LargeUp TV: Skateboarding in Jamaica with Nurdz Republic

January 28, 2010

Words by DJ Gravy

At an Anthony B session in January of 2008, I met a Rasta youth with a skateboard in hand. I was intrigued and started talking to him about it. He explained to me that he and his crew, Nurdz Republic, were who I’d seen in Youtube clips doing a new dancehall step called the “Skateboard Dance.” He introduced himself as Wildfyah. I told him I definitely wanted to document him and his crew. Seeing skateboard culture overlap with dancehall was wild.

On my last trip to Jamaica, I called Wildfyah. We linked up and planned a trip to Billy Mystic’s yard aka Jamnesia in Bull Bay. Bull Bay is one of two known surf spots in Jamaica and Jamaican musician/television actor, Billy Mystic aka Billy Wilmot, is known for helping to nurture the super small surf scene in Jamaica. He’s taught his children to surf, his son Icah has done well in international surf competitions and his daughter, Imani, is known as JA’s top female surfer

As a natural progression from surfing, the Wilmot kids picked up skateboarding and have since built a skate bowl on their property and teach local kids how to skate. Over the years, skaters have gone to Jamaica and given out free boards but there is nowhere to buy a skateboard in Jamaica. The irony is that skateboard fashion is all the rage. Among the youth, and specifically in the dancehall, slip-on Vans, rope chains, mohawks and spiked dog collars are everywhere.

Others have documented various skateboarding scenarios in Jamaica. Kids with no shoes on boards, kids begging for sneakers, boards and skateparks. Well, nothing happens overnight, and not much has happened so far beyond a few donations here and there, but we sincerely intend to fill this void.

After returning home, excited about my extensive trip spanning all of Jamaica’s 14 parishes, capturing priceless footage for LargeUp, attending and DJing a close friend’s wedding, Wildfyah sent me an email with the “Skateboard Song” (featured in the video). Days later his friend, Smurf, emailed me explaining that Wildfyah had been stabbed and that we have to make the piece into a tribute to him. This was followed by Fyah’s mother, Ms. Thompson, contacting us, also pleading to see what was the last known footage of Andre “Wildfyah” Thompson.

Originally this was to be an all-around happy piece, with an outreach effort along with amazing opportunities for brands involved with skateboarding, surfing, sports, etc. In no way do I want anyone to feel this tragedy is being used to exploit the situation. However, I do feel the sad fact about this young man’s death should drive the message that Slater relays in his interview, about introducing kids to skateboarding to get them away from violence and into something positive.

Jamaica and its diaspora have forever reshaped pop culture, with reggae essentially parenting hip hop and punk rock, Marley making dreadlocks a worldwide phenomenon, and the country itself boasting the world’s top male and female supermodels. Even going back to colonial times, Jamaicans flipped European dances by adding steps that the Europeans themselves couldn’t replicate to save their lives! Seeing groups of Caribbean kids on Eastern Parkway doing kickflips is refreshing to see. But, meanwhile, you can’t buy a skateboard anywhere in Jamaica or most of the Caribbean.