Interview with Mike and Willy from @fijiskateboarding
Photos by Rob Rickman
‘Other than that, we try to find skateable spots like footpaths, empty streets, carparks, bus stops and outside shopping centers good enough for a skate sesh.’
Tell us something about Fiji people do not know?
We’re the friendliest people you could ever meet but we tend to shy away from trying out new things that challenge us.
There is not much concrete ground in Fiji and if you find some, it is quite rough. Where do you skate most at the moment?
The smoothest available place we usually skate at is at Albert Park in the capital, Suva. It consists of a km long footpath which circles two busy rugby fields. There’s also a steep road next to the park where we usually attempt hill bombs. Other than that, we try to find skateable spots like footpaths, empty streets, carparks, bus stops and outside shopping centers good enough for a skate sesh.
Are there any DIY skateparks or ramps in people’s backyards?
There are currently no public skateparks in Fiji. However, there was a wooden skatepark in Albert park in the early 2000’s but was later demolished. As for backyard ramps, there were a few Australian nationals residing in Fiji who had built small half pipes in their backyard.
‘Our focus for now is eventually getting enough exposure where NGO’s or non-profit organization recognize our movement and help us to start a project.’
When did you start skating and why?
We started skateboarding in 2019, the year we entered university. We like to stay active and found skating to accommodate just that. We live out in the country and love the outdoors so much. I feel that has drawn us to always try out new things, so when we came across skateboarding, it was so foreign to us which drew our attention even more. Our love for skateboarding has skyrocketed since and we could say that we’re so passionate about it now.
How big is the skate community in Fiji at the moment?
At the moment the skateboarding community in Fiji is very small. With only 10 to 20 skaters that we know of, most of whom are beginners. Skating is a very new thing here in Fiji and most people have no idea about it, so we would like to change that narrative and grow the skating community here in the islands.
What I could find on youtube is a guy called Nate Garcier that posted some skate videos from Fiji. Not sure he is a local but he had some interesting freestyle tricks up his sleeves. Do you know him?
Yes, we have watched Nate Garcier’s freestyle videos on Youtube but only recently. It seemed as though he resided a few years in Fiji. However, he would have already left the country by the time we started skating.
I also came across an article in the Fiji Sun dating back to 2009. An American Sailor called Scott Brennan, representing Global Youth Foundation, wanted to initiate a skatepark. Have you heard of him and his project?
No, we haven’t heard of him but we’ve seen his article in the paper and really like what he was going for. We’ll definitely finish through with what he wanted to start.
What do you want to achieve with Fiji Skateboarding?
We hope to grow skateboarding here in Fiji and get as much people involved. Creating a new culture and a new wave of young people for the years to come. What we want to achieve through this, is starting an association using skateboarding to empower people. With the vision of helping young kids and youths push to find their true passion in life using the fundamentals of skating. Which is commitment and dedication toward reaching goals. Also, we hope to help young people going through mental health issues and guiding them to us skating as an outlet where they can escape negative attention. Skateboarding is a really powerful sport or hobby anyone can get into, and it doesn’t require you to be super talented to try it out. All it takes is believing in ones self.
Can you rely on government support in terms of land or funding for a skatepark?
As of now, we don’t think so but we hope to gain their recognition and get them involved with a proposed skatepark project. Our focus for now is eventually getting enough exposure where NGO’s or non-profit organization recognize our movement and help us to start a project.
Where can you buy your skateboarding gear?
Here in Fiji, the only skateboarding gear that are available for purchase are basic quality complete skateboards which are, from our experience, not suitable for regular skaters like ourselves. So we have to look for decks outside of Fiji. We usually need to get family and friends living in Australia and America to buy us decks and skate parts. As the local currency is relatively weaker, it is very expensive to get skate supplies, not to mention the additional shipping cost.
How expensive is a brand-new deck in US Dollars?
A brand new deck would cost USD 75 with an extra USD 65 for shipping to Fiji. So that comes to a total of USD140 for a brand-new deck.
What are some of the challenges people in the Fiji face every day?
Some challenges that are common for people here in Fiji is having that fear of not earning enough to put food on the table. To make it worse, our younger generations are making it more and more hard for themselves by turning to substance abuse as an escape from reality. As a result they settle with whatever comes easy rather than pushing boundaries to reach their potential.
What are the perspectives for the generation which you represent in Fiji? Going to University and staying in Fiji or are you planning to life overseas like Australia?
We want to show the younger generations that they also can work hard and find success here and create many more opportunities for others in the future. We hope to empower these generations to unlock their true potential and not choose to live just another ordinary life but to find their true passion in life and shoot for the stars. Along with that success, they will be able to impact the life of others as well from the fruits of their hard work.
Last question: If you could interview a person, who would it be and why? What would you ask?
It would be Rodney Mullen, because of the great influence he has had on the street skating culture worldwide. The question we would ask him would be, ‘’what advice would you give us about starting up a new movement and some ways of capturing young people of different ages attention through skateboarding.