Top SA skateboarder Kent Lingeveldt: ‘It’s like being a master whisky distiller’

Kent Lingeveldt is one of Three Ships Whisky’s exceptional South Africans featured in second part of visual collaboration series

05 March 2019 - 10:09
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Kent Lingeveldt says he is a skater first and then a shaper, and considers himself a longboarder with a street-skating mentality.
Kent Lingeveldt says he is a skater first and then a shaper, and considers himself a longboarder with a street-skating mentality.
Image: Supplied/Three Ships Whisky

In a world of no brakes and clocking extreme speeds of about 100km/h downhill, longboarding is not for the faint-hearted; it’s a way of life. And skateboarder and longboard shaper Kent Lingeveldt has proved that the South African skating scene can compete against the best in the world.

Lingeveldt is featured in the second instalment of the visual collaboration series by Three Ships Whisky focusing on exceptional South Africans. He has crafted a product from wood similarly to how the range of globally award-winning Three Ships whiskies are made at the James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington: with patience, hard work and passion.

Watch the visual collaboration:

Growing up in Mitchells Plain, Lingeveldt’s name has become synonymous with street culture and the art of longboarding both in SA and abroad. The owner of Alpha Longboards started competing competitively in 1999, representing his country and his community. He was the first black African to be counted among the top 10 skaters in the world.

“In the Eighties and Nineties, we moved around a lot as a family and since I didn’t have many friends, skateboarding made sense to me. It was certainly a transformer moment the day my cousin gave me his old board in 1994,” he says.

“If you came from the Cape Flats, you didn’t have money for a bicycle let alone a skateboard. It gave me a sense of freedom, a means of transport and a confidence that would later shape my skateboarding career. Today I want to inspire kids from the Cape Flats and allow them the freedom to become a success, regardless of the odds.”

Kent says he is a skater first and then a shaper, and considers himself a longboarder with a street-skating mentality.

“Street skating is in my blood. I can’t see how anyone can make a skateboard and not be a skater themselves. I guess, likewise, one can’t be a master distiller if you don’t enjoy drinking whisky. How else would you be able to make up the perfect blend or know when a whisky is ready to be taken out of wood?

“I spend many hours on my boards, and each time I pick up subtle changes that would make the board perform better or allow me to go faster. It’s a process of becoming one with the board, not [of making] mass-produced items that all perform exactly the same.”

Lingeveldt shapes his boards from South African pine or the invasive African blackwood, which he says is tricky to work with at times.

“No piece of wood is exactly the same. Each has a life of its own and you can’t always flex the wood the way you want it; it all depends on the grain. I’ve noticed at the distillery that the wood you use for maturing the whiskies in plays an extremely important role in the final taste and colour of the whisky. If the wood stops delivering, it’s important to re-vat into a different cask. My boards are similar – not all pieces of wood are the same and so not one board that I create is an exact replica of another.”

It takes about four days for Lingeveldt to shape a piece of wood into a masterpiece, during which time he laminates, moulds, cuts the shape, and then adds the fibreglass and varnish.

It takes about four days for Lingeveldt to shape a piece of wood into a masterpiece, during which time he laminates, moulds, cuts the shape, and then adds the fibreglass and varnish.
It takes about four days for Lingeveldt to shape a piece of wood into a masterpiece, during which time he laminates, moulds, cuts the shape, and then adds the fibreglass and varnish.
Image: Supplied/Three Ships Whisky

“True craftsmanship takes time. You simply can’t rush it. During my time spent at the distillery, master distiller Andy Watts and I both found a similarity in our chosen fields that are marked by precision, patience, skills and a complete passion for what we do.”

He keeps his boards authentic with creative artwork inspired by street culture and graffiti.

“Skating is a form of expression, and street culture is a story of SA. I want people to be reminded of the purity of skating, our history and how far we have come. In the Eighties, there were many slogans and drawings that stood out with messages addressing the issues we were facing as a community, as a country. That’s why I started the Legends Collection – a series of boards that feature significant people of our time. It’s important for me to recognise these leaders and to teach the younger generation of the important legacy they have left behind.”

Similar to Watts, skating found Lingeveldt, not the other way around, and he had to learn everything there is to board-making. A professional cricketer turned whisky-maker, Watts had to overcome many obstacles in his earlier years, shaping the range of proudly South African whiskies and creating many firsts for the industry in the process.

Lingeveldt says there wasn’t much internet in the late Nineties and early 2000 when he first started on the idea of making boards. “I had to find out from boat builders how they bend wood, from surfboard manufacturers how to shape boards, and from many others how to work with fibreglass. I still learn every day and I think that’s what keeps me ahead all the time.

“Craftsmanship is about a story – about where it’s from, who made it, the drive and passion, and the experience that you have as a consumer of that handcrafted item.”

His creative spirit and hard work fit perfectly with the collaboration series of Three Ships Whisky featuring inspirational and tenacious South Africans digitally. The “Made Exceptional. Made Here” campaign visually portrays the story of Three Ships Whisky’s success, coming from a country that in the traditional sense was never destined to make whisky. It also celebrates those South Africans who, with a sense of pride, had the courage to do things differently.

For Lingeveldt, staying true to oneself is one of the most important life lessons he has learnt.

“If you want to be exceptional, you have to stop looking at the rest of the world and start believing in yourself. You need to persevere, follow your passion, learn and stop copying others.

“I simply love SA. I’m passionate about the people here and our history. I am shaped by the legends before me who made this country a special place to live. Since that very first day I clumsily started skating, there was nothing more that I wanted to do with my life than skate, and making boards became an extension of that.

“My labour of love has given me the opportunity to take part in shaping the international skating scene, share stories of heroes and places through the custom-made street art designs on our boards, and nurture the patience required in crafting something spectacular.”

This article was paid for by Three Ships Whisky.