Cambodian youth skate down the street in Sihanoukville during the sixth annual 'Khmarnaval' parade.
This was the second year Skateistan Cambodia participated in “Khmarnaval”, an arts and music festival inspired by the Latin tradition of Carnaval, founded in Sihanoukville six years ago. In March Skateistan brought 12 Khmer youth on a three day journey to the seaside town of Sihanoukville (also known as Kampong Saom), to join a parade and cultural festival, shred the streets, and swim in the ocean. All firsts for many of these kids.
Skateistan staff picked the students up early on a Friday morning. The 16 seater van was on the road by 8 AM, packed to the brim with four Skateistan staff and 12 Khmer girls and boys eager to go street skating for the first time ever. Skateboards, helmets, shoes and towels were neatly stowed away under the seats, where they would surely remain throughout the weekend whenever they weren’t in use.
Four hours later, the van’s myriad contents were unloaded at the dormitory in Sihanoukville, where the students added some finishing touches to their cardboard costumes before the Safety Parade that afternoon. The group then met up with the rest of the paraders and found a series of gaps to skate nearby while they waited for the parade to begin. Their skateboards and colourful costumes were a sight to behold alongside a giant turtle, a group of young strawberries, fake police officers, very many children in capes, and a cautionary float depicting a terrible accident involving a bicycle, alcohol, a motor vehicle, and some paper mache.
The parade ended just as it began to rain, but that didn’t stop the kids from heading directly to the beach. That night there was a large outdoor concert and variety show, and needless to say the students were exhausted. The rest of the weekend was a blur of street skating in the incredible humidity, and cooling off in the Gulf of Thailand.
The trip was especially exciting for all the kids and local staff because it was an opportunity to be regarded highly as youth, in a public forum.
“We are young but skateboarding is something young people do well, that older people can’t always do.”
Tin, Skateboarding Instructor
For all the youth there, this was a chance to bring skateboarding to a new place, and to represent Skateistan.
“I think it’s very nice that we can share the experience of skateboarding with another people. We want to show them what Skateistan is, show that children have the chance to skate, for free – it doesn’t cost any money. That is so awesome.”
For all the youth there, including the local Skateistan staff, this short trip was packed with new experiences: a new degree of independence, swimming in the ocean, skateboarding in public places, seeing another part of their country, and Khmarnaval.
Skateistan would like to extend a big thank you to the NGO Pour un Sourire d’Enfant for providing transportation and accommodation.