INFO · Search
· Chinese version · Subscribe


Skateboarding rolls to new heights

Eric Ng guides his student over a slope at Morrison Hill skateboarding ground.

Eric Ng Siu-chung, 27, is a part-time skateboarding instructor. He has seen increasing demand for lessons over the past four years.

From being a niche and stereotypically rebellious hobby to a contemporary sport, skateboarding has gained immense popularity in recent years since its introduction to the city in the 1970s. This year, Hong Kong's skateboarding team competed at the Asian Games for the second time since the sport was added to the games in 2018.

Ng started his skateboarding journey while he was studying in New Zealand.

“Even if my students fail to do a trick, it’s good to see them committing to doing something new,” said Ng.

In response to the surge in popularity, the government is opening up new facilities for skateboarding.

In the 2023-2024 Budget Speech, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po highlighted the importance of promoting popular urban sports, such as skateboarding, for youth development.

The government is considering converting “underutilised floors” at the Kwun Chung Municipal Services Building in Jordan for urban sports.

Fung Chuen-chung is a Deputy District Leisure Manager for Yau Tsim Mong District with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD). He said they are working in close consultation with the Architectural Services Department and skatepark designers with the target of completing the conversion by 2025.

Children honing their skateboarding skills at Lai Chi Kok skatepark.

To date, Hong Kong has 13 skateboarding facilities managed by the LCSD. That has come a long way since the sport started in Hong Kong almost four decades ago.

Warren Stuart, 54, is dubbed “the godfather” of Hong Kong skateboarding for his experience and contributions to elevating the local skate scene. He is among the top advisors for the sport’s development in the city and is the head coach for the Hong Kong national skateboarding team.

Stuart performing a transition on his signature board over a skateboard bowl.

He said that one reason why skateboarding has soared to new heights was its inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games.

It was shortlisted along with breakdancing, sport climbing and surfing in order to make the Olympics “more gender balanced and more urban,” and to “offer the opportunity to connect with the younger generation,” according to the International Olympic Committee.

“When people realised that skateboarding became a legitimised sport, the opportunity to create future world champions and prospects became apparent,” Stuart said. “This high level of exposure has broadened skateboarding's reach towards many people.”

Stuart teaches a group of beginner skaters at Tseung Kwan O skatepark.

He recalls when the roller sport was almost “non-existent” in Hong Kong.

“The majority of Hong Kongers didn't consider skateboarding a sport back then. They thought it was reckless and rowdy,” said Stuart.

The local skate scene during Stuart's time was shrouded with negativity brought by a lack of understanding, and stereotypes, such as skateboarding being associated with violence.

“Even if we were skating by ourselves in our own space, we would still be heckled by some old folks,” Stuart said. "Nonetheless, we had to cope with it just to fulfil our passion for skating."

The lack of skateboarding facilities then also meant that street skating was the norm.

The area surrounding Immigration Tower in Wan Chai, for example, was aptly nicknamed the “IT place." It used to be a skateboarding hotspot because of the many benches, stairs, ledges and rails.

“We would find areas where there were lots of rails and ledges so we could practise grinds and slides,” Stuart said. “These places would eventually be where we would gather and hang out.”

Before the turn of the century, the anti-establishment nature and imagery linked to skateboarding attracted more individuals to try it out. By the early 90s, there were crews scattered throughout Hong Kong, according to Stuart.

“Even though we came from a certain area or district, we all were connected through our love for skateboarding," he said.

Carlos Choi, 50, is a local skateboarding frontrunner, who skated with Stuart in the 80s. He always had the latest tricks, often showing them off to others at skate hangouts.

Growing up in an era where street skating was king, he was surprised to see how much has changed in the skateboarding community after taking a break in the early 90s.

Over the past 20 years, brands such as HMV and Vans have been actively promoting skateboarding. Newcomers to the sport have then been able to learn transition, a style involving skating from vertical ramps, half-pipes and in bowls, according to Choi.

“The tricks some of us used to do became more complex and technical," he said. "Teenagers began to do crazy stunts that I've never seen.”

A side by side shot of a thin and wide deck.

When Choi started skateboarding, wider boards were popular. But nowadays, most boards are thinner because they are easier to manoeuvre and to perform tricks and flips.

With a growing community by the end of the 90s, local skaters began to demand for modern skateparks.

A skateboarder ollies over a slope at Morrison Hill skateboarding ground in Wan Chai.

“Morrison Hill was the first skatepark, but it was getting outdated at that time,” said Choi. “It was clear then that we needed something more advanced.”

Morrison Hill skateboarding ground was opened in the late 80s after Stuart and a few others petitioned for the government to build a proper skateboarding venue.

Compared to modern skate facilities, like Lai Chi Kok skatepark, the ground at Morrison Hill is almost flat, save a few slopes. There are no ledges and ramps that skaters then wanted to expand their skill set.

In 2004, the government opened the city’s first public skatepark, located in the heart of Lai Chi Kok Park in Mei Foo.

It was then revamped in 2019. The area was rebuilt from the ground up to accommodate a variety of elements that encapsulate the essence of street skating, such as stairs, ledges, rails and a bowl for transitioning.

It is also the only skatepark in Hong Kong certified by Street League Skateboarding, a global league for skateboarding events and competitions. It marked the venue as an “international standard skate plaza” suitable for local and international tournaments, such as the Hong Kong Youth Street Skateboarding Open last September.

Managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the 1,600-hectare Lai Chi Kok skatepark also serves as a training ground for local and international athletes.

While Stuart understands that skateboarding is meant to represent freedom and creativity by making use of the surrounding environment, safety should also be prioritised as more children are taking a liking to the sport, adding that the culture is constantly evolving.

"Skateboarding can be different in five to ten years. The decks can change shapes or sizes. There could be a new style that local skaters might create or pick up from the West," said Stuart. "But it will always be about pushing boundaries, finding your rhythm and making new friends along the way."

Ng said that the increased exposure of skateboarding in the city can help maintain its relevance as a standardised sport and passion hobby.

"Skateboarding will prosper if the government continues to develop it as a systemised sport," said Ng. "Building more skateparks and funding local skateboarding organisations can be great ways to support the sport's growth."

Before the 2000s, there were only a handful of shops selling skateboarding goods, like 8Five2 and BFD Skates.

After the turn of the century, more skate shops, mainly local establishments, popped up, such as Skatecityshop in 2008, Victoria in 2015 and Gahyao in 2018.

Opening in 1999, 8Five2 skate shop in Causeway Bay sells its brand of goods while providing customers with products from household names in the skateboarding community, such as Nike SB, Santa Cruz and Vans.
A wall of decks at 8Five2.

But Choi said that the commercialisation of skateboarding from businesses and the saturation of the local skateboard coaching industry now may lead those heavily involved to wonder: “Is this sustainable? Can we make a living out of it in the long run?"

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


My AI girlfriend

Graffiti artists risk breaking National Security Law