Skateistan Founder Oliver at TedxSydney

Last week at TedxSydney, Skateistan's founder Oliver shared the incredible story of how Skateistan began by chance on the streets of Kabul. Skateistan’s founder was one of 16 inspirational individuals invited to speak to an audience of over 2000 at the prestigious ‘ideas worth spreading’ event. It was a full house, including a crowd of 300 inside the studio, at the Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall in Australia on April 26. Check out the live recording or read the highlights in our re-cap below:

Oliver is Australian but grew up in Papua New Guinea. Seven years ago he travelled to Afghanistan for the first time, and despite all the loving advice against skating in Kabul, he explored the city on four wheels and a plank of wood.

“Wherever I travelled I always brought my skateboard with me. And Kabul was no exception.”

Oliver Percovich, Founder of Skateistan, speaks at TEDxSydney 2014

His skateboard quickly became a magnet for children – always following him around, curious, wanting a turn. Girls were getting involved too. In Afghanistan it is uncommon for girls to ride bicycles, and all popular recreational sports are dominated by boys. Ollie immediately saw an opportunity to involve girls in sport.

“Skateboarding was a loophole! It was so new, that nobody had had a chance to say that girls couldn’t do it yet.”

Today, Afghanistan is home to the largest percentage of girl skateboarders in the world.

A captivated audience inside the Sydney Opera House

One important message Ollie delivered to his audience at TedxSydney, on the theme of ‘Enhance’, was that skateboarding itself doesn’t change anything. Skateboarding is a very attractive sport, but it is what comes next that is important. The community Skateistan has created for youth in Kabul, (and now Mazar-e-Sharif and Phnom Penh, Cambodia) provides stability and educational opportunities, and ultimately changes lives.

"They come for skateboarding and they stay for education."

You can watch a live recording of Ollie’s speech over at TedxSydney by scrolling across to his name and picture.