Phnom Penh's first public skate park shook with excitement as skaters from Cambodia and beyond competed at the 10K Skate Competition on Saturday.
“I learned many new tricks already at this park,” said Tep Steve Yuthana, also known as Tou, who first started skating two years ago and now skates nearly every day at 10K. The 17-year-old student picked up the first place prize last weekend for best stair trick and was also a runner up for best ledge trick.
“I am so happy a lot of people came down, and the competition is good,” he said.
Around 25 skaters from ages 11 to 23 showed up at the centre to compete in six categories on the park’s stairs, rails and ramps. Built by the adjacent 10K Skate Shop in Sangkat Tonle Basak, participants said that the park, which opened two weeks ago, marks a growth in the Kingdom’s skateboarding culture.
“The community is not big, but it’s not small either”, said 10K store owner Steve Loun.
“It goes viral – one person comes to buy a skateboard and they tell their friends, and then so on.”
However, skaters have long been limited in where they can skate, with many ideal places protected by security guards. The park at Skateistan, an NGO which provides skating lessons to underprivileged youths, is only open to the public on Saturday afternoons. But 10K plans to stay open 10 hours a day all week, with an hour costing $1.50 and a day pass costing $2.50. Discounted rates are offered for holders of monthly passes and 10K State Shop customers.
“We also have boards for people who can’t afford one, so that they can come down and have a go at our skate park,” added Loun.
For Loun, who opened his shop last year, starting a skate park in Cambodia is the fulfilment of a dream that was sparked while he was studying in New Zealand.
“I learned skateboarding when I moved to New Zealand . . . the skaters, they showed me tricks and taught me English,” he explained.
However, skating in the Kingdom has largely been a man’s sport, with only two female competitors taking part last weekend. Tin Kov Chan Sang Va, a 21-year-old instructor at Skateistan, said that girls and women are more tepid about taking to the board than boys and men.
“Girls think that they get hurt when they skate, so they don’t return after one or two days,” she said, adding that she was personally hesitant to take to the skateboard when she began two years ago.
“I think in the past I got scared I [couldn’t] do anything, but with the skateboard, it makes me feel really confident, happy, relaxed . . . and strong.”
A lack of respect from male skaters is also a large contributor to the low female turnout, added Sang Va.
“Some of the skaters they look down on the girls that want to try skateboarding, but I want to improve that,” she said, adding that around 40 per cent of Skateistan’s regulars are female.
“I think if [men] can do the trick, I can do the trick.”