How it Started:
“Ethiopia Skate began as a peer group of young skateboarders led by 16 year old Abenezer Temesgen who would practice and share gear every weekend. As the community grew it attracted photographer Sean Stromsoe and other foreign skaters who each made their own imprint on the history of skating in Ethiopia. We are stoked to learn language, balance, and patience through skating with friends.
We are an international group of skateboarders working to make the world more connected.
We vision to connect Ethiopian skateboarders and coordinate opportunities for foreign skaters to link up with locals at skate spots around the country. We want to give access to equipment and maintain skate spots as we help guide this influential youth culture” – ethiopiaskate.org)
Ethiopia Skate | Skateboard Journey
“Basically it’s a bunch of young skaters from every spectrum of life (rich to poor) helping each other progress through skating. The community gives a platform for skaters in Ethiopia to meet each other and meet foreign skaters when they visit.
We are getting several hundred boards in the next couple months and will be passing them out to youth organizations, schools, and individuals to help the sport grow, because now there is no access to skateboards (even for purchase)” – Sean Stromsoe.
Ethiopia Skate | A Message to the World
Interview with Sean Stromsoe (Ethiopia Skate Member and Photographer):
When did Ethiopia Skate officially form?
Ethiopia Skate started as a peer group of young skaters in Addis Ababa who on weekends would meet and practice in a vacant taxi parking lot. They were lead by 16 year old Abenezer Temesgen. With a major lack of gear and no place to buy a board in all of Ethiopia, they helped each other keep rolling by sharing their own gear. I met them by coincidence one day in June 2013 and we launched a campaign to connect these skaters to the world community in an effort to make a skate park and get more decks for the 30+ kids. We ended up discovering that there were more young Ethiopian skaters and several German and Swedish skaters living in Addis Ababa, and the community was born.
What type of initial reception did you get from the local kids and their parents?
It really depends on the person, but most are thrilled to see skateboarding and cheer when the skaters land difficult tricks. Some guards think the wheels will crack the concrete while others encourage the experienced skaters to jump their stairs or whatnot.
Do you or any of the members of the team speak the languages spoken in Ethiopia? If not, how did/do you guys deal with the language barrier?
I’m learning to speak Amharic, the main language spoken in Ethiopia’s capitol. School in Ethiopia is taught in English so it’s easy to communicate with simple phrases. Right now there are only 2 skaters from abroad working with us in Addis, the rest are local. Everything has been happening on a community basis, since most of the kids don’t have phones they communicate directly with each other when there’s a skate session or when we need to meet at the skate spots.
How much has Ethiopia Skate grown from its initial start?
In a year Ethiopia Skate has kept this core group of skaters rolling while connecting many local beginners and experienced visitors. We’ve built small ramps at youth centers and schools and are working on an actual park. Social media has been our best friend throughout all of this, by connecting a small group of skaters in Ethiopia to the world community. It’s really rewarding to show the world a different side of Ethiopia but also a different side of skateboarding, something closer to it’s roots.
Where do you see Ethiopia skate going in the next five years?
The introduction of skateboarding in Ethiopia is looking similar to its beginnings in Los Angeles so many years ago, a bunch of kids eager to find skate able spots and pioneer a sport that thrives in the concrete jungle. In five years we think there will be hundreds if not thousands of new skaters across Ethiopia as access to gear will become more readily accessible.
Our German buddy Daniel Scheidler has been working on a locally produced longboard which can be seen here: afrigadget.
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