Nicky Hayes is a skateboarder, a youth worker, a Traditional Owner and a proud Arrernte man. He’s also responsible for fundraising and building the first indoor skatepark in a remote Northern Territory community. The plywood park is in a large tin shed known by the community as ‘The Club’. It’s in the red heart of the Australian desert, 80 kilometres south east of Mparntwe (aka Alice Springs). The community is called Ltyentye Apurte and Nicky has managed to foster a skate scene there, creating a company called Spinifex Skateboards.
Words by Nat Kassel.
“The notion of Spinifex Skateboards, for me, has a real sense of place,” says Nicky. “It makes me think about country, about the scrub, the red sand, and the yellow spinifex. It’s a little symbol to remind me about where I’ve come from and who I am, and it’s made up of what’s been there from the very start through to what and where Spinifex sits now.”
Nicky started skateboarding in Alice Springs when he was 11 years old and then moved to Adelaide in his adolescence, where he got even more into skating. These days, he’s in his mid-30s and he’s passing the stoke onto the youth in Ltyentye Apurte.
“The idea [for the skatepark] came to me many years ago,” says Nicky. “There was nowhere really to skate in Ltyentye Apurte [so] I campaigned to get an indoor skatepark built within the sport and recreation shed and became the Northern Territory’s first Indigenous qualified skateboard instructor. From there and from following my dream, we’ve come so far and now we have Spinifex Skateboards!”
More than a skate company, Spinifex works at raising money for the skate scene and to facilitate skate trips for the Indigenous youth in the community. In January 2020, Nicky brought a handful of kids from Ltyentye Apurte to Brisbane for the Spinifex Skateboards First Nations Skate Tour, where they skated Brissy and got to meet Jackson Pilz. In fact, all proceeds from sales of Spinifex are now going towards annual skate trips in various parts of Australia.
The skatepark was built back in 2015 and since then it has garnered a fair bit of success and attention from the broader community and the Australian skateboarding scene. You might recognise Nicky and the Ltyentye Apurte park from Kiss Me in the NT, the Pass~Port and Carhartt WIP tour video from 2019. The team visited Nicky and skated the indoor park as part of their road trip around the Northern Territory.
Nicky is thankful for all the help he’s had getting his message out there, saying, “I have received a lot of support through the community, my employer, local news and radio stations as well as equipment, funding and clothing donations, all of which I am very grateful for.”
Spinifex makes boards, tees and other merch, with a focus on engaging local artists wherever possible. One of their boards features a traditional Indigenous dot painting by a 15-year-old girl named Shantara Conway Hayes, who happens to be Nicky’s niece. The original hand-painted board was sold, along with another that was painted by her mother Emma Hayes, at an art auction fundraiser Spinifex held to raise money for the First Nations Skate Tour. But the design lives on in the reprinted form.
“We plan to engage as many local artists for board and T-shirt designs as much as possible,” says Georga Ryan, who works as a program coordinator at the Atyenhenge Atherre Aboriginal Corporation. “Nicky has even started to get the kids painting designs on old boards as part of his job as a youth worker. [The] next artist might be aged six for all we know.”
Right now, the biggest problem for Spinifex is keeping stock on the shelves. Due to overwhelming support, they’ve sold out of a bunch of boards and merch but they have reordered.
If you’re interested in showing support to Nicky and the Spinifex crew, consider buying a board or a tee from their online store, or making a donation. And to keep an eye on what they’re up to, give them a follow on Insta.