Sandwiched between the skyscrapers and neon lights in the center of Shanghai is Love Park, a small green area where a group of local skaters grind and ollie over the waxed marble walls outside the Shanghai Concert Hall. Unless you know where to look, you may have never even seen a skater in Shanghai, but a core group of talented local skaters are dominating this alternative sport and putting the city firmly on the skateboarding map. SmartShanghai headed down to Love Park to see them in action and find out more about home-grown skateboarding.
I entered the park and the skaters were expecting me. For over an hour I witnessed seamlessly executed kick flips from Jeff Han, ollie's up a meter-high flight of stairs by Joe Wang, and ledge grinds from Jeremy Hu and Boss Xie. For those of you that don't know, these tricks take years to perfect and even the park security guards looked on in admiration. I sat down with Mathew Morgan, another locally-based skater, and watched the show. Originally from Canada, Matt has been living in China for six years and is very much involved in all aspects of skating in the city: "The scene here is small, but it's growing slowly. It's like a small town where everyone knows each other and contests are like family reunions. I have made such good friends here in China because of skateboarding, and being a part of the scene has shown me aspects of China that few will ever have the chance of experiencing."
International sports brand Adidas recently took interest in the local skate scene here and collaborated with local skate website skatehere.com to organize the recent "Three Stripe Skate Hype" last December. For local skaters, this a show of positive foreign endorsement for the Chinese skate movement, and locals of different abilities got the opportunity to skate at the demo alongside international pro-skater Tim O'Connor and the Adidas skate team. The local skaters even got to design the course. Matt said, "We described what we wanted built and a guy sketched it perfectly then sent off the designs. We wanted to create a course for real skaters and include things you find on the street." Designers incorporated elements you wouldn't usually see in a typical skate circuit, such as a flight of stairs, a wheel chair ramp and a pole sticking out of the ground as if a car had hit it. While foreign skaters are often stand-offish about demos, the locals couldn't wait to skate it. Matt said, "the feeling about the event was really positive and I am personally really happy with the result. Both locals and guests liked the set-up very much. With free Mexican food and beer, lots of people and wicked skating one can't complain. I am sure there will be more in 2008."
Shanghai also hosted the X Games last May and annually hosts the international skate event "Shanghai Showdown" at the SMP, the largest skate park in the world. The SMP is 13,700 square meters in size, larger than most theme parks on the planet. It boasts a 360 degree full pipe in which fewer than 10 people in the world can successfully skate all the way around. The event has seen appearances from international pros including Bucky Lasek, who is featured in the Tony Hawk video games, Sandro Dias, the number one ranked vert ramp skater in the world and Rune Glifberg, the number one bowl skater in the world. The locals however, are proud of Chinese skater Johnny Tang who has dominated the Chinese comp for four years and took first place in the Chinese street skating competition this year.
Local skaters are aware that although there is a small Chinese contingent at the Shanghai Showdown event, the emphasis is on the pros, and some feel there needs to be more support for the local community.
"The international stars will take around 5000 USD competition in prize money for first place and the local skaters will take more like 5000rmb," says Matt. "I think that it's really important we invest in the local scene and support local board makers such as Gift and local shops such as Fly who opened in 1999 and have been at the forefront of skateboarding in Shanghai."
To find out more about Skating in Shanghai and to get involved visit one of the Fly shops at 704 Changle Lu, 278 Changle Lu and 153 Guangyuan Lu, or check out skatehere.com.