Exploring Saudi Arabia’s skate scene

Over the years, skateboarding has become more and more popular in the Middle East. Not to say it never existed before, but the sport is now becoming part of the dominant culture in the region.

From frowned upon in Saudi Arabia to now encouraged, skateboarding has started to take a big step forward in the Kingdom, with competitions such as the “FISE World Series” taking place in 2019 and brands exploring more regional campaigns. Despite one of the main challenges being the lack of support from government authorities, skaters continued to practice the sport in hopes of encouraging a better future with dedicated spaces and facilities. Today, Saudi Arabia has its own extreme sports federation (SAESF), several skate parks and a growing interest in the sport.

Hypebeast Arabia caught up with Riyadh-based skaters Rakan Ghaith, Firas Ali and Jeddah-based Ali Bin Mahfouz to find out more about the scene, what got them into the sport and their hopes for the future.

Mahfouz started after watching countless videos on YouTube and taking responsibility for being one of the first in the Kingdom to show an interest in a relatively new sport. “It gave me my own space to grow and learn more about skateboarding,” he says. Ghaith shares his initiation remembering: “I saw a friend of mine in a painting. I had never seen anything like it in the country before and this was in 2012. I was so interested that I had to try it. Standing up, trying the first push and walking in circles brought me so much joy and was the beginning of everything. Like Mahfouz, the skater from Riyadh started watching YouTube videos, where he found his true passion and wanted to learn. “Back then, everyone was rollerblading and I wanted to be that black sheep. It was then that I wanted to be a skater. A few days later I bought my first skateboard at a sports store, it wasn’t the best but it was the start,” he adds.

In addition to skating, Mahfouz is also the founder of Saudi Arabia’s local skate shop, SiteenStreet, located in Riyadh and Jeddah. After a few years of skateboarding and needing new parts, he was inspired to open his own shop. “I had to order parts online from the US and wait a week or so for them to arrive. At this point our group now consisted of around 10 skaters in Jeddah and we were all facing the same problem. So I decided I should do something about it and started contacting vendors and seeing what my options were,” he explains.

Today, within the Kingdom, skateboarding has been embraced by clothing brands, artists, and more. “At that time, most of the community saw me as someone who was trying to be American because they didn’t know what skateboarding was and it was hard for them to accept that,” says Ghaith. “It was seen as a source of havoc or destruction and we didn’t have any skate parks so we skated in the streets and got kicked out most of the time. That all changed when people started to recognize the sport. More skaters appeared and some skate parks were built. The community started to accept it”, he continues. Ali adds, “I think there have been significant changes recently and it’s growing especially through fashion.”

Today, Saudi Arabia is home to several skate parks including the popular King Abdullah Road Skatepark, Jeddah Corniche Skatepark, BLVD Skate Park and many others. When looking at the sights in Riyadh, Ghaith shares: “I love Olaya park. It’s not a skate park, but it has a space in the center that is the perfect spot – flat floor with benches and stairs. I used to ride for hours straight when I was learning to skate.

“I hope skateboarding gains more recognition and we start building a bigger community in Saudi Arabia. I hope there are more skate parks too”, expresses Ali. “I hope that the skateboarding scene in Saudi Arabia grows enough to have regional competitions and maybe one day also international competitions. The Saudi Sports Authority is already investing in the sport and we already had a Saudi skate competition. This will further promote the sport in the country and in the region”, hopes Mahfouz.

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