Skateboarding is older than you may think. The first sightings of kids scooting round on boards with roller skate wheels attached date back to France in the 1940s, while “sidewalk surfing”, as the sport was originally known, first became a craze in the early 60s. Despite its long history though, skateboarding is still associated with youthful rebellion. So we went down to Burning Ice, one of Beijing’s top skate parks, to talk to two teen enthusiasts.
Ding Yi and Lin Ziyi are both 13 years old, and students at Qinghua University High School. We asked them what first attracted them to skateboarding. “I started when I was about 10,” Ding Yi told us. “There was a kid, my neighbor, and he was skating. I thought it looked like fun.”
Lin took up the hobby at the same age, but for a very different reason. “My dad had a dream when he was small,” she said, “he wanted to skateboard. But he didn’t get his dream, so he wanted me to. And I liked it very much.”
The teens skate at weekends and during school holidays, they told us, at Burning Ice and also at Woodward. This sprawling skate park in Daxing District is now officially called the Beijing International Fashion Sports Park, but the old name is still widely used.
Ding Yi also skates around his neighborhood. We asked him whether he ever has problems with the authorities chasing him off, and he shrugged.“Sometimes security come and stop us,” he said. “It’s no problem, I think ‘maybe this place has rules against it’, and I just follow the rules. It’s no big deal.”
It’s clear that rebellion is not on the agenda for these two polite and charming young people. We wondered whether skating in China has its own language, music, and culture as it does in the West.
“I don’t actually know!” Lin laughed. “Grown-up skateboarders do that sort of thing. There are ways that skateboarders do things, like they greet each other differently, with fistbumps for example.”
Ding Yi told us he doesn’t wear anything special, just whatever feels comfortable for skating (though he had a skateboard-themed t-shirt on when we met.) What about music, we asked? “I listen to hip-hop,” Lin said, and Ding Yi agreed. “And pop music,” he added. “Michael Jackson!”
We asked whether most of their friends are skateboarders. “I set up a skateboarding club at school,” Lin said. “Most of my friends want to do it, but their parents won’t let them.”
What do their non-skater friends think about their hobby, we wondered? “Some of them think it’s childish,” Ding Yi said, “some of them think it’s really cool.” And what do their parents think? (Although both teens were accompanied by clearly very proud mothers when we interviewed them.) “They think it’s dangerous,” Lin told us, “but it doesn’t bother them so much. It’s a way of challenging myself, building a better personality.” “My parents like to support me,” Ding Yi said. “They think it’s a nice sport.”
Finally, we asked them how they saw skateboarding fitting into their future. Do they have any plans to turn professional? Will they still be skating when they’re old? Lin laughed. “I’ll probably be an artist,” she said. “I’m pretty good at art. I’ll keep skateboarding as a hobby.”
Ding Yi also has no plans to turn professional. “I want to keep skateboarding,” he said, “but not as a professional because I have other things I want to do.” Like what, we enquire? “I want to open a skate shop, have a nice skate park for all the skaters – ” he gestures around him at Burning Ice – “just like the boss here.”
Where to Skate in Beijing
The Ultimate: Beijing International Fashion Sports Park
Originally built by and named after American summer camp specialists Woodward, this park now forms part of Xingming Lake Resort. It features 4,000 sqmof outdoor space and the same size area indoors. It also offers facilities for not only skateboarding but also BMX, inline skating, trampoline, gymnastics, and cheerleading. Our teen skaters unanimously voted it the best place to skate in Beijing.
Realistically, you’re going to need a car, or a pricey taxi ride. Beijing International Fashion Sports Park lies within Banbidian National Forest Park on X038 (Pang’An Road), south of the Sixth Ring Road. Take the X021 heading south east from Daxing, and turn off to the west just before Andingchezhancun. Alternatively you can take line 4 all the way to the end at Tiangongyuan, and hail a cab from there – but it’s another 20km to Xingming Lake Resort.
Daily, 9am-5.30pm (last entry 5pm). Entrance RMB 100, no time limit. Xingming Lake Resort, Weishanzhuang, Daxing District 北京市大兴区魏善庄镇 北京星明湖度假村内 (8923 1818, 8923 1818) www.bjxmh.com
The Local Favorite: Burning Ice
If getting all the way out to Daxing seems like too much of a grind (sorry!), then Burning Ice offers high quality, well-maintained facilities within the Third Ring Road. There’s a skate shop too, selling decks, trucks, wheels, helmets and pads – everything your young skater needs to get their new hobby rolling. When we visited for the interview we saw a dad and his son skating together, so it’s certainly family-friendly.
Burning Ice lies just south of the North Third Ring Road and east of Badaling Expressway. Take line 10 to Jiandemen Station, use exit C and walk south for about 200m.
Daily, 1-10pm. RMB 60 per person (weekdays), RMB 90 per person (weekends and holidays). RMB 2,200 (six month pass), RMB 3,300 (one year pass).
Photos: Uni You
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