In a world of no brakes, extreme downhills and reaching speeds of around 100km, downhill or longboarding is not for the faint hearted. But it’s a way of life. And skateboarder and longboard shaper Kent Lingeveldt has proved that the South African skating scene can compete against the best in the world.
Featured in the second visual collaboration series by Three Ships Whisky focusing on exceptional South Africans, Kent has crafted a product from wood similarly to how the range of globally award-winning Three Ships Whiskies are made at The James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington: with patience, hard-work and passion. View the collaboration here – https://youtu.be/v7iM23DwnVk
Growing up in Mitchell’s Plain, Kent has become synonymous with street culture and the art of longboarding not only in South Africa but internationally. Now the owner of Alpha Longboards, he was the first Black African to be one of the Top 10 skaters in the world and started competed competitively in 1999, representing not only South Africa but more specifically his community in Mitchell’s Plain.
“In the 80s and 90s we moved around a lot as a family and since I didn’t have many friends, skateboarding made sense to me. It was certainly a transformer moment the day my cousin gave me his old board in 1994.”
“If you came from the Cape Flats you didn’t have much money for a bicycle let alone a skateboard. Yet it gave me a sense of freedom, a means of transport and a confidence that would later shape my skateboarding career. Today I want to inspire kids from the Cape Flats and allow them the freedom to become a success, regardless of the odds.”
Kent says he is a skater first and then a shaper, and considers himself as a long boarder with a street skating mentality.
“Street skating is in my blood. I can’t see how anyone can make a skateboard and not be a skater themselves. I guess, likewise one can’t be a Master Distiller if you didn’t enjoy drinking whisky! How else would you be able to make up the perfect blend or know when a whisky is ready to be taken out of wood?”
“I spend many hours on my boards and each time I pick up subtle changes that would make the board perform better or allow me to go faster. It’s a process of becoming one with the board, not a mass-produced item that all perform exactly the same.”
Kent shapes his boards from either South African pine or the invasive Black Wood and says that working with wood is tricky at times.
“No piece of wood is exactly the same. They have a life of their own and you can’t always flex the wood the way you want it, it all depends on the grain. And I’ve noticed at the distillery that the wood you use for maturing the whiskies in, plays an extremely important role in the final taste and colour of the whisky. If the wood stops delivering, it’s important to re-vat into a different cask. My boards are similar – not all pieces of wood are the same and so not one board that I create is an exact replica of the other.”
It takes about four days for Kent to shape a piece of wood into a master piece during which time he laminates, moulds, cuts the shape, adds the fibre glass and varnish.
“True craftsmanship is a timeous process. You simply can’t rush it. During my time spent at the distillery, Master Distiller Andy Watts and I both found a similarity in our chosen fields that are marked by precision, patience, skills and a complete passion for what we do.”
He keeps his boards authentic with creative artwork inspired by street culture and graffiti.
“Skating is a form of expression and street culture is a story of South Africa. I want people to be reminded of the purity of skating, our history and how far we have come. In the 80s there were many slogans and drawings that stood out and their messages were addressing the issues we were facing as a community, as a country.
And that’s why I started the Legends Collection: a series of boards that feature significant people of our time. It’s important for me to recognise these leaders and to teach the younger generation of the important legacy they have left behind.”
Similar to Andy, skating found Kent not the other way around and he had to learn everything there is to making boards. A professional cricketer turned whisky-maker, Andy had to overcome many obstacles in his earlier years, shaping the range of proudly South African whiskies and creating many firsts for the industry in the process.
Kent says “There wasn’t much internet in the late 90s and early 2000 when I first started on the idea of making boards. I had to find out from boat builders how they bend wood, from surfboard manufacturers on how to shape boards and from many others on how to work with fibre glass. I still learn every day and I think that’s what keeps me ahead all the time. Craftsmanship is about a story – about where it’s from, who made it, the drive and passion, and the experience that you have as a consumer of that hand-crafted item.”
Kent’s creative spirit and hard-work fits in perfectly with the collaboration series of Three Ships Whisky featuring a number of inspirational and tenacious South Africans digitally. The Made Exceptional. Made Here campaign visually portrays the story of Three Ships Whisky’s success coming from a country that in the traditional sense was never destined to make whisky and to celebrate those South Africans that with a sense of pride, had the courage to do things differently.
For Kent staying true to oneself is one of the most important life lessons he has learnt.
“If you want to be exceptional you have to stop looking at the rest of the world and start believing in yourself. You need to persevere, follow your passion, learn and stop copying others.”
“I simply love South Africa. I’m passionate about the people here and our history. I am shaped by the legends before me who made this country a special place to live in. Since that very first day I clumsily started skating, there was nothing more that I wanted to do with my life than skate, and making boards became an extension of that. My labour of love has given me the opportunity to take part in shaping the international skating scene, share stories of hero’s and places through the custom-made street art designs on our boards and nurturing the patience required in crafting something spectacular.”