‘If there is any place in the
world where I would want to
live and work —it has to be Nepal’
When, in 2007, Marius Arniko Arter, came up with the idea of manufacturing skateboards in Nepal he had already tried making boards out of bamboo in Vietnam. ‘The skateboard has to be strong and flexible at the same time,’ he said, adding that he ‘dropped’ the idea of a bamboo skateboard because it didn’t qualify for the quality he envisioned his boards to be. Besides, he wanted to be home away from home. Marius, a Swiss citizen, was born in Nepal in 1984 and lived here until the age of four before permanently living in Switzerland. At that time his parents were working in hydropower projects in Nepal.
But, for Marius Nepal remained his home even until today. ‘If there is any place in the world where I would want to live and work —it has to be Nepal,’ shared Marius who is accompanied by Nils Amar Tegmo who similarly comes from what he calls a ‘mixed background’. Nils has been living in Nepal on and off since 2000, and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Human and Natural Resource Studies from Kathmandu University. What brought them together as friends was their sheer love for skating. ‘Cruising’ is how they would describe the sport they both learned as kids and loved so much that Marius went on to manufacture them with his own hands. Nils has since supported his mission hoping to make it an accessible part of a Nepali’s lifestyle.
‘I hope to work full-time for Arniko Skateboards in a few months time,’ Nils announced. Arniko Skateboards Nepal was first launched in May 2009 on the second floor in the Mandala Street complex, Thamel. ‘Even though 80 percent of the customers who buy these boards are foreigners purchasing them for themselves or friends back home, the number of Nepalis who have been showing interests and enthusiasm over the new sport is quite good,’ he said, having seen locals skateboarding on the bumpy streets of the capital.
While the busy roads of Kathmandu are not entirely skate-friendly Nils and Marius, who are also neighbors, manage to find their way around Jhamsikhel and other spots in the city to skate. ‘Nepal bandhs give ample space and an easier ride in the otherwise chaotic streets of the city.’ During these current episodes of Nepal bandas Nils and Marius had can be seen skating around Jhamsikhel, hanging out at their spot or just doing their groceries.
In addition to selling skateboard s and various board parts, Arniko Skateboards Nepal also designs its own t-shirts, hoodies, pullovers and accessories. Asked why he added clothing to the skateboard store Marius said, ‘at a small scale, skateboards alone wouldn’t be able to pay the rent, the clothing is sold more than the boards, and I like to design them.’ Nils added, ‘skateboarding is a lifestyle and it perfectly fits with the clothing Marius designs.’ Nils has also recently begun designing prints and motifs for t-shirts and boards hoping to provide Arniko with a mix between traditional Nepali and contemporary prints and designs. The boards then, with a well crafted fusion of designs etched into the plain wood, are uniquely Nepali.
Using this idea of a mix of contemporary and Nepali art, most designs are made in Switzerland by Marius’ friends and colleagues involved in Arniko Skateboards Switzerland. The skateboards are made from thin plies of Canadian Maple wood which he imports from Canada, informs Marius. ‘It wasn’t possible to make boards with Nepali wood and maintain the quality to be sellable throughout the world,’ Marius made it clear.
Before establishing himself as an entrepreneur, Marius was working as a carpenter in Switzerland. ‘Carpentry gave me the knack in the craft,’ he said, ‘building skateboards was just an outlet’. Today, the skateboards made in Nepal are sold all over the world via the Arniko website (arnikoskateboards.com), and are also for sale in his store in Zurich, Switzerland, which also bears the Arniko name. ‘People really are excited about the skateboards manufactured in Nepal as they are different and uniquely designed,’ Nils said showing the image of TENZING NORGAY engraved in one of the 1980’s style boards on display in the shop.
There were other unique designs such as one that was influenced by thangka paintings, and other motifs from Nepal’s traditional art which is so very unique to the world. ‘More than anything, it was the joy of skating that led me to cut and press my own skateboards,’ said Marius, ‘but that was not all. To make the boards beautiful and to at least be sellable in the hordes of skateboards that conquer the global market today, it needed to be different and unique from rest of the boards, and that is how and why we incorporated the great skill of Nepal’s wood carvers, some of the world’s best craft.’
It’s the unique feature of these hand-made skateboards that has left its many buyers awe-struck around the globe. ‘It’s the concept that matters,’ said Nils who is also excited to put his energy in making world-class products in terms of designs and quality. Apart from that he is also keen to contribute to the well-functioning of the store. He and Marius really feel that Kathmandu should have a skate park which would enable the Nepalis to come together and skate. ‘There are Nepalis who skate but there has not been any group or organization that has really united the skaters in the city,’ remarked Marius.
The craftsmen eagerly take up the challenge of chiseling designs out of the plain boards as it requires immense coordination and coordination because the wood is extremely thin. The recent buzz among the skaters was that Nepal’s first National Skating Festival was to be organized in late May but nothing substantial seems to have taken place. Nils and Marius believe that, ‘only if skaters could have a place to meet, skate, and share their lifestyles, could this dream be possible. It would be great if anything of that kind of festival was to take place in Nepal,’ Marius stated.
There is hope that a skate park and then perhaps a skate festival or competition would bring Nepalis, as well as foreigners, together to interact through skateboarding. But, in Nepal’s case, it remains to be seen whether such efforts will actually be taking place any time soon. The poor infrastructure backed up by the growing land prices, has mounted the frustrations of those who would want to create spaces of interaction and an environment for learning to ride the skateboards in Nepal. ‘Until skateboarders work together to meet this goal as a community or collective, the wait will just be longer’ Nils believes. The problem, it seems, is not only the high price of professional quality skateboards Nepalis would have to buy, but also the unavailability of the space and a platform where they could actually learn skating.
The Arniko Skateboards range from Rs. 20,000- Rs. 23,000 with the full setup and necessary hardware. ‘The reason why these skateboards are expensive is because everything except the board has to be imported,’ informed Marius. The deck (or wooden part of the board) costs around Rs. 7000. ‘The boards are still expensive because of the Canadian Maple wood, special glues required, and other necessary tools which are all imported items,’ he said arguing that it is still a good bargain compared to other skateboards produced from giant factories. The skateboards are manufactured in Hattiban in the outskirt of the capital where they have their own studio for also stitching the clothing.
The skateboards produced here are designed for cruising, the professionals said. ‘These aren’t meant for freestyle skating or tricks,’ claimed Nils, who showed the basic technique to get onto the boards. ‘In order to balance, your weight should be on the leg that is on the board,’ he said demonstrating while his other leg was on the floor to push. These cruising boards are influenced by the 70s and 80s retro-style decks and are perfect for beginners, or anybody who enjoys skating around rather than doing tricks.
Nils pointed out three tips to begin skating.
1. Stand with one foot on the board
2. Balance the body perpendicular to the ground, and
3. Push with the foot on the ground to move forward.
He said these are three easy steps to learn to skate but, there is no room for overconfidence as this might just get you flat right on your chest.
No Comply Over Block Things
No Comply’s are a fun, old school trick. Back in the day, they were very popular. Nowadays, not so much. Anyways, the no comply is where the skater brings their front foot off the board, pops the tail down, and slides their back foot up the board to level it out while in the air. It’s like an ollie with your back foot doing all the work.
Wallrides are a simple, yet complex maneuver. Simple in motion, but complex in weight shiftment, and timing. They are a very fun trick once learned, and eventually mastered. You can do them on virtually anything you want as long as the wall’s surface is rideable. You can take them to stairs, into banks, over flat gaps, over transfers, and much more! There are many ways to do wallrides. Usually done with the aid of a ramp, bank, etc. I find that being the cheap way to do them.. So I’m going to teach you guys how to do them the not-so-easy way, which is being done from flatground.
BS Pop Shove into FS 50-50 Grind
Anybody who skates enough to where they have learned a handful of flip tricks and a handful of grinds/slides is eventually going to want to try to combine the two. Obviously there are countless options when it comes to this.. But honestly, some of them are pretty hard. The backside pop shove it into 50-50 is likely the simplest trick-to-grind combination. Thus, it’s likely the one you’ll begin with when it comes to this stuff.