How and when did you start skateboarding?
I got my first skateboard when I was really young — about one year old. It was some cheap little board from Coin Save that I wouldn’t let go of, so my parents decided to get it for me. I then went on to skate until I was about Year 5. Although I never really felt like I dropped skateboarding, I got really into scootering and was a sponsored scooter rider for about three years until I grew out of it at the start of high school and picked up a skateboard again.
What made you stick with skateboarding and make it such a big part of your life?
Definitely the people and the culture! The skatepark was the place to meet up with friends and skate. It really was having a crew of people to skate with that made it so encouraging and enjoyable. Majority of my friends growing up and even now were made at the skatepark. It would be the place to spend time with my mates. What also really helps is that my Mum also really loves going to the skate park and bringing food and other snacks for all the skaters. She is known locally at the DIY spot as “Skate Mum”, so I always find myself there. It really is quite a cool feeling to show up to the skatepark and see your mum having a yarn with everyone there.
What’s a typical day in the life of Gala?
I always feel like I’m up to a bunch of random stuff. At the moment, I feel like there are a few themes to my life — I am currently working on a youth-based campaign called Hear Me See Me as a Youth Advocate and Youth Marketing coordinator. I was brought into the team to help the campaign engage with young people, which is a lot of fun (and working with an awesome team really helps too). When I finish work, I will always find myself with people or in my own time doing some drawing or sewing on the machine my Mum just got me for Christmas.
Frontside rock ‘n’ roll, Newtown DIY.
Skateboarding has changed so much lately, with more diversity in age, gender and identity making up the culture now. What is so great about it that draws people to it?
The culture is definitely shifting. I have noticed a wide variety of people being drawn to the rawness and almost off-the-grid scene and finding a community. It is removing itself from its anti-establishment roots, which has made it more of an open sport to everyone. One of the things I enjoy most about the community is sharing a space with people from all different walks of life with the same goal in mind. I have noticed a larger presence of minorities recently, even just in terms of what is different from who you would usually meet in a male-dominated sport. I think this crowd has shared experiences but from very different perspectives of life, which have made a very close community.
“I think we are really lacking in prevention, and our system is so overwhelmed at the moment”
Skate culture has thought of itself as “open-minded”, but it has been slow to evolve in many ways. Gender equity is one way. What has skate culture and skateboarders on the whole still have to learn?
I can’t speak for the majority, but from an industry standpoint, equal gender pay and more inclusive skate resources (such as skate shops, skate clothing, etc.) for a more diverse group of skaters would be good. I still don’t think I have been to a skate shop with a female skateboarder working there yet — I think this would make skateboarding far more accessible for young female skaters and others who usually feel intimidated by a male-dominated skate shop.
Well-being and mental health is a massive part of your life. Can you tell us why and how this became such a focus?
Watching my friends grow up suffering from mental health issues and try to battle the system and interpersonal relationships (that be friends or family) gave me insight into the mental health system and struggles of the youth in New Zealand. It became a slow, integrated passion of mine that, on an individual basis, became part of my life due to being alongside my friends as they struggled with their mental health journeys. It seems to be a large conversation topic in the world of young people at the moment. A few friends and I have been thinking up some initiatives that we can create to help the crisis that is happening in Aotearoa at the moment. I think we are really lacking in prevention, and our system is so overwhelmed at the moment. As a young kid who suffered from anxiety and was fortunate enough to receive early and good care, I am lucky not to deal with anxiety anymore. I would like to see other people have that same opportunity.
Kickflip, Newtown DIY.
Wellington is a rad place with many crews and a supportive and active community. What are some unique or favourite things about it?
Definitely the crews and locals! A lot of people in Wellington are pushing for skateboarding here! Especially with the DIY dogs building the DIY spot. Recently, there has been a large influx of women and non-binary skaters here, making the scene really unique. One of my favourite things about Wellington is the bright and youthful culture, with things going on all the time. It’s such a big and small place at the same time. It is compact but high paced, so it keeps the tempo going and constantly has new skaters and people always rolling through.
Who’s doing great things in skateboarding in Aotearoa?
There’s always so much going on, but some skaters to really look out for are the girls in Auckland! They’re really driving the next generation of skaters in New Zealand, and they’re growing and diversifying the culture so much and have created a massive impact throughout Aotearoa for sure!
What’s important or next for you? Do you have any personal, career or skate-related goals or values you’d like to share?
At the moment, just seeing where the wind takes me, I’ve never been super goal-oriented. Life’s hard to plan too, but I think just going on fun trips and spending time with friends and whānau and hopefully creating some cool stuff, having some cool experiences, delving into new and old things, meeting new people and keep on skating! I think my life generally revolves around people and experience, so probably something along the lines of that! My overarching goal is probably to have a good mindset and have the best time I can.
Follow Gala on Instagram @galoinkis.
First published in Manual #68, April 2022.