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A Trip to Cambodia Shows How Skateboarding Bridges Cultural Barriers

Professional skater Javier Mendizabal and the Quiksilver by Vuerich B project team traveled to Phnom Penh to meet the Skateistan team.

In early December, professional skater Javier Mendizabal and the Quiksilver by Vuerich B project team traveled to Phnom Penh to meet the Skateistan team and their students. This trip marked the beginning of an exciting new collaboration to release a range of sunglasses made out of recycled skateboard decks to help support Skateistan, a nonprofit that uses skateboarding as a tool for engaging and empowering youth.

As an ambassador of the Quiksilver Foundation, Javier participated in all of Skateistan Cambodia’s day-to-day activities with the students: hosting workshops on the mechanics of a skateboard, providing trick tips to the staff and students, and giving skate demos. Through their shared passion for skateboarding, Javier was able to inspire and motivate the students of Skateistan to push their own skating to new levels.

At the end of his week-long visit, Quiksilver and Skateistan celebrated the collaboration with a skate jam that included art workshops and contests for all ability levels. The whole experience is documented in the short film, "Wheels to Grow," which demonstrates that skateboarding can bridge cultural barriers, be a tool for self-expression and creativity, and provide access to education.


Skateistan in Cambodia

Skateistan Cambodia began after Benjamin Pecqueur brought his skateboard to the youth center where he worked in Phnom Penh.

The children swarmed him and were eager to learn the sport. Skateboarding was entirely new to Cambodia and quickly gained support. The youth center helped build a small skatepark—the first one in Cambodia—to add to their sports and recreation programs. It was clear that skateboarding was a great way to engage young Cambodians, and so Benjamin reached out to Skateistan founder Oliver Percovich, who had initial success engaging young Afghans in Kabul, Afghanistan. Within a few months, Skateistan Cambodia would be Skateistan’s second project.

A student demonstrates his limbo skills at the contest, to the delight of Javier and the other judges.

Students learn how to set up a skateboard in Javier's board mechanics workshop.

With Javier’s involvement, all the players in the Vuerich B project are supporting the development of this new initiative. As in Afghanistan, the aim is to develop skating infrastructure in order to offer young people the chance to discover a new passion—one that will let them grow as people and give them life skills to become leaders within their communities.

Developing skating in countries without access to the sport gives young people the opportunity to express themselves as individuals within a thriving social community. Skateboarding is a valuable educational tool for passing on the values of respect, creativity, and regard for humanity. It has enabled these young people to gain self-assurance and independence.

Javier hands out prizes to participants in the skate jam contest.

Add purchasing your own copy of Skateistan – The Tale of Skateboarding in Afghanistan to your To-Do list here. 100 percent of profits go to Skateistan's programming for youth in Afghanistan and Cambodia.

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