MEIMELALI.COM: The Griffins: Bali’s family of skateboarding champions | Maimelali.com.
In between skate training and Muay Thai classes for the kids, we talk to Kim Griffin: a.mum of two rising skateboarding stars and wife to a professional wakeboarder!
Words by Rebecca Foreman
Here at Honeycombers, we like to keep in touch with families doing remarkable things. In fact, it was in Singapore when we first chatted to the coolest kids in town: The Griffins. We got the lowdown on the family’s two mini shredders who skateboarded from morning through until night, winning comps and gaining Instagram notoriety while going viral like there’s no tomorrow. Now imagine the mum of these rising sport’s stars, who allowed her suburban Singapore backyard to be converted into a full-blown six-foot skate halfpipe comprising three ramps – all so dad, Mark Griffin, Entrepreneur and Pro Wakeboarder, can lead the charge…
Well, that’s all in a day’s work for Kim Griffin, who has since packed up the family skate ramps and relocated family life to Bali. With big plans and even bigger dreams for the skateboarding future of Ryder, 8 and Arya, 5, we talk to Kim all about her energetic kids, her hands-on athlete husband, and all the best bits about raising kids in Bali.
Hi Kim! There’s been big changes since last we spoke. Tell us why you moved the family to Bali?
Well, life in Singapore was clocking up to 13 years and honestly, things were starting to get expensive with regards to the kids international school fees. So, we decided with the flexibility of remote working now, why not move our lives to Bali? We love it here!
Tell us about your Bali plans?
It’s exciting! We’ve partnered up with two of our business partners to launch our own skate brand called Rumah Skate, which will have a skatepark, cafe and a workshop in Kerobokan. It’ll be a very different vibe from other skate parks, because we’re focusing on building a big vert half-pipe, the first of its kind in Bali. The half-pipe will be under shade also, so that it’s great for all weather conditions and out of the tropical sun. It will launch in the middle of 2021. We are also making our own skateboards, which are made of local Indonesian woods such as teak and bamboo. We take pride in crafting 100% Indonesian skateboards, as all materials, machinery and labour are locally sourced. Our skateboard art in particular has had a very positive reception with great Balinese-inspired designs.
What pushed you to do this?
We have always strived to support our kids 100%. This has meant we have become heavily involved in the skate community, which is wonderfully supportive and full of great positive people. As parents of high level skaters and with Mark skating and having a professional sports background, we saw an opportunity together with our business partners to make a unique Indonesian skate brand to meet the needs of the skate community and to help support and grow the local skate community. We have seen such a positive impact on our kids through skateboarding and we would like to do our part to help grow the sport in Bali.
What are your aims for the Rumah Skate project?
To build a supportive skate-community and training camp for the kids, one that isn’t prohibitively expensive. Plus, we’d like to build a place for the parents; a place to watch their kids skate, and also the chance to get involved if they like.
Kim, the big question is: do you also shred?
HA! No, not me. I’ve tried, but I’ve realised it’s better to stick to what I am more familiar with and that’s rollerskating! I am, however, the ultimate cheerleader. I’m great at the spectator side of things. I take footage, photos, whatever you need to cheer on and support, I’m there… but from the side-lines!
Tell us about the kids rising notoriety in the skate world?
They are doing great. Both Ryder and Arya came first in their last comp, for their respective age category for Rumah Skate Loco Bowl comp. I guess you could say they are current Bali champions in their respective age groups. It’s fair to say that the level of competition is extremely high in Bali and in fact Indonesia as a whole, which has a higher standard of skating and more competitive skateboarders compared to Singapore.
Why is skateboarding so popular in Bali and Indonesia?
Perhaps because of the skateboard accessibility here and the fact that skateboarding is now an Olympic sport (and would have debuted at the 2020 Tokyo Games). Bali is also extremely encouraging of extreme sports, because of the lifestyle and culture, which is one of the primary reasons we moved here. It’s so great to interact with many other parents who support their kids in these wonderful sports and to try and live their best lives. We would encourage them to compete in future Olympics, but only if they wanted it (and for Australia, of course!).
Given Mark’s wakeboarding history, (Champion representing the Philippines), why didn’t the kids didn’t follow that route?
They LOVE wakeboarding and Mark, Ryder and Arya were all invited to compete in the Wakeboarding World Championships towards the end of this year, but everything’s still up in the air due to Covid. Really, it comes down to accessibility for us. The kids can skateboard every day logistically, but wakeboarding is a once-per-week thing, due to distance from where we live and cost. Even though the whole community is incredibly supportive, it comes down to being able to practice daily.
How does Singapore family life compare to Bali?
Less stress I think and with the money we’ve been able to save living in cheaper accommodation here, you can do so many more activities with the kids, which is great because my kids do A LOT of activities. Here in Bali, my kids do Brazilian jiu jitsu three times a week and kickboxing twice a week at Bali MMA, a wonderful martial arts school for kids and adults. Their skateboard training is four times a week at Amplitude Skatepark, Motion Skatepark and Loco by Nature Bowl. Wakeboarding at Bali Wake Park is once a week. All that would cost big bucks in Singapore! Also, in Singapore I was working long hours in Recruitment, and missed so much of the kids’ childhood there. I would drop them off at 7 and pick them up at 7, then get them ready for bed and that would be it: rinse and repeat. But here in Bali, we’ve never spent so much time together as a family. Obviously we’ve had the challenges of Covid, I’m not going to lie it hasn’t all been easy, but I think you really start to understand one another through this process.
Speaking of which, how did you all get through the ‘Bali lockdown’?
We got creative. Mark created The Adventure Family Youtube channel and he and the kids were learning how to do backflips. They would escape out to local rice paddy fields and practice jumping off trees and walls. Mark, not me!
Who drives the kids skate-training?
Mark is really the driving force behind the training side of things, but the bottom line is, the kids WANT to do it, they love it. They also have their own skate coaches on top of Mark, so they do have scheduled one-hour lessons every week. The rest of the time Mark perfects their training with them for whatever competition they are preparing for at that time.
Wow, sounds like you guys are super busy! Can you describe the family dynamic Kim?
I’m a tiger mom! I do the schedules, day-to-day activity organisation and academics, that’s all me. Then Mark does all the sport and training. He also participates a lot with the kids in their after school activities. He’s right in there. He’ll do kickboxing, skating and wakeboarding at the same time. Fully 100% hands on.
How do you find and achieve balance?
It’s very important to find balance with kids especially between being a trainer and a parent, but Mark does it quite well. I think it boils down to the kids enjoying participating alongside him. Sometimes it’s as simple as just being there with them when they’re doing their activities… my kids want and like that support. They love showing off to us.!
What’s it like living with a partner that’s as active and driven as Mark?
I think living with someone like Mark, who’s a professional athlete, is interesting because he’s driven in a certain way and I am driven in my own way so it’s a very good balance between us. The high level of activity that Mark does with them instils a different level of focus, determination and perseverance into the kids. But ultimately to be a good sportsman. If you lose in a competition for example, the decision you make between being a good loser or a sore loser is a lesson we both try to instil in our kids and Mark is an extremely good sportsman.
How do you find managing the kids training and mentoring as a parent?
Mark does this very well. Although, as a Mum, I can see very clearly in a given situation if he needs to focus more or less on being a parent first and trainer second. We work together on this. Good cop, bad cop. The problem you find can be when you know how good your child is at something, and they don’t perform to that level every time, because of an off day or just being a kid or whatever. Then you have to know when to back off and just let them have fun and muck around instead of serious training. This is where many parents can go wrong and it’s important not to put too much pressure on them. At the end of the day, they need to be having fun!
What’s the secret ingredient for driving a child to go the extra level at their chosen sport or activity?
First and foremost I believe that a parent has to step up and support the child. Show up as a parent. Put in the hours to show your support and simply be there to watch them and encourage them, especially when they’re not doing well at something. I see in my own kids, the absolute joy on their faces when I’m present to see a trick they’re learning; they’re so proud when they get to show off to me!
Both Ryder and Arya are champions already in their respective age groups. What do you notice about their sibling dynamic? How do you manage it?
They both have very different levels of capability. You can’t help but compare, but when Ryder was the same age as Arya, he was far and beyond her capability for the age. BUT, Arya has a tenacity and fearlessness that Ryder didn’t have. He is much more analytical and calculating about how to perform a trick or skate move, whereas Arya will just try it and see what happens. I would say she’s more of a go-getter, hungrier perhaps – she just wants to do the same as him straight away. Arya’s not thinking about doing the move better, she’s just thinking about being a part of it. But I will say they are both equally driven just in very different ways and I find it very interesting watching it. But we are always re-enforcing that when they’re competing, they are competing for themselves first, not against each other.
If your kiddos are having an off day, how do you manage their enthusiasm to keep training?
I’m always honest with them and I’ll just ask them, ‘didn’t you do that better the last time? Show me how you did it then – keep going at it until you can show me that again.’ We kind of turn it into a game so they don’t feel any unnecessary pressure and stress because I think that’s the worst thing you can do to a child. For us it’s as simple as, just do the best you can, and show me what you can do!
Thanks so much, Kim, we. can’t wait to watch your kids at the Olympics one day!
Words by Rebecca Foreman
Currently living the island life in Bali with her family, Rebecca fills her days with travelling, writing and reviewing, often with the kids in tow. Follow her bountiful island adventures on her Instagram page.