The Longboard Girls Crew Vietnam is a new arrival to Saigon’s small sports scene. Michael Tatarski speaks to the people behind this recent creation. Photos by Lee Starnes.

The Longboard Girls Crew Vietnam is a new arrival to Saigon’s sports scene. Michael Tatarski talks to the people behind The Longboard Girls Crew VietnamLocals and expats alike love to bemoan Saigon’s lack of green space and athletic outlets. While these complaints are often well-founded, the city is also home to a diverse array of groups catering to adrenaline junkies and adventurous types. A recent addition to this scene is the Longboard Girls Crew Vietnam.

LGC Vietnam is an offshoot of the international group, formed in Madrid in 2010. LGC was created when the founders became “tired of being the only girls in mostly boy’s crews”, according to its website. They arranged gatherings on Facebook, and word spread quickly. Today, LGC is one of the biggest longboard movements in the world, recognised in more than 180 countries and with ambassadors in more than 40 nations.

Despite its name, anyone can join LGC Vietnam. In fact, the crew actually has more guys than girls, says Anna-Selina Kager, founder of LGC Vietnam.

Unfamiliar with the sport, I asked Kager for some background on longboarding. For the uninitiated like myself, a longboard is something like an elongated skateboard, though the frame, wheels and trucks are much more flexible. There are five longboard disciplines: slalom, downhill, freestyle, push races and dancing.

Kager tells me she first got into longboarding a couple of years ago while in university in the Netherlands. “I started working with some people involved with the biggest distribution shop in the country and started skating with them,” she says. Kager helped create LGC branches in the Netherlands and her native Austria before moving to Vietnam for work.

Initially based in Hanoi, Kager was surprised to find a fairly vibrant longboarding community there. “Longboarding is really rare here, there are no shops in the entire country, but we somehow found each other. We started meeting up every weekend and we formed a group of 35 people,” she says.

The majority of this group was Vietnamese, an even bigger surprise.

Kager can only guess as to why longboarding was more well-known up north, but she thinks location may play a role. “My Vietnamese friends in Hanoi got their boards from China,” she says. “Since they are closer to the border, maybe that’s why it is more popular.”

After moving to Saigon a few months ago, Kager decided to try forming an LGC group here. She received a go-ahead from one of the heads of the international group, and in July, LGC Vietnam was born.

Unsurprisingly, the group is experiencing some growing pains. The lack of longboarding shops is one challenge.

“There are big communities in Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia, so we can go to these countries to get gear,” Kager says. This isn’t the same as having equipment available in Vietnam, and one of the group’s goals at the moment is to get gear in the country. Finding places to skate is another issue. “We skate mainly at Saigon Outcast, and sometimes at 23/9 Park,” Kager says.

The biggest priority right now, though, is finding more members. Most of the people involved in LGC Vietnam are skateboarders, since longboarding is very new to the city. Kager is also working hard to bring locals into the group. “I have a Vietnamese assistant, and our focus is to integrate more Vietnamese into the group … but most girls here are either too shy or they don’t think it’s girly enough. It’s a cultural thing.”

Kager’s main local assistant, who goes by Bros, is illustrative of most of the group’s current members. “I’m totally new to longboarding,” Bros says. “I started skateboarding when I was around 14.”

But after meeting Kager a few weeks ago, Bros became interested in longboarding and decided to help out. “Right now we’re trying to make more people know about it … by creating more events and skate sessions, promoting our pages for Vietnamese skaters, and letting them know more about the differences between skateboarding and longboarding,” she says.

Despite longboarding’s relative obscurity here, and the lack of access to equipment, both Kager and Bros are optimistic. There is a lot going on in other countries in the region, so it may only be a matter of time before Vietnam catches on. “My friends in Thailand and the Philippines are already trying to create regional events. I went to a downhill event in Thailand and there were girls from around the area,” Kager says.

For her part, Bros believes young Vietnamese will pick up longboarding, as they have with so many other outside influences. “I think since Vietnamese skaters are really open to skating and willing to try new things, our job isn’t going to be very hard.”

To contact LGC Vietnam, visit Facebook.com/lgcvietnam. The group tries to meet every weekend, depending on the weather