Kelvin Murage Uses Skateboarding to Share the Gospel in Nigeria

“The first time on that skateboard, it was love at first sight,” Kenya’s “King of Skate” Kelvin Murage recounts of a passion now fortified by a faith that changed his life. Photo by Anthony Rivers

Kelvin took the wheels off a suitcase and the back off a chair, then screwed them together to jerry-rig a skateboard.

The then-12-year-old drew his mother’s ire for destroying a good suitcase and one of the family chairs, but her scolding didn’t thwart her son, who had no idea how fast his life would roll on from there.

Nairobi’s ‘King of Skate’

Buzzing through the streets of Nairobi’s city square, across the steps in Uhuru Park and through the central business district, the skateboarding crowd can hardly go unnoticed. With 3.5 million people and counting, about 75 percent of whom are under the age of 30, Nairobi is the perfect place for the skateboarding culture.

Kelvin Murage, who’s earned the title “King of Skate” several times in local skate-offs (like dance-offs), gave me the chance to see the East African skateboarding scene through the eyes of one of its own.

Dressed in khaki shorts, a plaid button-up with sleeves rolled and the classic flat-bottomed skater shoe, Kelvin blends in well with university students and young professionals crowded around tables in a local coffee shop taking a midday lunch break to visit with friends and drink a glass of chai.

But as Kelvin starts his story, it becomes clear this hasn’t always been his type of environment.

He grew up in a small farming community in central Kenya called Nyeri where life was not so easy. With only one older half-brother, he is the youngest child of his mother Jane, raised in what he described as a half-Christian family. His mother was a believer but his father — when he was around — was an abusive alcoholic.

The distance between houses in Nyeri was far, and his classmates at primary school were his only community. School also wasn’t a pleasant experience, he admitted with a grimace, saying he was shy and often quiet, making him an “easy target” for classmates to pick on.

When Kelvin was 12, his family purchased a television with three channels: one for movies, one for news and one for cartoons. He spent his summer watching cartoons and an occasional movie. One day a skateboarder flashed across the screen during a movie. Having never seen one before, he was instantly hooked.

Fashioning a makeshift skateboard, Kelvin took it out for a test ride. Although the grass and rocks of rural Kenya weren’t optimal, he knew this mode of transportation was the beginning of a journey.

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Source: Baptist Press