Welcome to the first offering from a new segment entitled “What’s My Story,” where we dig into the minds and lives of some of Kimberley and South Africa’s up and coming skaters and industry heads. First on deck is Erwin Lyon of Kuruman. Erwin was brought in by World Skateboarding as an intern at the Kumba Skate Plaza last November and has been doing a killer job keeping the skatepark and kids in check. We sat Erwin down for an interview and learned a little more about his background, thoughts on skateboarding in the Northern Cape, and future plans. Enjoy!
1. Alright Erwin, let everybody know your full name, age, and how long
you’ve been skating.
My full name is Tumisang Erwin Sehelaeng. Lyon’s my other surname, but I
gotta stick to one. I’m turning 23 this year and I’ve been skating for
about 3 years now.
2. You’re quite new to the skate game. How long have you been skating and
what drew you into it at such a late age?
Growing up in Kuruman I was never really exposed to skateboarding or
knew anything about it. I never even knew that it was something you could
make a life out of. Even though one of my friends had a board, we couldn’t
do anything because the streets were dusty. We would hit town just
cruise and have fun, no tricks or anything, up until I moved to Bloem to go
to college. So, this one time, I was hanging out with a few friends in town
with a cheap Bad Boy board and an Element we had from one of the
activations in Kuruman in 2009. We bumped into two young dudes doing maneuvers
on their skateboards and we walked over to ask them to teach us. After that,
they invited us to the sessions at San Du Plessis Theatre on Saturdays. We
hit it up, and the first thing we saw when we arrived was a mexican looking
dude (Warrick Delport) flying off the stairs with his skateboard and
somehow hit the ground still on his skateboard. It was the most
fascinating thing I’d ever seen in my life. After that, me and my homies
started buying our own gear and never missed a session.
3. Can you go a little in depth and describe your recent educational background for us?
I was in Bloem at PC Training & Business College doing IT. I did web design (html, php), database, e-commerce, some basic programming languages like VisualBasic and Java. And we would basically just create web pages, or program some random stuff and build fatabases using SQL. We never did any hacking or password bypassing or any of that exciting stuff, unfortunately. I walked out with a national diploma.
Erwin being interviewed by SABC for a documentary on the Northern Cape.
4. That’s sick. What is the skate scene like in Bloem? Where are people skating and where
are people buying their gear?
The skate scene down there is not as big as it used to be but there are
some OG guys who are still holding it down. It used to be a street mission
every weekend, no park or proper facilities but that never stopped anyone.
It still is a bit like that but some homies took it upon themselves to
build some obstacles and place them at an old church spot to make a proper
park for Bloem. The spot is way out of town so not everyone makes it there
and they skate streets instead. As for gear, there was a skater owned shop
called Rockabilly but it closed down after a while so DC Store and
Billabong were the only shops left. Billabong eventually closed down also
but DC is still staying strong. Most guys get their gear at DC but due to
it’s limited selection of brands Stuart Walker is selling locally owned
brands decks like Funisu to the homies. Baseline studios in Cape Town is
also an easily accessible store at the comfort of everyone’s couch.
5. What was next after you completed your studies in Bloem? Were you skating a lot?
Being back home after college was really boring. I didn’t really set out
on a mission to look for casual jobs or IT related jobs. Instead I used to
ask my mom for some cash to hit up the skate park just to session and give
a few pointers to the young ones. Even though I had nothing much to offer
except trick tips, the okes were really hyped to have me home. While I was
still there I did a bit of writing for my blog on StokedTv, where I basically just
wrote about the scene in my hometown and put out some clips as well.
So I was basically just bumming on the couch and hitting sessions the next weekend. My blog was keeping me quite motivated to stay at the park often and figure out what to put out next. It gave me a great amount of time to bond and interact with the young guns and give proper guidance to the guys. The vibes were best, the skating was gradually growing and I’m really happy I did what I did.
Erwin chilling at the Kuruman skatepark seated next to his brother, Kagontle, and his homies Olariyon (left) and Chris (right).
6. What was skateboarding in Kuruman like before the skatepark was built? Where were you guys skating?
Before the skatepark we would skate any spot with a smooth floor. Our
favorite spot was the basketball court in Mothibistad and the old prison
in town with a few other spots, the old prison spot was quite sketchy
because of some gnarly street kids that tried to hustle us. There weren’t
many skaters though just me, Olariyon, Chris, Bakang (Tuks), Tshiamo,
Marvin and a few guys in town who were never really down to skate with us.
After the skatepark was built there was a major growth in the scene and a
lot of improvement. Also because of events like Skateboarding for Hope
where we would get hooked up with boards.
7. What was it like after the Kuruman skatepark was built? What was it like trying to grow things from square one?
Well after the park was built, the young ones never really knew what to do
with it so I kinda felt obliged to keep it in check and to make sure we
don’t allow bikers to mess it up. I had a lot of time on my hands, so every
now and then, Olariyon, Chris, and I would organize a trip down to the (Kumba) plaza
just to get the kids hyped. It was quite a challenge though to build everyone up from square one. I’ve seen kids walk past the park saying “only white people can play that.” A few weeks later, the same kids are killing it. Introducing someone to skateboarding is a lot of fun, you get to relive your first encounters, first bails and first successful lands. I had a lot of fun skating with the Kuruman homies from the get go. From then I would bring back lots of AV DVDs and make everyone one watch them. From then on, the competitive mode started. We would have small contests with no prizes and still feel like we just walked out of a Midway Mayhem or something. DSAC came through with a training course for a
week and left us with some gear to give away. We also had a lot of
skate gear from you (Chinner) to host little contests with. The spirit
really picked up after that and more and more kids took skating seriously. And up to this day we have young rippers in that skatepark that SA needs to get ready for.
8. Who can we look out for in Kuruman?
Bakang and Renahldo are definitely the two dudes to look out for within the
space of a year. After I left home, these homies started putting in extra
work to match what they’ve seen at the (Kumba) plaza.
Kuruman local Bakang Melokwe is ripping and the only thing slowing him down is a constant flow of boards. Can anyone out there help a brother out?! Watch Bakang and more of the Kuruman locals ripping in our Kuruman Skatepark Field Trip feature.
9. What is the skate scene like in Kimberley compared to Kuruman?
moment). Most kids in Kimberley are used to skating a world class
skatepark with reliable marble ledges and perfectly measured rails, they
don’t really know what it’s like to skate a spot with the sketchiest run
up and almost no landing ground. There isn’t much hunger to go get it,
after landing a tre flip and board sliding the A-Frame rail, everyone just feels
like they’re too advanced and they wait for the next contest to pull it
off in hopes of walking away with a prize. Im not saying there isn’t much
progress, but these guys are so used to winning contests without putting
much effort, which is bad for their egos. Compared to Kuruman where there
hardly ever is a contest where there’s Indy trucks or a Verb decks as
prizes, the guys there are more hungry to get better and progress in their
skateboarding. Back in Kuruman there’s too much hunger. The park is quite big, but everyone is trying to make it as useful as possible. I guess the fact that the biggest events happen outside of Kuruman is what inspires the guys down there to get better and better every time they to go out there to rep their hood. But the scene there is also just limited to the skate park, as most of the kids have never really went to hustle spots on the streets or got exposed to other apsects of skating like tranny, but hey, these are early days. The scene will grow and vary.
10. Did you ever think your love for skateboarding efforts to take care of
the kids would lead to a full time job, or even take you to Kimberley?
Honestly, no. All I knew was that at some point I would have to hit up a
day job in order to afford to maintain my love for skating. My biggest
worry was that everyone would eventually just give up if I went for a 9-5.
I’ve never imagined working at the plaza, ever.
Erwin working towards ending varial flip discrimination, one V at a time.
11. What’s your favorite part about your job as assistant skatepark
manager? Least favorite? Hardest? What are some things about the job that
you wouldn’t come to expect?
My favorite part is having a chance to hang out at the skatepark everyday.
My least favorite part is having to decide who wins a contest, especially
with so much potential there. It is very hard to please everyone and be
everyone’s favorite, so the only just thing to do is to stay fair; even
though it doesn’t seem so to everyone. One thing I never expected, though,
was the hard work that goes into organizing contests. I always thought I
would just show up, put on my sun glasses and commence, but there’s so much
to be done. From setting up, to packing up ,etc. Before you know it, the day is
gone. That is one experience I would take with me everywhere.
12. What’s the craziest experience you’ve had at the skatepark so far?
The craziest experience was seeing kids eating bugs with P-stone just
before Midway Mayhem. The other crazy thing was seeing a kid back flipping off the
big four stair while Moustache tried to back 50-50 down the hubba. I was on
the mic like “whaaaaaat?! Do it again.”
13. Who are some of the kids coming up in Kimberley right now?
Right now Siphiwe Kheshwa and his homie Samkelo Rashole are definitely
coming up for sure. They blew out of nowhere with crooks and nose slides
everywhere, they hit up the park everyday and are putting in a lot of
work. Enrique Ortell is also one of the most coming up, it is amazing to
watch this kid skate. He’s about 9 or 10 and has already popped the big 4,
got really amazing 360 flips and he has a lot of flatground tricks in his
Will Meleng and Will Jenkins are definitely ones to look out for. They don’t
get much hype like Brad but these kids are insane. Brad is a prodigy;
under pressure he would pull the most insane thing no one imagined but
Will and Will are ultimate tech masters. Meleng’s got style with so much
ease and Jenkins is a grind wizzad. There are way too many to mention but
those guys stand out.
Erwin handling biz at Midway Mayhem with a smile. Photo: Martin Kotze.
14. With Midway Mayhem was the first big event you worked as an intern with
World Skateboarding, can you describe the experience for you regarding
working with the skaters and volunteers? What were some standouts for you
from a working as well as a spectator point of view?
The Midway Mayhem was a thrilling experience. I had to get to the park
before everyone, and leave after everyone, and it was still a great
experience. Dealing with AM skaters was much easier even though it seems
like a skaters’ thing not to follw instructions they were much easier to
control than the 13 year olds. The volunteers were totally on point,
even though they were itching to just sit and watch they always stayed up
and put in some work. The raddest part was meeting up with established
skaters that we normally see on AV Skateboarding and Session and just hearing
about their experiences as well. Watching them skate was really amazing.
I’m glad I was not anywhere near the judges, they had it tough. It was no
fun walking up and down all weekend but the skating and the vibe was way
too sick to notice.
15. Have you developed any personal relationships with
any of the kids at the skatepark since becoming a skatepark regular and respected figure?
I have made friends with almost everyone, even though it ends whenever I
need to put them in order. I spend a lot of time with the kids from the
township during the week and I’ve become friends with quite a few. For
most skaters it’s all about being tight with management to score some gear
but some kids just need someone to hear their story and understand them
and that’s where I gotta take off my manager outfit and become a friend.
16. What’s it like to work with the kids that volunteer at the skatepark?
Have you seen development from the children off of their skateboard in
terms of personal growth, leadership skills, etc? Do you see any in
particular that have manager potential?
Working with volunteers is great, these guys love assisting me and
understanding how contests are judged and such. Yes there are quite a few
with manager potential, really good behaviour and work well with their
peers. Definitely future managers.
Erwin holds it down at the January game of skate contest amidst Ricky and Will’s roshambo for first set. Photo by Martin Kotze.
17. What are your future plans? Do you plan to continue to be involved in
skateboarding in some way?
I really wanna get back to studying, that’s about it for my future plans. And I
have no intentions of leaving the skateboarding community for any reason.
It is my life.
18. Any shout outs?
First of all my mom for all the support and patience. To Warrick Delport
for always looking out for the Kuruman homies and skaters everywhere and
all the Bloem and Kuruman homies, you guys rock. And finally to Mike
Chinner, Pragmatics and World Skateboarding Grand Prix for the opportunity
and the good work in developing young skaters.
Interview and photos by Chinner
Additional photos by Martin Kotze