Skateboards and guitars.
They’re pretty similar, I thought to myself while watching a skateboarding rock video.
Stay with me here.
Both are made of wood, metal and plastic, and both are used by (mostly) angry young men to express themselves.
Got it? Yeah.
While musicians work with silence and sometimes bounce off an audience, skateboarders use the streets as their canvas and, if they’re lucky, they may have a ramp or two at their disposal.
Most serious skateboard sessions in Bangkok go down under the Rama 8 Bridge, the park next to the Rajamangala Stadium, or the park inside the Esplanade Mall.
You can flip over the fun box, slide a cheeky rail or grind transfer over the spine of the mini ramp if you’re so inclined.
Or, if your skating expertise is limited to the Airport level on Tony Hawk 3, why not visit as an extreme sport voyeur instead?
It’s all good fun, the skaters are friendly, and don’t seem to mind beginners and amateurs joining in the mix. It’s an inclusive, international gathering, y’all!
But how about those of us who want to jam on Sukhumvit Road?
I decided to find out what the road has to offer in terms of skate terrain and local talent.
Again, stick with me.
Sukhumvit sidewalks are, as we all know, in a state of constant disrepair.
These rubble-filled pavements render Guerilla street skating a remote contingency at the very best of times. Uneven paving slabs – check, open sewer grates – check, homeless sleepers – check.
Along Sukhumvit many offices and commercial buildings have banks and slopes congenial to the skateboarder but whether you can use them or not is down to the property manager and security guards on watch. While some guards may scream at you to leave, others will break the tedium of the day and come and watch.
So Sukhumvit Skate Spots. Seek and you shall find!
First up on my quest was Benjakitti park betwixt Asok BTS and Queen Sirikit MRT stations.
I had heard a rumor of a fabled mini ramp somewhere in the park and headed down armed with the camera and my board. The park has both a running track and a bicycle track spanning the circumference. Be careful when crossing that cycle track as those boys mean business and stop for no one!
After walking the whole way around the track, I finally found it. There were no skaters around, however, and when I approached I could see why.
The ramp was missing a section of ply on the flat, and on closer inspection, this was one sketchy ramp.
Narrow for its height and with a transition steeper than a street cop’s fine, the ramp goes from flat to vertical in under six foot, a real boneshaker to be sure. Needless to say I didn’t drop in and hopefully the park authorities will repair the ramp, or better still build a wider one with a less harsh transition to attract a larger, not so gnarly, crowd.
Onto Benjasiri Park next to Emporium shopping center.
It was early evening now and a slight drizzle was raining down on the city; had I missed my chance again?
Past the joggers and the Tai Chi crowd making shapes on the grass I went, the outside gym and beyond a group of Indian women choreographing a Bollywood musical. Then past the sparring kick boxers.
Half a dozen skaters were using the bank and flatland area, grinding the bars and popping Ollie Flips on the bank. Grabs were performed, grinds and slides were landed. The rain and the setting sun didn’t seem to bother this crowd.
Like the guitar player they kept on playing despite the weather.
So if you want to skate on Sukhumvit, Benjasiri Park is the place to do it.
With a sense of self-satisfaction, I felt smug in the knowledge that I’d found the sweet spot of the Sukhumvit skate scene. Until overhearing one of the skaters talk of a place on Ekkamai…
Featured image is by Stig Nygaard and is used under a Creative Commons licence