neftalie williams

Williams is a skateboarding envoy with the U.S. State Department and is spreading his love for the sport, recently completing a cultural diplomacy mission in Cambodia, where he highlighted skateboarding's benefits to young people.“It’s a bridge between people all over the world,” Williams said. “For me, I’ve always been focused on what it was that made skateboarding special.”

Skateboarder and University of Waikato PhD student Neftalie Williams is in Cambodia this week at the invitation of the United States Embassy. As a US sports envoy, he will be leading a US Department of State Target of Opportunity Sports Diplomacy program, tasked with helping to increase mutual understanding between the people of Cambodia and the USA.

Skateboarders can often be proudly stupid. We relish in action, not thought. So whenever someone starts talking about how skateboarding can be a passport to connect with people across cultures, or starts going off about the power skating can have for the marginalized, we’re often quick to get defensive and write off such thoughts as self-serious pretention.

In addition to his work empowering and uniting skateboarding communities, Williams is chairman of Cuba Skate, designed to create people-to-people exchange between communities in Cuba and the U.S. “Cuba Skate is our nonprofit that's based in D.C. and here in L.A. and what we do is we bring boards back and forth to the kids that are in Cuba and we also promote educational exchange between the skaters that are here, skaters globally and the skaters that are in Cuba.

The dreamiest dream job is the one that you design for yourself, and by that standard, Neftalie Williams is winning at life. He has made an academic career out of skateboarding. Specialty? Skateboarding diplomacy.