Surprise was common during my first year in Myanmar, but one of the biggest surprises that I experienced was meeting a group of skateboarders in Yangon – a city that is nearly impossible to skate in.
At that time, the roads had not yet been repaired for the consideration of the foreigners that were beginning to trickle into the country. Streets were cracked and rocky and the sidewalks were often times hazardous with open sewers and holes large enough that a person could fall into. Even the best of sidewalks demanded focus, sure footing, some agility and a tetanus shot. Yet here was a fairly large group of skateboarders in front of me and they were good! Flips and ollies and rail slides interacted with an eclectic collection of wood and metal that had been crafted together to form rails and mini ramps, in a small open space in the back of a building lined with glass doors. The obstacles were worn from monsoons and constant use, with long cracks in the concrete that caused occasional stumbles and falls. A pro skater from overseas had joined the group for the week, and there was talk of a skate video they had just finished up, and the next one in the making. It wasn’t just the skill of the skaters that was drawing international attention, it was their existence despite being in a country cut off from the global market for nearly 50 years, and their determination to continue in an inhospitable environment. They’ve continued to grow, too. Recently, there was a successful push by Make Life Skate Life (a non-profit organization) and Myanmar Skateboard Club to fund and build a new skatepark. To find more information, video clips, and to keep updated on the new skatepark and its events, you can follow Pushing Myanmar on facebook.