The stunning backdrop of the Donkin Reserve will play host to an exhilarating festival of longboard skateboarding, alternative sports and family fun, all framed by the iconic public art now defining the inner city ‘balcony’.
The inaugural Donkin Downhill Dash event, brought to the city by local youth initiative, the n_mb city project, aims to create a safe and controlled environment for downhill skateboarding to become an accessible and formal sporting industry in Nelson Mandela Bay; as well as showcasing the city’s incredible arts and tourism offering, say organisers.
The time-trial event will see skaters trying to better each other’s time along the Donkin’s Voting Queue Path. The development of the path – a multipurpose artwork that represents a line of voters queuing for the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994 – has seen growing interest around the Donkin. In particular, a local youth group who call themselves the “Downhill Family”, have taken special ownership of the area and path.
“We have been working with youth (18-35) in Nelson Mandela Bay for two years and we welcome the consistent revitalization of our inner city whether it’s on a tangible level or intangible as change agents,” said Jacques Nel, co-founder of the n_mb city project. “We are now often the first port of call for youth in the city with creative ideas. So we happily partnered with a group of free-spirited alternative sportsmen, or the group calling themselves Downhill Eastern Cape, when they came to us to help change perceptions and raise the profile of their sport.”
Downhill Eastern Cape is a small group of downhill, longboard skateboarders who have been enjoying the gentle slopes and challenging curves of the snaking path from the lighthouse to the bottom of the Donkin Reserve at Chapel Street. Their aim is to have fun, enjoy and engage with their city and build friendships with like-minded sportspeople.
They are set apart from the street skateboarders in the sense that they do not use rails, curbs, walls or staircases to perform their sporting art. Downhill skateboarding is essentially the art of navigating graciously around corners and tight bends at higher speeds while sticking to the road surface.
“We want to take downhill longboarding to a new level in Nelson Mandela Bay and introduce our cool urban sport to the people of city,” said Renier van Staden. “We have fallen in love with the Donkin and see ourselves as taking social ownership of the MBDA’s art-orientated development by making our presence on the site a positive one. We are committed to preserving this area as a safe and accessible playground for young and old.
“This event is therefore the first step in changing perceptions, exposing people to the art of downhill and also about just having fun in the cool spaces we have in our city.”
Competitors stand the chance of winning t-shirts, Sector 9 Skateboards and many other prizes. The Downhill Donkin Dash is a family event, and aims to incorporate other extreme sports such as freestyle skateboarding and a development skate clinic as fringe activities for both spectators and enthusiasts interested in these sports. It will also include artistic performances by poets, and entertainment by hip hop artists, breakdancers, DJs and musicians. Spectators are encouraged to bring picnics and enjoy a day surrounded by sporstmen and the artistic offering on the Donkin Reserve.
“As a long term goal this event will form part of a vision shared by us all – to showcase and elevate growing, positive counter-culture movements in Nelson Mandela Bay, in a way that is devoid of previous stigmas around extreme sports and underground art and serves as a vehicle for socio-economic development in the city,” added Nel.
“Plus it falls in youth month and at a time in South Africa where youth experiences and thoughts are achieving greater prominence.”
The city’s tourism agency is behind the event as is the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) which is responsible for the Donkin upgrade, Sector 9 skateboards, TONNESOFFUN-Element supplying ramp and the NMMU Art Department.
“It’s events like these that show how the public are truly engaging with the spaces that the MBDA has created, we are impressed that the youth of the city are taking ownership of the spaces that will define their future,” said Chuma Myoli, MBDA spokesperson. “We can’t wait to see the skate festival in action.”
Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism marketing manager Titus Chuene said that it was events of this kind that create a “vibe around tourism assets”.
The event kicks off at 10am on Sunday 24 June and is free for spectators. Downhill competitors pay R50 to enter.