A life on wheels: Skaters shred at Htaukkyant Skate Land
A life on wheels: Skaters shred at Htaukkyant
CRASH! The teenage skater, speeding toward the concrete arch, suddenly lost control and fell heavily, bringing the audience to their feet, all clapping suddenly silent. Undaunted, she at once got up and completed her round.
She was not the only one. An eight-year-old boy up from Dawei, Tanintharyi Region, also scrambled to his feet after a tumble at Million Skate Land, next to the Coca-Cola factory in Htaukkyant.
“At first I couldn’t even stand up with my skates on,” said Moe Moe Nwe, 19, from Dawei. “But now that I’ve been practising for a year, I find skating more fun than going to the gym.”
More than 200 enthusiasts, juniors, seniors and professional skaters from around the country met in the Myanmar National Skating Championship 2016, organised by the Myanmar Skate Association (MSA) on October 17 and 18.
Inline skater Htun Ye Htun, from Bago Region, said, “I’ve been skating since 2013. It’s more than a hobby. Skating can leave me hurt and exhausted, but it’s made me stronger than before. And I feel relaxed and confident when I stand on my wheels.” He went on to win first place in the inline fun run against dozens of competitors.
The two-day competition saw inline skaters and skateboarders competing in categories like skateboard racing, jumping, inline fun run, inline jumping, speed slalom one foot, slalom basic tricks and many more.
The MSA picked 10 talented skaters to step up to the 10th World Free-style Skating Championship, to be held at Huamark, Bangkok, from November 17 through 21. It’s the first time Myanmar skaters have competed in the WFSSC, which will bring together contestants from 35 countries. Yan Lin Aung, 25, said he hoped skating would pick up speed in Myanmar.
“It’s a real sport,” said Yan Lin Aung, who comes from Mandalay. “We’re going to try harder and get better. We won’t let our fans down.”
Yan Lin Aung fell in love with skating as a child, and haunted the first skate park to be opened in Mandalay in 2012. He didn’t let a broken elbow, sustained the following year, hold him back. Nor did it stop him when his parents locked him up and confiscated his skates. “Once I even had a head injury,” he said.
But it was not until he joined MSA members under Yangon’s Hledan flyover in 2013 that he learned advanced technique.
“I’ve learned a lot from MSA, especially about how to fall safely,” he said. “If you know how to fall, you’re not afraid even of a 5- or 7-foot height. It’s all about experience. A lot of people are interested in skating. I don’t blame people for being afraid of getting hurt. But for me, it’s a career.”
In 2013, he came fourth in the Myanmar National Skating Competition at Mary Chapman School for the Deaf. The next year, in Mandalay, he came first, winning the chance to go overseas to compete in December in Malaysia. Facing competitors from 12 Southeast Asian countries, he came third.
Myanmar Skate Association was launched by enthusiasts from around the country in May 2013, in Yangon.
After the Thuwanna skatepark was destroyed, skaters and skateboarders didn’t have a proper venue in Yangon. They rode around the city instead, carrying mobile ramps and using whatever space was available.
“I’ve been crazy about skating for more than 20 years,” said 34-year-old Ko Lwin Latt, a founder of the MSA and organiser of MNSC 2016. “I’ve tried to compete in international competitions, but I was rejected as Myanmar was banned from Southeast Asian competitions. So I tried to develop skating with young Myanmar people.”
As he worked to build the non-profit organisation in 2013, Ko Lwin Latt has encountered a lot of difficulties, including a lack of funding and places to train. He has written to the sport, ministry asking them to recognise skating as a sport.
“We want to share our skating experience with others so they can become professionals,” he said. “We want to see more people skating, and earning money from it. Skating can help stop young people taking drugs, smoking and drinking.”
Though the Hledan flyover was not exactly built with skaters in mind, it became their home, its huge concrete beams sheltering a showcase for their experiences, training and techniques. Every Friday evening, there is a free class for beginners. “Most of our medal winners practised their skills under the flyover,” said Ko Lwin Latt.
Though the Olympic authorities recognise skating as a sport, the view of the old government seemed to be that it was just a dangerous game for kids.
Now, Mandalay, Dawei, Bago, Pyin Oo Lwin and other places have skate parks.
Yangon has less public space than most major cities. Nevertheless, skaters find solace at Million Skate Land, which was built in 2013, and Mya Lay Yone Skate Park in Kamaryut township, opened last year by the Pushing Myanmar Project, run by Make Life Skate Life, a German NGO.
Sixteen-year-old Kyaw Min Khant, 16, from South Okkalapa township, is determined. He started skating a year ago to get fit, develop stamina and build selfconfidence. “Skaters look after each other,” he said. “I go every Friday. I want to be a famous skater.”
Inline skaters line up to show off their talent at the Myanmar National Skating Championship on October 17 and 18.
A new generation of Myanmar rollerbladers raise their hands in support.
One skateboarder kick flips his board in front of a lively audience.
An inline skater swishes in and out of a line of orange cones.
A novice skater practices skating in a straight line.