Thanks to laid back rules against its practice and a budding infrastructure kind to grinds, ollies, and manuels, Shenzhen, China, is quickly becoming heaven on earth for professional skaters.
Vice Sports presents a brief documentary about the invasion of skateboard maestros into various parts of China. The influx seems to be greatest in Shenzhen, where the towering skyscrapers dwarf the myriad athletes that play on the ground below.
As the video purports, similar American cities frown upon such antics. However, in China there is something of a wide embrace of support that comes in the form of legal nonchalance.
As guards, officials, and police look the other way, skateboarders have at it, dropping kickflips and epic grinds near crucial governmental buildings.
It’s like some died and went to “Tony Hawk Pro Skater” heaven.
Skate filmmaker Anthony Claravall explains skaters’ frustrations to Vice Sports: “You can’t skate in America. It’s really hard: cops, security guards. You can’t really skate all the spots in New York; skate all the spots in San Francisco, LA.”
Claravall continues that he was in Shenzhen back in 2002 when it was far more of a construction zone than a sweeping urban oasis with giant buildings peppering the skyline.
With construction continuing at a rampant pace, there is a treasure trove of rails, stairs, and walls to weave a tapestry of skateboarding artistry.
Add to that the apparent lack of concern from officials, and you have athletes diving straight into the concrete waters of Shenzhen’s figurative skate park.
While professional skaters from all around the world head to China, Chinese skateboarders on the world stage are few.
However, the number is growing thanks to a cultural shift that welcomes the sport. Vice Sports spoke with Xiao Xing who explained, “If China started developing much earlier it would be a lot more difficult for me.”
The professional skateboarder continues, “There aren’t many people talented enough to go pro in China.” Xiao Xing continues, “When I went overseas to competitions, a lot of times, I was the only one from China.”
Eric Lai from Converse sees a dramatic turn coming shortly for the country: “It’s gonna change in the next five, 10 years.”
That change, whatever it might bring, has already begun. The effect is the screech, hum, and clank of skateboards living gloriously next to the hammering of immense buildings inching toward the sky.