When he was just 15, Ujwol Dangol fell in love with skateboarding after seeing a Japanese tourist doing tricks in a touristic area of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Now 27, Dangol has opened the city’s first skate park and skate shop. He has also helped hundreds of kids get into the sport.
After being devastated by a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in April 2015, the city of Kathmandu is being rebuilt bit by bit. A year after that catastrophe, Dangol opened up the city’s first skate park. His aim was to create a safe space for young people to go after school that would give them an alternative to hanging out in the street, where it would be easy for them to get caught up in fighting or drugs.
“Skateboarding helps kids find a new family”
Ujwol Dangol runs Kathmandu’s skate park. He is also the owner and manager of Hamro Skateshop.
One day, when I was 15, I was coming out of school when I came across a Japanese tourist doing tricks on a skateboard in the district of Kathmandu popular with tourists.
When I got home, I begged my parents to buy me a skateboard. They agreed, but only if I got good marks. I worked hard and made the grades – which meant I could get a board!
All these years later, at age 27, I still love skating just as much.
When I was a teenager, we didn’t have easy access to computers or the internet. I ended up teaching myself to skate. Three of my friends were also into skating and our little group practised everywhere – in the street, at the university and on basketball courts.
In the years since, skating has become much more popular. A total of 790 skaters have signed up to my store’s members list. And every day, around 20 kids and teenagers come to the skate park.
It’s great that so many kids are using the park. That keeps them from the streets, from hanging out and getting up to trouble. Instead of fighting or smoking joints or cigarettes, they come to the park and have fun. They learn to use sports to keep themselves fit. They also find a new family within the community.
There is one kid who is 15. He used to spend all his time smoking weed in the street. He joined us and is now one of the best skaters in the whole city. Today, he only smokes very occasionally because he wants to keep in top shape for the competitions that we run.
Here, everyone is welcome. It doesn’t matter what their background is or how old they are. We don’t care what their gender is. It doesn’t matter how skilled they are.
Aside from the skate park that he opened in 2016, Dangol has also opened the first shop specialised in skateboarding equipment in Kathmandu. He sells boards, wheels and other items from the basement of his family home. Today, his shop has become a meeting place for skaters in the city.
Since 2015, the Skatemandu organisation has worked to promote skateboarding in Nepal, in partnership with key figures of the movement like Ujwol Dangol.