Bali’s Chuffed Asia crew member Karina Aretha is taking the skate-crew love she’s been shown, and channelling it back outwards.
Karina by @24olik
The road out to Tanah Lot is empty and winding, with rice fields on either side, and patches of jungle, waterfalls and black-sand beaches nearby. Twenty-four-year-old videographer Karina Aretha was burning down it on her scooter this past May, roller skates in her backpack and her boyfriend and his skateboarder mates around her, not quite knowing what to expect. Their destination was a temple out east, past Canggu’s tourist hotels and local beach towns, where there’s usually Balinese dance performances and little shops selling merchandise, but everything was shut due to Covid.
“I didn’t know if I could even skate there,” Karina says now, over a WhatsApp voice-call. “I thought maybe I could play on the flat, but I don’t know any dance moves. At first, I was just watching the others doing tricks.” She’d started roller skating about six months earlier, just after moving to Bali from Jakarta, and was getting used to airs and stalls in bowls. Here, “the pathways were weird; it’s not built for skating; my wheels don’t feel as smooth. I was afraid.”
As she watched, though, “I realised there was a line that I could totally…. possibly do,” she says, laughing. “We were messing around, and I just followed one of the skateboarders.” She skated to the edge of a raised concrete walkway and jumped to the ground a few feet below. She didn’t land it the first time, “but I told myself, it wasn’t that bad. So I did it again.” Her friends filmed each other and cheered her on, she says, telling her “soon enough you’re going to make your own roller skate [video] part.”
Image by Charlie Fenwick
After that, she started keeping her eye out for skate spots, going on street missions, and filming clips. The crew went to Pantai Jerman, a plaza by a local beach where people bring rails and kickers to skate under the sunset, and there’s a chunky four-stair set. Her first try jumping the stairs, Karina says, “I fell quite hard.” But, as she said later on in a video interview on Weibo, “The first fall of a new trick means I’m one step closer to nailing the trick. New bruises mean a new story to tell.”
It was Perry (aka Shreddie Mercury) who told Karina in June that Chuffed was looking for clips of roller skaters to choose a new Asian skate team. Perry’s a roller skater and non-profit organiser originally from the Bronx in New York. Together with Tami Primanisa, who founded the Balinese roller derby league Hot Lava Rollers, they co-founded Skate Without Borders Bali to widen access to roller skating on the island. “We just want everyone to express themselves and empower each other,” Tami says. “Seeing the other skaters growing so fast makes me so happy.”
Karina saw the poster for the first ever SWB roller skate night just after moving to Bali, “and got all excited because I had always wanted to try. The night was magical to me. It changed my life more than I could have ever expected.” The same week, she bought her first pair of skates.
Tami by @yoarya_
“I’m not usually a person who sticks to one thing. But it was more than what roller skating means to me, it’s also the community. They drive me forward. They’re genuine, loving, fun-ass people who cheer on every tiny bit of progress. I felt so welcomed right away. Being a part of SWB made me understand that there’s way more to this than getting skilled on your roller skates. It’s sharing and spreading [the love of skating] to other people.”
With the encouragement of this group, Karina put together a short edit for the Chuffed call-out: rolling down a long, rough incline in baggy dungarees, throwing 360s in a bowl, riding kerbs and doing 180° jumps in front of a pink sky off the Pantai Jerman stairs. She tagged it as an entry for the Chuffed Asian skate team, and shouted out her “skatefam,” in the description, including Tami and Perry.
Karina was chosen for the team, Chuffed founder Sam Trayhurn says, not just for her gnarly skating and rapid progress, but also because of her love for documenting the scene around her. “Watching a few videos she made,” Sam says, “I could just feel her love of skating coming through. I really want to emphasise how people behind the lens are just as (or even more) integral in the skate community to those in front of it.”
Image by Charlie Fenwick
When she first heard the news, Karina says, “I was more nervous than excited. I told Perry that I’m scared that I wouldn’t always nail new tricks, but she kept telling me that being on the Chuffed team is not about sick lines. Chuffed has similar principles to SWB. To share our growth and support the roller skating scene in Bali, and Indonesia. I hope me being chosen by Chuffed will have an impact on SWB. I could help and give back, after they’ve given so much to me.”
The scene in Bali is evolving fast. Perry is building features to turn the warehouse where they live into a "super-skatey dream" hostel, and has just launched events company and talent agency Bali Roller Skate. Just over a year after the first SWB skate night in September 2020, there are regularly 50 or 60 skaters coming to the Thursday-night sessions, and a SWB fundraising goal of USD $1,300 to buy skates to lend to locals was exceeded within 48 hours. The funds will be stretched further, as Chuffed will be providing SWB with discounted roller skates as part of their community-support programme.
Image by Charlie Fenwick
Amid all this, the core “family” of roller skaters in Bali has been making time to bond and check in with each other. “We had a crew-only homie skate at my house yesterday,” Perry says. “We danced around, and skated down the street to the dumpling place —who actually donated old Chinese roller-rink skates to us, with wheels that were crumbling—and skated back in the dark. I realised that we’d been so bogged down getting new people to join and sharing the love that we forgot to give it back to each other.”
This crew includes all genders, Indonesians and foreigners, adults and little kids. “I love the roller skate homies so much,” says nine-year-old Charmaine Mahika Nurima, aka Charma, who switched from skateboarding to roller skating thanks to SWB and is already shredding on eight wheels. “Roller skating suits me better because I love dancing,” she says. “On roller skates I can express myself.”
As well as helping inspire these kids, Karina has had messages on Instagram from people her videos have impacted that make her “confused and flattered and feel like crying,” she says. “It made me want to create more; to show how good [roller skating] feels for me. When I try, when I fail, when I’m with my friends.”
Image by Charlie Fenwick
Her dream for the future, she says, “is to combine both of my passions together and create something for the world to see: mini skate videos, a documentary, maybe a short film. I want to tell someone’s story in a cinematic way. Being in the Chuffed team makes me feel closer to that dream.”
She’s already made a beautiful two-minute video of Perry and skateboarder Lindsay Lovejoy twirling in the warehouse and gliding along empty roads, looking both exhilarated and peaceful. Cam’Ron’s Hey Ma is the soundtrack: “What’s up, let’s slide…”
The interweaving of close-ups and wide shots captures the feeling of skitching on motorbikes, dancing under street lights with a black sky above, and spending endless afternoons feeling totally present in your body and connected to everything around: rice fields, passing carts, a fan blowing cool air in a hot room. “As magical as the community and roller skating is for me in Bali,” Karina says, “I want the world to see it too.”