Chris Mueller takes a look at the first dedicated skateboard park in Vietnam. Photos by Linh Phanroy.
Skateboarding in Ho Chi Minh City is quickly becoming popular , but there are few places in this claustrophobic city to truly tear it up. That’s why Le Quan and Le Thien Phuc came together to develop the country’s first official skate park, which opened last month.
Down a long, dusty road on the Binh Quoi island in the northeastern part of Binh Thanh District, the Saigon Skatepark is an oasis for skaters and BMX bikers. The 15-by-50-metre warehouse isn’t a huge space, but it houses enough ramps and rails to keep most skaters in Vietnam happy.
While they could have gone bigger with some of their structures, the entire park was designed with the skill level of locals in mind.
“Skateboarding is still new in Vietnam,” Phuc says. “It’s so new Vietnamese don’t know how to use a lot of the equipment.”
The half pipe in the back of the warehouse is only 2 metres tall, huge for most Vietnamese skaters, Phuc says, but small enough that they can work up to it.
Phuc, 30, is already well-known in the skateboarding community. As the founder of Bam Skateshop, he was the first to import proper skateboarding equipment to Ho Chi Minh City. When he started skating about eight years ago, he says he remembers everyone would skate on the street where it was dangerous, and avoiding a rogue motorbike on the pavement was more important than landing a kick flip. But with this new park he hopes kids, and their parents, will be more open to the sport.
The park is mainly indoors, with a small outside area for beginning skaters to practice their balance. At first glance, it’s an impressive little park, with its smooth concrete floors, sets of steps to jump, iron rails and wooden ramps. But Quan, who owns an inline skate shop called GOX, says it only took him one week to design and three months for them to build it. The design came from skate parks in the United States that they read about online and then scaled down to suit Vietnam.
“I know the level of most skaters here,” Phuc says. “We took the designs from the US, and made them smaller.”
This random location and barebones park, though, has its advantages. It keeps prices low for young skaters who already have had to spend a lot of money on equipment. An all-day ticket costs VND 30,000.
Phuc says they likely will hold skating and BMX competitions in the future. He is already negotiating with two big American companies, Vans and Converse, to sponsor some events next year.
The park is attracting not just Vietnamese skaters; expats are starting to find their way there as well. Ryo Kinugasa, a 33-year-old from Japan, says the park is a far cry from the all-concrete outdoor skate parks he’s used to back home, but it’s a step in the right direction.
“It’s an indoor park, so it’s really dusty and hot but it also means we can skate anytime,” Kinugasa says. “When I first saw [Vietnamese] skaters, they weren’t good but they are improving quickly … and this park will help them improve more.”
Saigon Skatepark is located at 1017 Binh Quoi Street, Binh Thanh District and is open from 8am to 10pm.