For decades, Myanmar’s doors were predominantly shut to the outside world. But increasingly, western influences have been allowed to creep in, including a growing passion for skateboarding in the South East Asian country.
In 2009, skateboarder Ali Drummond took the seemingly unlikely step to move to Myanmar and brought his passion for the sport with him.
Although skateboarding first emerged in the country in the mid-1990s, it is still a relatively uncommon sport. AS such, Drummond, and a cohort of skateboarders from around the globe, recently took to the streets of the country to show off their tricks.
Under the title Myanmar: The Golden State Odyssey, they produced a series of visually stunning short films in a country whose diverse culture has so often been kept away from prying eyes.
Watch Part 1:
The opening film highlights how Drummond’s personal sporting passion has brushed off on the locals. Working with the non-for-profit organisation Make Life Skate Life, he helped create Myanmar’s first skatepark. The park was built in just two weeks and now paves the way for a “new generation of skateboarders”.
In the video, Drummond is joined by North American duo Chris Haslam and Brian Delatorre, Max Garson, Germany’s Patrick Rogalski, Frenchman Matt Debauché and Briton Korahn Gayle as well as Anglo-French skateboarder George Poole.
With footage taking them skating past temples in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, and walking past occasionally bemused locals with boards in hand, Gayle admits:
This is the furthest away I’ve been from western culture. The streets are smooth so it’s fun to cruise the streets, a bit like New York.
In episode two, the team relocates to the somewhat bizarre city of Naypyidaw, built and created as the capital in 2007. Drummond describes Naypyidaw as “a desolate city with nothing in it but 16-lane highways and sprawling Parliament buildings – a very bizarre place”.
Watch Part 2:
En route, the team stop at a range of unusual skateboarding spots. Arguably the highlight of the video is Gayle’s leap from a Buddha statue to a neighbouring dragon statue.
The final episode – chapter three – takes in the famous old city of Mandalay, opening on the side streets filled with motorbikes. For Drummond, the lure of Myanmar is easy:
A lot of people have said they want to get here before it changes but think it’s changed a lot already. It’s seen as one of the last untapped countries for resources – oil, tea, gems. It’s got everything really.
And now, it would seem, skateboarding. In Myanmar, the sport is only just beginning to scratch the surface.