When we think of sports in a traditional sense, the average person would think of football (soccer and American football), basketball, tennis and some other well-known competitive contact and non-contact sports. However, there are many lesser known sports which are growing in popularity day by day, one of which is the sport of skateboarding. With the inaugural X Games competition held in 1995 the sport has quickly become one of the fastest growing in the USA and the wider world. This sport has gained such mass approval that it is one of the five new additions for the 2020 Olympics.
The Caribbean is no stranger to the skateboarding phenomenon; however, it is relatively unknown when compared to its popularity in the more developed countries for example the USA. Here in St. Lucia, the skating scene is on the steady rise and one of the pioneers of this movement is none other than the co-founder of UnVeil Skateboarding, Anarcisse Naz Alexander.
Like many who now follow the sport, Anarcisse got in touch with skating while catching a glimpse of the X-Games as a young boy.
“I was very young when I got introduced to skateboarding. I used to see it on the TV, think it was the X games, I was about 9 or 10. Then I got my first skateboard. I basically used to sit on it and roll down the hill near my home. I had about 2 or 3 of them and then they broke and I just left it for a number of years. I came back to it when I was 17. When I got my first job I just bought a skateboard and since then I’ve been skating.”
We asked Anarcisse about the popularity of the sport locally and he said:
‘’From what I’ve been told it was really popular way back before I was born, but it died. When I came onto the scene it was barely holding on. Right now, it’s in a stage of growth, you see more and more people. In 2014 when I really started skating I knew all the skaters from Castries and the north. Now I see faces that I’ve never seen before and its awesome to me because that means more people are getting on it.’’
After being involved in skating from a young age, Anarcisse has maintained a great passion for the sport. This has led to him creating his own skating crew called UnVeil Skateboarding. When asked about the concept, he explained how it all started.
“Unveil skateboarding it started as a crew because when I came onto the scene there was one other crew called Squalnation. I wanted to have my own crew because I wanted to do certain things so I started unveil with one of my friends, Curtis. After that, we had the idea of adding the shop aspect, so that’s when I started importing boards to sell. So then it was the Unveil Crew and then the UnVeil shop and then where I want it to go is to have the UnVeil skate park as well. So it will be the Crew, the shop and the park, the 3 legs of UnVeil.”
Anarcisse also wants to expand the brand regionally, with a number of parks and shops on the agenda for various islands with budding skate scenes.
“Just on our island alone I want to have at least 2 skate shops, one in the north one in the south, I want to have parks in the north and in the south. I want to expand regionally as well. I want to help the skate scene develop in the Caribbean. Trinidad has a skate scene but they don’t really have a developed shop or park, so too Martinique and several of the Caribbean islands.”
Developing the local skateboarding scene here however, has had its fair share of challenges. With the absence of a designated area to hone their skills and a lack of financial support progress has been slow.
“The absence of a park means that finding a place to hone my skills properly is difficult. Skating in an empty parking lot is one thing, skating on the street is something else. Skating in a park is a completely different ball game. I have skated at a park before and it’s amazing. You can progress so much faster because you have the proper terrain to skate on. You can progress on the streets but you really have to want it because the streets are rough. When you fall you can get cut by glass and other hazards. That’s the biggest challenge, finding a place to call home. Once we have a park the skaters have a place to go, and the better skaters can teach the younger ones. When I started skating, here (Baywalk Mall) was one of the places I used to come frequently. The security guards would always run us down for skating on the property or for skating in the parking lot. But these grounds are so smooth its just so hard to resist. Places like the waterfront, sometimes we skate through there, not even staying around skating, just passing through and the security would run us down.’’
There was even an encounter in which someone thought that the matter had to be escalated to the police.
“I remember once there was an incident with some of my friends where the police was called on them. There has also been many threats to call the police on us. There was even a time when the police van picked them (my friends) up and dropped them at the complex, which actually was a good thing as they (the police) told them go to the complex to skate. I guess I understand it because people don’t want us to skate in front of their business and damage their business or property and hurt people but I mean what else are we supposed to do?”
Even with all the mountains that he had to climb Naz is still actively trying to find different ways to improve the sport and fuel its growing popularity.
“In terms of assistance I have to admit I might be lacking in that area a bit but i’m pushing to increase it. So far I went to the Ministry of Youth Development & Sports to try to register as a club, at the time I didn’t have all the requirements so I had to get that together and go back to them. In terms of sponsorship I contacted a few sponsors about an event that we were going to have but not really anyone to sponsor a park or place. Officer Charlemagne at the Rodney Bay Police Station gave us permission to place a small obstacle on the ramp and then we can come and we can store it at the back near the station so that’s good. I have just started putting together a proposal, just this week to approach the leaders of my constituency to ask for permission and assistance in renovating one of the courts we have into a nice park. So that’s what I’m working on right now.”
He also believes that the opportunity to compete in an overseas skating competition would greatly benefit the local skateboarders and put them on a path to further developing the sport locally.
“We would love to be exposed to that kind of environment. I never had the chance to take part in a skating contest, I have always been on the administrative side, like the ones we’ve had down here, unveil sponsored both of the contests we had here for the year”
A true pioneer with a love for his field; his goals are simple.
“I just want to skate for as long as possible, I want to help people get into skating and stay in skating. I want to keep providing boards, I want to keep teaching people. I want to keep inspiring people to skate. I want to always be involved in skateboarding someway somehow whether I’m filming or skating myself or anything really. I just want to always remain a part of the industry.”
At the end of the interview we asked Naz what would he be doing if he wasn’t skating. His response,
“If I wasn’t skating I would probably still be acting because I was really into theatre for a long long time. I’d probably be making music, just being in the arts really. Although I’m still doing these things today just not as much as my involvement in skating.”
His advice for young skateboarders or anyone interested in taking up the sport was also simple.
“Just get a board, get on it and get out there”
Anarcisse left us with these words of encouragement.
“I just want people to know that when you have something that you passionate about just go for it doesn’t matter how big of an ambition it is once you can see it in your mind’s eye you can materialize it and touch it with your hands. With persistence and determination, you can achieve anything.”
With the development of the skating in St. Lucia being led by such a passionate individual and the addition of skateboarding to the Olympic 2020 roster, will this be yet another area where we will be represented? Only time will tell…
Keep moving forward Naz.