t really care, I just wanted to be in it because I hadn’t been in a comp for a long time.”
But straightaway, when Fraser told him about the coaching accreditation course, he “grabbed the opportunity”.
Nicky on the far left with Georga Ryan and Spinifex skaters.
Then everything started to fall into place. Before he did the course, at the first couple of meetings about the program, the community hadn’t been ready for something “so different”.
At a third meeting, with his accreditation and “boosted skills within my youth work job”, he got the go-ahead.
“I explained my passions, beliefs, what I can put forward, not just say but put it in actions as well. And it’s not just about skate-boarding, but teaching kids self-confidence and believing in themselves.”
As the program progressed, he thought about the possibility of taking a bunch of kids on the skate tour to Brisbane.
“This was to give them an opportunity to see what’s outside the community, outside the NT, and about what skate-boarding looks like as well. It also has an aspect of community.”
They would learn about themselves, meet other kids, have time to “explore their horizons”.
The keenest recruit was Nicky’s younger brother: “I didn’t push him into it, he kinda fell into it.”
The other kids who toured still skate too as do some who didn’t go, including some young girls.
“I didn’t expect that.”
And now the business – what’s his vision?
“I guess it’s not just a typical skate-board brand. This is about culture, country and lifestyle.
“If the kids take on skating with the Spinifex Skateboards brand behind them, it will support them in their next steps, teach them about the skate-boarding industry. Having that support along the way, which I didn’t have, that’s what I want for these kids.
“And maybe develop a team one day, a skate team, including other Indigenous and non-Indigenous skate-boarders from interstate. Have that unity, First Nations boys and girls with other Australians.”
Note: Nicky ended his interview with a big list of thankyous to:-
TripleAC and Georga Ryan; Gilimbaa (a Brisbane-based creative agency, who have done lots of pro bono work supporting the creation of the brand and its website): Stronger Communities for Children, Watch This Space (for their past and present support), Alice Springs media, Passport, Greg Barnes and Rainer Chlanda (for the brand’s new video) and, of course, Ltyenteye Apurte community “for allowing me to do what I do and supporting the program and business”.
The ramp in the rec hall, built by volunteers Cairns and Binny – the kids love it.