It’s only taken a couple of decades, but Myanmar’s skateboarding scene took another big step toward mainstream relevance this weekend with news that three of the country’s own will be representing the country at the SEA Games in the Philippines come November.
On Sunday, skateboarding enthusiasts flocked to Yangon to compete in the country’s first-ever SEA Games skateboarding qualifiers, which were organized by Pushing Myanmar, Myanmar Skate Association, and Myanmar Skateboard Association.
Competing in a “match my trick” competition (a la the old basketball game “horse”), Pius Peru, Kyaw Zin Thant, Hein Htet Soe beat out a field of 40 competitors for the right to compete with regional skaters from around Southeast Asia.
While entry to the SEA Games was the big prize on the line, three others were rewarded with paid scholarships to the Nanjing Skate Camp in China.
Less than a decade ago, in 2011, Yangon’s skateboarding community took a major blow when the privately owned Thuwanna Skate Park, a long-time gathering spot for the fledgling scene, was demolished after being purchased by a new owner.
For the next four years, the city’s skaters found refuge under flyovers and in random parks until Make Life Skate Life, a non-profit organization that builds concrete skateparks around the world, built a brand-new, crowd-funded skatepark for the local community in 2015.
In videos and pictures posted online from Sunday’s event, skaters can be seen shredding, jumping and looping around a skatepark as fellow community members cheer them on.
The growth of the local skateboarding community has been dutifully recorded by filmmakers James Holman and Alex Pasquini, skater Ali Drummond and the founders of Pushing Myanmar in a series of documentaries that showcase the challenges they’ve faced and the steady growth of the subculture.
For a quick primer on how the Yangon skateboarding community went from five members to over a hundred in just a few short years, check out this video on the Youtube channel RIDE documenting their journey.