Meet Songline, The First All-Aboriginal Skateboarding Team
Champion skaters have come together from different Aboriginal nations around the country to form the first Indigenous team.
Eastern Arrernte man Nicky Hayes is a professional skateboarder, youth worker, and Aboriginal Traditional Owner. He grew up in the Central Australian community of Ltyentye Apurte, or Santa Teresa, where the population is around 650 people.
Nicky started skateboarding as a kid, and soon found himself wanting to share his passion for kickflips with his hometown. Even at a young age, showing more opportunity to the young people around him was important, and since then, he’s proud to say he’s been able to show youngsters a bit of the world outside their tiny desert community. Nicky is also part of Songline, the first all-Aboriginal skateboarding team.
Where It All Started
I first met Nicky in 2019, out in middle of the country. He’d recently helped build an indoor skate park for the community and had just launched his brand, Spinifex Skateboards. He was in the midst of fundraising to take a group of kids to Queensland for their first time to compete in their first interstate competition.
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The group raised thousands of dollars for the tournament through community events, art auctions, and crowd funding. A lot of memories were made on that trip in QLD with some children seeing waterfalls and the beach for the first time. The group went bushwalking in forests, and said they’d never seen so much green before. And, of course, with a young crew of natural athletes, Nicky said he was quite impressed with how quickly the youngsters stood up and caught waves when they tried surfing for the first time.
Less than two years later, Hayes says Spinifex Skateboards has not just attracted customers from outside the NT, but is also gaining international attention, having shipped merchandise to New Zealand, the US, and the UK.
The most popular piece has been a skateboard deck featuring a dot painting design that artists from Ltyentye Apurte are famous for. The first batch of designer boards sold out almost immediately, as did the second.
Nicky told Junkee he’s excited to release another two decks featuring designs that are symbolic to the desert community and unique to anywhere else in the world. (The release date for the new designed boards is yet to be finalised, but keep an eye on the site.)
Songline Skateboarding Team
The next adventure for the skateboarder will be a national first. Champion boarders will come together from different Aboriginal nations around the country to form the first all-Indigenous skateboard team, Songline Skateboarding Team.
Members of the team highly value the importance of community, and hope to create positive change and opportunity through everything they do. The group are hoping to crowdfund remaining funds to support interstate travel and accommodation.
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The Songline team will travel to Western Australia in April to compete together for the first time in the Rockingham Rumble at Port Kennedy. They’re also planning a demo to show off their skills, and a workshop with some of the young people who are keen to get in and learn from some of the best Indigenous skateboarders in the country.
Skateboarding was due to make its debut as an Olympic sport last year, before the games were rescheduled. A new proposed date will see the Tokyo Olympic Games run from 23 July to 8 August this year, providing COVID-19 doesn’t impose further restrictions.
Nicky hopes the team can use the attention surrounding skateboarding’s Olympic debut to inspire the younger mob to have the confidence to pursue their dreams, regardless of how different they may be to everyone else’s.
The Songline Skateboarding Team consists of:
Josh Weribone, a Mandandanji man from Toowomba, QLD.
Nicky Hayes, Eastern Arrernte Traditional Owner from Ltyentye Apurte/Santa Teresa, NT
Chris Walker, a Bundjalung man from Lismore, NSW.
Kieran Reilly, Dhunghatti mob from Kempsey, NSW.
Brodie Jarrett, a Gumbaynggir man from Ballina, NSW.
Jeriah Chilli, Gubbi Gubbi from QLD’s Sunshine Coast.
Dani Campbell, from Wollongong, NSW.
Emily Kafoa, is a proud Bundjalung woman from Tweed Heads on the NSW/QLD border.
Jennetta Quinn-Bates is a proud Barkindji woman who is passionate about her culture and highlighting Aboriginal stories. You can find her on Twitter.