Arto, Bastien, and Stefan skate free in China.
By Mark Oblow
Sometimes I step back to look at my life and I’m amazed. Somehow I got lucky and picked up a golden ticket. I’ll never forget my tenth-grade teacher telling me that skateboarding would get me nowhere in life. She was wrong. Skateboarding has taken me around the world for the past fourteen years.
In April, I took Arto Saari, Bastien Salabanzi, and Stefan Janoski to China for a tour and a Quiksilver store opening. I had no idea what to expect. Stefan had been there before and mentioned that it was one of his favorite places. Now I know why.
China has a crazy vibe about it. There’re so many people in Beijing and Shanghai that we could barely walk, much less skate, down the sidewalks. Although there were cars everywhere, most of the people rode bikes-bikes of all kinds. There were two-wheeled bikes, three-wheeled bikes, and bikes with cart contraptions stacked high with “things.” Think about rush hour in NYC, multiply that by five, and that equals the traffic situation in China.
Forced to take to the streets to skate, we grabbed onto bumpers and carts while weaving around cars and scooters. Cops in China don’t seem to care about skaters in rush-hour traffic like they do in the U.S. No one attempted to arrest us, and come to think of it, nobody even said anything to us.
Much like the population of bicycles in China, skate spots were everywhere-most made out of marble. And like the lack of authority issues I mentioned before, we only got kicked out of two spots during the entire two-week tour-insane!
The only problem we had was the number of people around and in the way. We would start skating a ledge, and in a matter of ten minutes, hundreds of people would be surrounding us. Cops, security guards, businessmen, and children all laughed and had a great time watching us skate.
It’s amazing to me to travel from a “free” country like the U.S.A.-where skateboarders are often looked down upon, fined, and arrested for skating in public-to the “not-so-free” Republic of China, where we received congratulations from hundreds of people just because we skated a ledge.