Photo essay: How children in the UAE get their skates on

More young people than ever are flocking to skateboarding parks

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The future of skateboarding in the UAE looks bright, with children as young as five taking up the hobby.

They are tearing up half-pipes across the Emirates and The National's Victor Besa went to take shots of the talented youngsters.

Young skaters in the UAE include Christian Bruan, 8, a Filipino-American schoolboy who loves working on his 50/50 grinds in his spare time.

Christian first stood on a skateboard at when he was two, in China, where he and his family lived in Shanghai. But it wasn't until age six that he really started riding. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, while in lockdown, he practised at his home and now hits the park in Dubai about three times a week.

Christian Bruan, 8, at Xpark by Etisalat at Kite Beach, Dubai. Victor Besa / The National

"To get him off the screen, outside, more social, interacting with people, I was really happy," says Christian's father, Miro. "I've seen the benefits where he's learning resilience, he's learning to get back up when he falls, how he learnt to push himself, teaching himself a growth mindset."

Miro says he's seen Christian's confidence, character and leadership skills grow, as well as his ability to speak to older children. "It also gives him the opportunity to meet amazing people who live all over the world."

You'll also find Zarah Gladys, 6, from India, at Xpark by Etisalat. Her favourite moves are the drop-ins to the bowl, mini-ramp tricks and shove it.

Zarah Gladys, 6, in action. Victor Besa / The National

Over in Abu Dhabi, Circuit X Skate Park is full of young children of all nationalities hanging out and skateboarding together.

The park has seen a big uptick in the number of children taking up the hobby, says marketing manager Dina Alashi. "We are running almost twice as many private lessons as last year and are planning to have more flexible hours to accommodate schedules and introduce group lessons," she tells The National.

She says the best age to start is five and up, after they've developed enough fine motor skills.

Emirati Faisal Abdulkareem, 8, at Circuit X Skate Park. Victor Besa / The National

"When practised safely, skateboarding is a cool sport that benefits children’s growth and is a fun skill that remains with them for a lifetime. Self-confidence, perseverance and autonomy are just a few benefits children experience when they pick up skateboarding, all while having fun, acquiring a new skill and making new friends.

"That’s not even mentioning the obvious physical benefits of increased co-ordination, flexibility, strength and robustness inherent in the sport."

Ahmed Altamimi, 11, left, and Faisal Abdulkareem hanging out at Circuit X. Victor Besa / The National

Ms Alashi says that skateboarding accounts for less than 2 per cent of sports injuries. "Just learn safe practices and wear the right gear."

Miro echoes this, advising parents of children who want to get into the hobby to get the proper equipment, listing kneepads, wrist guards, elbow pads and a proper helmet among the essentials.

"It’s a continuous effort to keep reminding the kids about safety so that they can focus on improving under the supervision of expert coaches," Ms Alashi says.

Skate buddies Iliana Karaoulani, Yasmin O'Donnell and Dina Djiptadi at Circuit X Skate Park. Victor Besa / The National
Updated: October 22, 2022, 6:36 AM