African Voices

Africa’s skateboarding scene is on the rise

Story highlights

Skateboarding has become increasingly commonplace on the continent.

$35,000 was raised for the skate park in Addis Ababa

Kenya held its first skateboarding competition last year

CNN  — 

When you think about skate culture, Ethiopia may not be the first country that comes to mind. And yet the capital, Addis Ababa, is swiftly becoming a center for Africa’s skateboarding scene.

Thanks to an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign by local collective Ethiopia Skate, Addis Ababa recently built its first skate park. The collective boasts more than 150 members and organizers hope the park will train the next generation of X-Games champions.

“There are kids doing better stunts,” says Ethiopia Skate member Yared Aya. “They are not afraid and now hopefully we are getting the message out there: it will happen.”

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Changing the face of Madagascar, one skate at a time
08:15 - Source: CNN

The park and its partner Make Life Skate Life raised $35,000 and saw 60 volunteers across 20 countries fly in to help make the dream a reality.

“It’s still hard to believe, people came in from every continent to help us build this skate park,” says Aya. “I think it shows the passion that people have for the sport.”

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Prior to the park’s completion in April, local skaters risked their lives in a vacant parking lot in Sarbet, where taxi drivers, soccer players and street bullies competed for space.

Ethiopia Skate was co-founded by American photographer Sean Stromsoe and local skater Abenezer Temesgen. The passion embodied by the group, however, is spreading beyond the city walls.

Ethiopian cities Bahir Dar and Awassa also have skate collectives, thanks in part to smooth roads which locals say are perfect for indy grabs.

“It’s something that nobody can understand, but when you are skating, you forget all your problems,” says Nathan Eyasu, who has been skating on Addis Ababa’s roads for six years.

“It’s like a drug.”

Skateboarding may have originated in California but the trend is spreading across the Atlantic. In Madagascar, a skate hub established by two skaters in its capital Antananarivo, has the wider community hooked.

“When we started, we were just ten guys,” says Tinady Andriamasinoro, who founded the Skateboarding Malagasy Educational Group known as SMEG. The group now boasts around 80 skaters. “It’s created a community of skaters,” he says.

Madagascar’s skaters are daring, weaving in and out of the capital’s traffic with relative ease – despite its hazardous nature.

“It’s quite dangerous because the drivers here don’t care about bikers, and skateboarders [are] just like rats for them. But we still manage to go on the streets and keep safe,” explains fellow skater Tokinomena Andry.

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As the small community grows in size, “it’s like passing the flame for us, from the older to the youngest,” says Andry. “When you skate, do it for life - don’t stop.”

Social media has helped spread the word, making what was once a rebellious U.S. subculture, commonplace on the continent. Last year, Kenya held its first skateboarding competition at Shangilia Skatepark, Nairobi.

Uganda got its first skate park, when local Jack Mubiru, known as the father of skateboarding in Uganda, built a half pipe in his native Kampala in 2006.

As for Ethiopia Skate, the group’s ambitions are simple: “Get good, get famous, get sponsors, build skate parks.”

“Africa has really grown and developed and I want to see it change even more in the future,” says Aya. “I want more kids to be involved in skate, because skate is a great thing. It can allow these kids to have more confidence in themselves,” says Aya.