SINGAPORE: A tumble, a quick dusting off as he picks himself off the ground and Rocky Chan grabs his skateboard to cruise back to a starting point at the ECP skatepark bowl to take another stab at landing a trick. It all happens in a split-second reflex action for the 18-year-old ITE student: Fall, recover, rinse, repeat.
“For skateboarders, falling becomes normal. It becomes habitual,” he explained, the clatter of other skaters going on behind him. “Failing and falling are two very different things. Failing is part of the process, but we have made falling a part of our process.”
This time though, he’s going at it with a little extra verve.
He is one of six skaters representing Singapore in skateboarding when it makes its SEA Games debut in Manila in December. The others are Feroze Rahman, Johan Badiuzzaman, Juvi Kiedis, Nur Farah Atika Abdullah and Nur Azyan Azman.
The team will be going up against the likes of Sanggoe Dharma from Indonesia and Margielyn Didal from Philippines, both of whom have taken part in the world renowned Street League Skateboarding Competition, and are considered some of the best in Southeast Asia.
Johan, who is representing Singapore in the men’s park section, works full-time as a mechanic and says it is sometimes tough to juggle work and training. While others unwind after work, he makes his way down to Somerset skatepark to squeeze in a training session before the lights go off.
“My work is at Tuas, so I have to sit on my bike and keep riding for 30 minutes. So when I need to skate, my legs are sore,” he said. “But I’m always having fun when I’m skateboarding,” he added.
Juvi, who finished top among the locals in the 2019 Singaporean Skateboarding Championship, started skateboarding by doing tricks under his block and at a nearby badminton court.
“I didn’t expect to win because in Singapore, there’s a lot of good skateboarders,” said the 23-year-old national serviceman. “To be able to do something serious for my hobby is a dream come true.
“Honestly, I feel really proud and honoured, to be representing Singapore for the sport I love.”
Juvi will be competing in the street section, which involves pumping out 45 seconds of his best line of tricks on a course with stairs, rails and ledges. He will also compete in Game of Skate, a skateboarding version of Horse played in basketball. It sees one skater starting off by doing a flat ground trick of his choice. If the other skater fails to follow suit, that person gets a letter and the first one to get to ‘E’ is eliminated.
To prep for the SEA Games, Juvi has dedicated almost all his time outside of his NS duties to skating. “I’ve been like, practicing the same tricks over and over again to make it like 100 per cent solid,” he said. “I think there’s like no time for me to be learning other tricks. I’m planning to take the competition head on and give my 110 per cent.”
Rocky, meanwhile is on guard for injury, having suffered one of his worst injuries last year, tearing a ligament in his right knee. “I was just skating a mini ramp. I was trying a ‘blunt fakie’ (trick). So my foot got caught on the board and then it just folded and I sat my entire weight on top of my heel. So I heard a snap.”
Their coach, Ali Halil, says competing in the SEA Games will be good exposure for the skaters, though he worries about a case of nerves setting in for some of them.
“Except for the experienced ones, most of them are are not competition-ready. They are nervous, have shaky legs. Like when all eyes are on you, they are ‘dead’. So that’s what we’ve been working on,” he said.
Ali accompanied Juvi to the Indonesian Open X-Sports Championship held in Java, Indonesia last month to help him gain competitive experience and work on his composure.
And with skateboarding making its debut as an Olympic sport in next year’s Tokyo Games as well, the skaters are hopeful that it will ramp up interest in the sport and possibly lead to more facilities.
“Being a small country, the only good thing that we have is Somerset and ECP skatepark, but we are lacking a lot,” said Ali. “If we had that facility and that support from the Government, I think it would be amazing. That is the only thing we are lacking - a good sheltered venue,” he said, pointing to Malaysia’s sheltered skatepark at Mount Kiara.
“In the past, skateboarding wasn’t really recognised as a competitive sport. It’s more of a lifestyle and a hobby,” said Juvi. “Now, it’s in the SEA Games, and very soon the Olympics, I think it will bring more people into skateboarding.”
Johan also expressed hope that the inclusion of skateboarding in mainstream sports events could help change perceptions of skaters. “Mostly, the public looks down on us. Because skateboarders are not like normal people. We don’t really look at benches like normal people do. Like they sit on the benches, we skate on it, grind on it,” he said. “Since skateboarding will be more recognised - since it’s in the SEA Games - maybe they could understand it more.”
For Rocky though, it is the perceived discrimination that drives him. “Growing up skating, I have definitely been hearing from people like: ‘Trying to make it from skateboarding in Singapore is impossible, you can just dream’. And like, I just turn those comments into my motivation. People say: ‘You can’t do it, you can’t do it’. It’s become my motivation.”