To Nepal's famous handicraft exports, now add another unusual item: skateboards. Yes, handcrafted woodedn skateboards Made in Nepal by Marius Arniko Arter.
Born in Nepal, Arter had spent most of his early years in Kathmandu before he returned to Switzerland with his parents. When he came back in 2004 to the place he once called home, his love for Nepal was rekindled and he decided to stay. A keen skater, Arter searched for a skateboard in Nepal. When he couldn't find it, he put his carpentry skills to work and made two boards, imprinting it with local carvings.
"My skateboard attracted a lot of interest back in Switzerland," Arter recalls, "everyone wanted one."
With backing from Swiss friends, Arter returned to Nepal in 2007 and started Arniko Skateboards, naming it after the Nepali middle name his parents had given him. The company logo has a stylised Nepali flag and he got local wood craftsmen to carve designs on the skateboards.
The Canadian Maple and glue required to make the boards are imported, but everything else is made in Nepal. "We try to pick up ideas from Nepal to transform them into designs," explains Arter. "We even have one with mountaineer Tenzing Norgay's face and more recently, a long board with a woman playing
Apart from skateboards, Arniko also manufactures a clothing line of t-shirts, hoodies, pants, and accessories in Nepal. The production materials used at Arniko are certified by Confidence in Textiles, IMO Control, Fairtrade International and Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production.
The Arniko Skateboards store at Mandala Street in Thamel easily catches eye because of the sturdy designer boards that hang on its walls. Arniko's boards are made in the '70s slalom style, not readily available in the international market. "These are ideal for urban and downhill cruising," explains Arter, "so although we are not a global brand, those interested in old-school skateboarding recognise us." Arniko Skateboard also has stores in Switzerland and sells online.
Arniko sells up to 200 boards a season and each one is a work of art. Says Arter: "Some people buy the boards to simply hang them on the wall."
When asked why he prefers to work in Nepal, Arter replies: "Working here is not easy but this is where I was born. This is my bit to make Nepal's name recognised around the world".