Durban - It's the Cinderella story of skateboarding.
That’s how Durban professional skateboarder Khule Ngubane describes his life.
His grandfather bought him his first board when he was 12-years-old. At 15, he turned professional and at 23, has travelled the world and is friends with the likes of US legends Tony Hawk and Rob Dyrdek.
This week, Ngubane spoke to The Independent on Saturday about making it in the highly competitive US market, expanding traditional perceptions about careers and visualising success.
“I grew up with my mom and grandparents in Chesterville. When I first saw skateboarding on television, I knew it was something I had to try.
“I took my new skateboard to the skate park at Pavilion and I was hooked,” said the former Durban High School pupil.
“There was a lot of pressure from my family not to choose skateboarding as a career, but once I started getting cheques, they were okay with it."
He made his first American connections when he competed in the Kimberley Diamond Cup against some of the world’s best. “I went to Florida where there are some of the best skateboarders on the planet, and then to California.
“I spend a lot of time in California, but have also been around Africa including Swaziland, Mozambique, Nigeria and Senegal.
“In Africa, skateboarding is developing and challenges include gravel roads, fenced-off areas and few skate parks.
“I have learned a lot in the last 11 years. We are in the transition to a new generation where we are moving away from making money by traditional ways, such as becoming a doctor or lawyer. I finished matric and started university, but then had to choose. I chose skateboarding and I've gone to places other people will never go to. If I'd stayed, I would have been that average kid with a BComm looking for a job.
“California is full of dreamers where there are ways of making money if you are more artistic and we are living in an amazing generation. It’s okay to be a rebel,” said Ngubane.
His attributes his positive attitude and confidence to growing up in a close knit family. “My grandparents are still in Chesterville and I was lucky to grow up in a loving environment with good morals and spiritual values. I was the only kid in the township who rode a skateboard and also had the stigma of having a ‘white’ accent. I suppose I had something to prove.
"I envisioned what I wanted to do when I was 12, now I am living that reality."
Ngubane first met Hawk when he was 15 and again about nine months ago.
“He helps potential skateboarders and has helped Talent Biyela, another professional skateboarder from here.”
Ngubane has a number of American and South African sponsors, including DC clothing and shoes, Monster Energy, Element skateboards and Nixon watches.
“I will spend up to five hours a day skating and follow a healthy diet to keep light. I am mainly vegetarian, but spoil myself with chicken or fish. I also meditate.”
When in Durban, Ngubane can be found at the beachfront skate park where he helps young skateboarders. He will head back to the US towards the end of September.