Culture

This Is What Skating Means to Young Singaporeans

“People are realising that skating is not just delinquency and that it is a sport that actually requires skill. Skaters don't mean harm, they don't want to destroy anyone's property.”
November 15, 2019, 4:53am

What is skating?

A sport. A hobby. A lifestyle. But escapism?

In a place like Singapore, where just going to school is a competitive ordeal, people are finding that skating is a good way to let off steam. It’s not always easy in the squeaky clean city-state, as the police and public still think skaters are a nuisance. Paired with the fact that there aren’t many half pipes, skaters often find themselves manoeuvring public spaces, complaints, and cops. But despite the struggles, the community gets larger every year.

This is what young Singaporeans have to say about skating:

Raiyan, 16

singapore skate scene

Hey Raiyan, how long have you been skating?

Almost two years.

How did you start?

The reason I started skating was to make friends because I didn't have many. I started watching videos on YouTube, and that led me to start.

Why do you skate?

When I started, I had a lot of problems at home and in school. When I’m skating, I don't worry about all those things. It's freedom. My parents don't like me skating, but they know it's an escape for me.

Where would you like to see the scene go?

I hope that Singapore will accept our culture. It's not that accepted now. Whenever we skate on the street, we get bad looks from everyone. Cops are on us all the time, they kick us out of places. If you meet the same police officer twice, they take your board away.

Martina, 16

martina aquaro skate scene

When did you start skating?

I started skating about a year ago with a longboard. I started seeing videos of people doing cool-ass tricks on skateboards and I wanted to do the same, so I started out skating alone in car parks. Then, I met Irfan and his friends and they brought me to the skate park where I saw all these people skating really well. At first, it was really intimidating because everyone at the park is so skilled, and I thought that I needed to get really good before I’d be welcome. But I found out that the more you skate with experienced people, the faster you learn because they give you the best tips.

What is the skate community like?

The people who have been skating for a long time are very welcoming. They will say hi to you even if they don't know who you are. You can ask people for tips and they will happily help you improve. Seeing people grow is definitely one of the best parts about coming to the skatepark.

Have you seen the skate scene change?

I don't know how much the scene has changed, but I know I have changed my perspective on the skate park and the community. The community has grown. A lot of people my age have started skating because it's a cool sport. It's nice to see people come down every day and do their own thing and not be afraid.

How would you describe the experience of skating in Singapore?

There's good and bad. The weather is so hot and we have a bad reputation. The cops always think we are doing something wrong or we are ruining property, so they always try to kick us out of public areas. So it's getting harder to find anything but skate parks to skate. And yeah, there are a lot of skate parks but after a while, you want to do more things and try new staircases, but the security guards are very strict. Even if you make too much noise, you get threats. But slowly, people are realising that skating isn’t just delinquency and that it’s a sport that actually requires skill. Skaters don't mean harm, they don't want to destroy anyone's property.

Have you had any bad encounters?

Surprisingly, I’ve had a lot of bad encounters in the short time I've been skating. People see us skating and they think we are too noisy, or that we are making fun of them, and they will call the cops on us saying we are threatening them. Sometimes, the cops understand us and know there are not many spots to skate but most of the time, they threaten to take our boards away.

Why do you skate?

It's a form of escapism because when you are on a board, all you are thinking about is committing to a trick, or landing a trick. Everything around you fades away. All you are thinking about is the board and landing it. Problems and worries don’t mean anything because you are trying to improve yourself in the sport. It just makes you feel calm and it’s fun to have people around you doing the same.

What keeps you skating?

For me, it’s just a hobby and a way to boost my confidence. And it's also a way to stay resilient and keep persevering in a sport. The best feeling is to learn a new trick, and that feeling keeps pushing you to learn new ones.

What is it like being a female skater?

Most skaters are guys, but a lot of girl skaters are really good so guys have a lot of respect for them. It's not easy and it's not often you see many girls skating around. Some people may have the wrong image, but I think most guys show a lot of respect. They are really accepting.

Dzakir, 18

skaters in singapore

VICE: How long have you been skating for?

Dzakir: Four years.

Has the skating scene changed in the past years?

It's all the same. Everyone is friendly and cool. It’s a great way to meet a lot of different people, too. I have made a friend from Brunei through the scene, who comes twice a year. When he's in town, he always meets us.

Where do you skate?

You know us skaters, fuck the rules. There's this one spot we always skate at, the City Hall Underground, when it rains. Now there's a camera and a huge sign, but we go anyway.

Why do you skate?

Sometimes, when I have problems at home, I just sneak out and skate. There's this one spot near my place where I go. My childhood best friend lives just three blocks from me so I just ask him if he wants to skate and we go to Jurong East. There's this spot behind Jcube mall. I've learned a lot of tricks in that spot. Some nights, it's really quiet out there. I also skate because it's a chance for me and my friends to hang out. When we meet, we improve more than when we skate alone, because we can help each other. We give each other tips and motivate each other.

Is there anything you would like to see change in the skate scene here?

I would want for us to have a proper indoor skate park. Singapore doesn't really have one. There's this trampoline place that has an indoor skate park, but it's small and it’s not that good.

Irfan, 18

skate scene park

When did you start skating?

2016.

What made you want to start?

It started with Sake skating and me watching him all the time. But he didn't want me to get bored, so he told me to start. I didn't have a board, though, so I went to my friend's house and he let me keep his old broken board. It was my first. After a while, I started taking decks from skaters who weren't using them anymore and I used those.

How has the skate scene changed since you started?

People still have a thing against us. Because skating is "loud," people make complaints. If you are skating around your neighbourhood, it's considered noise pollution. If you skate in any area that's public and not a skate park, people will say you are ruining government property. Once, the police told us that if they saw us again, they would arrest us and throw us in jail.

What does the skate community represent to you?

There are always skaters in their own group of friends but sometimes, we all unite as one. We all share the skate park, so it's an open thing. We make friends here. But there's hate in every scene. The majority of skaters are friendly, but there's some that won't help you because they’re judgmental. But generally, if you are a skater and you see another skater, you’ll connect well.

Why do you skate?

It’s how I bond with my friends and how I have fun with them.

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