Free­wheelin’ through down­town Jozi

Why walk when you can glide? Here’s a fun new way to see Jozi up close and on the fly

Getaway (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

WHAT City Skate Tours WHERE Jo­han­nes­burg CBD WHO Me­lanie van Zyl

From never hav­ing set foot on a skate­board in my life (in fact, I’ve al­ways been a lit­tle ter­ri­fied of these whizzing ma­chines), Ayanda Mnyandu had me up and rolling in un­der 30 min­utes. He taught me the basics of steer­ing, stop­ping and which foot to put where first by lit­er­ally hold­ing my hand through the process. I even learnt a new skat­ing term – that I ride ‘mongo’ (push­ing off with my dom­i­nant foot and putting it in front in­stead of at the back).

Ayanda has had some prac­tise guid­ing new­bies into the play­ful world of board­ing. His reg­u­lar nine-to-five has him busy at the nearby Skateis­tan non­profit school, where in­ner-city kids have a safe space to learn. For ev­ery hour spent in the class­room, they are re­warded with an hour of skate time and, to my de­light, there’s a strong focus on get­ting girls to do it too. We popped past for a quick look dur­ing the girl­sonly hour and I saw not only tal­ent on the small half-pipes, but buck­ets of con­fi­dence too. Down­town Joburg can be an in­tim­i­dat­ing place, but Ayanda showed me a dif­fer­ent side of the city on his in­no­va­tive tour – and the skat­ing courage of those girls boosted my own.

Bustling Jo­han­nes­burg CBD qui­etens down on the week­end, cre­at­ing a pleas­ant en­vi­ron­ment for sight­see­ing on a skate­board. We started off rolling past the street art in the ‘Place of Light’ (aka Mabo­neng Precinct) and pro­ceeded to Bey­ers Naudé Square and the city li­brary. I loved see­ing these his­tor­i­cal build­ings from a skater’s per­spec­tive – the li­brary stairs have been fenced in to pre­vent fur­ther dam­age from overuse, and I spot­ted sticky, grey edges on squared­off sur­faces, where wax from the bot­tom of boards has left its tell­tale residue, thanks to grind­ing prac­tice.

From there, we zigzagged be­tween var­i­ous land­marks and Ayanda re­vealed the sto­ries buried in their walls. Vic­tory House was home to Joburg’s first lift (peo­ple queued for a chance to ride it to the top). Chan­cel­lor House on Fox Street is where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo prac­tised law in the 1950s.

Swal­lows Inn is one of the area’s old­est restau­rants in the city’s first Chi­na­town. Ayanda’s love of history rubbed off on me and many of the gritty fa­cades shone un­der this new lens.

The tour ended with a skate past Mary Fitzger­ald Square and the Mar­ket The­atre in Newtown, be­low the colour­ful, graf­fi­tied pil­lars of the M1 high­way, and looped back to the new mall, Newtown Junc­tion, where we caught an Uber back to the start. I was pretty pooped at the end – we’d cov­ered around six kilo­me­tres, ac­cord­ing to my Fit­bit – but it didn’t stop me grin­ning widely at my new-found skills.


If you can do a reg­u­lar walk­ing tour, you can cer­tainly skate. It’s mostly flat ter­rain with a cou­ple of easy down­hills.

VERDICT I’ve done a few Joburg walk­ing tours be­fore, but Ayanda’s his­tor­i­cal knowl­edge adds a dif­fer­ent di­men­sion to sto­ries I thought I knew. I felt safe the en­tire trip and grew more and more con­fi­dent – enough to whizz down Fox Street and Miriam Makeba Street, and plenty of side­walks in be­tween.

All in all, it’s a fan­tas­tic way to get to grips with the dif­fer­ent dis­tricts of Joburg CBD and a won­der­ful way to see the city. Next time, I’m rop­ing in a group of friends.

COST R300 pp, in­clud­ing skate­board rental, pro­tec­tive gear and trans­port.

THE DE­TAILS The tour is on Satur­days and Sun­days only, at 10am or 2pm, and be­gins at the Cu­ri­oc­ity African De­sign Hos­tel at 302 Fox Street in Mabo­neng. It lasts three hours and is suit­able for be­gin­ners (un­der-18s re­quire adult su­per­vi­sion). Bring a bot­tle of water and a back­pack to leave your hands free.

BOOK 079-839-8833, cityskate­

ABOVE Ayanda Mnyandu passes the fa­mous 40-me­tre im­age of Mandela shadow-box­ing on the cor­ner of Staib Street and Bea­con Road. ABOVE RIGHT Me­lanie van Zyl takes a break next to one of the many beau­ti­ful mu­rals in Mabo­neng. OP­PO­SITE Ayanda has been skate­board­ing for about eight years and started run­ning the tours at the end of 2017.

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