The female skater talks picking up her board, photographing her homies and overcoming her fears.
Creating space in previously male-dominated areas has never been an easy feat – take skateboarding, which has long been plagued by a boys-club mentality and fettered with casual misogyny. But in recent years, a wave of female skaters have been carving out a space of their own to be jumped on, grinded, and conquered. One of these women is Kavita Ayesha Babbar: a producer-photographer, and now female skateboarder, who is breaking down barriers and paving the way for greater inclusivity in the British skate scene.
While we were picking up baking tools during lockdown, Babbar was picking up her board. She channeled all the stress of 2020 into mastering the sport. It gave her a focus and a sense of freedom, challenged her to break out of her comfort zone and take risks, and made her a stronger person, both physically and mentally. And now she’s inspiring others to do and feel the same.
“I am no-where near being a decent skater or to call myself one, and feel like an absolute imposter to label myself as such,” she said, full of modesty, “but in all honestly it’s given me confidence, made me feel empowered and taught me to stop giving a fuck what other people think.”
We caught up with the skater below, talking how lockdown led her back to her board, growing up Indian in a white British suburb and how each of her creative outlets influence one another.
Check out the interview below…
Hi Kavita – how have you been during this uncertain time?
Yeah, ok I guess. It’s a long one and I’ve gone through my own stresses and anxieties, but I’ve still got my health, less so my wealth haha but I can’t complain as I know there are people a lot worse off than me so I am blessed that way.
You’ve since picked up skateboarding – to ask simply, why?
From the first lockdown I didn’t have any work which at first felt pretty shit but after I got over not being able to pay rent, I found that the time was a blessing for me – I was given time to spend with my family and focus on myself. The free time propelled me to pick up personal projects as well as finally picking up my board. I couldn’t keep watching my boyfriend skate on the mini ramp back at my rents yard, so I was like fuck it I’ll get on it too.
You were raised in a very Indian household within a very British sphere, how was that growing up?
It was difficult and left me feeling super confused about my identity. We moved from Harrow to a small village in the suburbs, leaving my family behind. Suddenly I was living in a super white and British society with no one like me around apart from my family. As I grew up there was a clash of cultures, a constant battle trying to figure out how I should act and be. I’m proud to be Indian but I didn’t always feel that way. I felt very lost and disproportionate to the people around me. I belonged at home, but not in the outside world – which when you are growing up that’s the certification you need the most, from your mates. So, I tried for a long time to be and act like them, to try and be accepted in their society that way.
What impact has this had on you and your creativity today and how does skateboarding tie into this?
I’m getting closer to being comfortable in my own skin, body and mind but it’s definitely taken a while. It’s made me super open to exploring and trying new things. Mainly because I used to constantly look at others to try to be like them and wanting their success. But then when I started skateboarding, I’d only look to others for inspiration, not to be like them, but to do my own thing and be my own self on the board. That’s reflected in my life now being a photographer and producer, I’m more confident in my own style and achievements, without the comparison to anyone else’s success. It’s the skaters I’ve met that have made me pick up my camera again to capture the inspiring souls around me!
Skateboarding has a huge subculture and community around it – how did you get involved in such a time when we had to be socially distanced?
I guess I was already half in as my boyfriend is a skater, but I found a crew after lockdown when we moved back to London and were finding somewhere locally to skate. We’d both seen the regeneration of Hackney Bumps so decided to check it out. From the first day I met some rad people and ever since that summer I’ve met loads of beautiful, creative and diverse souls. It’s a welcoming community of skaters which for the first time made me feel comfortable in my own skin and being me. I’ve now become a part of the community effort to regenerate the park- getting involved in builds, collabs and everything else that comes with it. So, skateboarding and the homies are deeply ingrained in my life. I don’t think I’ll ever want rid!
Was it nerve-racking at the start to be skating with so many skaters around you?
I can’t lie, yeah, it’s hella scary, especially when there’s loads of decent skaters and I couldn’t even push and roll properly. But at the Bumps it isn’t a judgey scene, I was there one time trying to get my rock fakies while a load of skaters I didn’t know were hanging, drinking and occasionally watching me try and land this trick. They ended up hyping me up so much, I was like shit, no one cares that I’m shit, just that you are putting in the time. One of them came up to me a couple times and gave me tips too. And that’s what it’s been like ever since, I go for a roll, meet new people and end up skating with them.
There it’s an inclusive scene, full of so many different people with different energies and that’s why I felt like I fell in perfectly to it. You’re constantly pushing yourself to get better, moving onto other tricks and even doing ones I haven’t done before – gets my heart racing. But that’s why I love it. Pushing myself and overcoming my fears.
What do you get out of skateboarding the most?
It’s my therapy, it gives me freedom and challenges me to push myself and take risks. Having a more ‘just do it’ mentality. It’s made me a stronger, more confident female. I think this is the first time in my life I am comfortable outside of my family zone, that I feel like me; proud to be me and comfortable being me. I sometimes get annoyed at myself for not starting sooner, but I take solace in that everything happens for a reason and at that right moment in time.
Paving a space for women in a historically male-dominated scene has always been tricky – do you think about the fact that you’re doing your bit in paving a way for greater inclusivity in skating?
Ha, I hope so, but ask me that in a couple years when I am actually better on a board, then I’d probably say yes.
What advice would you give to females who want to get into skateboarding but might not have the confidence?
The only thing I can really say is get a board and get on it. Confidence will come. You just need courage to try it out and keep going. Once you start, you’ll figure it out and find others around to hype you. There are so many female crews now, a lot of them have a social presence, so don’t be afraid to give them a message and meet them.
Where will your skateboarding take you next?
Waiting for that sun to hit so I can go back to getting that vitamin D hit and skating every day. We’ve got some exciting collabs and builds lined up at the Bumps. I’m also hoping to get out to India to see fam and do a trip with the crew as there are some great skate spots out there – maybe even get a build in too.