‘House of Vans’ skater on Hong Kong skate culture – plus learn to skate! – Interview

What do skateboarding and street art culture have in common in Hong Kong? UrbanDNA investigates with Hong Kong-based, Vans-sponsored skateboarder Piet Guilfoyle.



What do skateboarding and street art culture have in common in Hong Kong? UrbanDNA investigates with Hong Kong-based, Vans-sponsored skateboarder Piet Guilfoyle, who suggests that ‘certain ideologies’ are associated– particularly personal freedom and creativity. Certainly both practices require a creative reimagining of shared urban space and often test boundaries of the physically (and legally!) possible.

Join Piet this weekend at House of Vans to learn or improve upon your skate technique. He says, “Young and old, all are welcome. Instructors will be there to take care of you, you can’t go wrong. It’s not as dangerous as it looks. We encourage people with absolutely no experience to try!” Boards are provided– if you’ve been itching to learn to skate, here’s your opportunity!

Read on for Piet’s views on Hong Kong skate culture and tips to skating in the SAR– including his professional opinion of the city’s superior skate park.

‘House of Vans’ Skate Workshop

Pier 4, Central, Hong Kong

Oct 17 & 18, each day from 2-3pm and 5-6pm

Register online here

Piet Guilfoyle skates in Hong Kong. Image courtesy of House of Vans.

:::::Piet Guilfoyle & UrbanDNA | October 6, 2015:::::

How long have you been skateboarding, and how did you learn to skateboard?

Over ten years– I taught myself. I grew up in New Zealand, Australia, and Hong Kong. I learned to skate in New Zealand. I’ve been around skateboarding for a long time but I wasn’t passionate about it until I moved to Hong Kong.

Did you find more opportunities to skateboard in Hong Kong?

Not really. There were way more opportunities to skateboard in New Zealand but skateboarding in Hong Kong for me was like a reaction to not having anything else to do that I liked or found interesting in Hong Kong. When I moved to Hong Kong I came from a public school into an international school, which was a big change from the other students that I was meeting… I’d come from a background of music and arts… In Hong Kong, it’s like the complete opposite… I just found myself skating every single day… Vans was starting their skate program in Asia, which was primarily China and Hong Kong, and I was just in the right place at the right time.

So you’ve seen the skate culture really change and develop here?

Yea, definitely. There’s a lot more skaters and the skill level is always getting better. You see new kids all the time. Hong Kong is quite weird because each community is generally very close knit. Then, within that you have different districts. Kids don’t really want to travel too far to go skate. You just want to skate on your street, in your neighborhood. My neighborhood happened to be, like, Causeway Bay–basically Hong Kong Island.

Is there any point where Hong Kong skaters all come together? A competition?

There are competitions, they’re always in the summer, which is crazy because it’s the hottest time of the year. Go Skateboarding Day is June 21st every year. Then if Vans puts on an event you’ll see everyone come out to party and see each other. Go Skateboarding, it’s a worldwide event.

Where is Go Skateboarding held in Hong Kong?

It changes locations. This year it was in a new skate park called Po Kung Village. The year before that it was in Tseung Kwan O Skate Park. The year before that, it was in Mei Foo skate park. They change skate parks every year to keep it lively or interesting. This year we did Go Skateboarding day at Po Kong Village, and there’s a helmet rule. Actually, the helmet rule applies everywhere but it’s most strictly enforced at the Po Kong Village Park.

Where is your favorite skate park in Hong Kong, and why?

Fanling at On Lok Mun Road… [I like] the surface. At all the other parks the surface is like sandpaper, so it doesn’t allow your wheels to do the sliding things– power slides. You can’t move your wheels. When you fall on it, it isn’t very forgiving, it’s like a carpet burn. The surface at Fanling is perfect but it’s the furthest away. It’s like one stop from the border so it’s as far as you can go, but it’s the best skate park, all because of the surface.

Piet Guilfoyle in Hong Kong. Image courtesy of House of Vans.

Do you see graffiti and skate culture being closely associated in Hong Kong?

It definitely has a history, but maybe not nowadays. Skate boarding and graffiti were very linked together in the mid to late 90’s. But [skateboarders and street artists]– we all share something in common. ‘Starting From Zero’ or just expressing yourself, doing whatever you want, whether it’s illegal or not. What we’re doing isn’t hurting anybody, so therefore– we should kind of be allowed to do it. It’s about personal freedom and having a creative outlet… There are certain ideologies that are associated. That is what we share.

And it can be quite dangerous too– I assume when you were learning to skate there was a lot of trial and error?

That’s all it is. You spend all the time on the ground. You fall more often than you land. If it’s out of 100 tries, and you’re learning something, you’re going to land it once in 100 times. You’ll land it once, then twice every hundred times, then three– depending on what you’re doing you become more comfortable with it and technically get better at doing it until you’re consistent.

Did you ever get any injuries?

Yea, not anything huge at one time, but my everything hurts all the time… I’ll get a big swollen hip so I can’t really sleep on one side, or my knees hurt, and I’ll have to chill for a month or two… Take glucosamine tablets and eat better… Sleep better… not fall on that hip!

What will you be teaching at the Vans workshop?

Skateboarding, the basics! We’ll have a mini ramp, about 1.6 meters tall, we’ll have a big flat bottom section where we can teach people to push forwards and backwards, turn, kick turn, and once people are comfortable they can progress from starting at the bottom of the ramp and going up. That’s the basics. Anyone with an advanced level who just wants to drop in, we can teach them basic tricks.

Bradley from the Vans Skate Team in Hong Kong. Image courtesy House of Vans.

Do you have a favorite skate move?

No, I just like riding around, the act of skating. If you’ve got a hill that just goes on forever­– my perfect spot would be a big hill that never ends, not too steep, not too mellow, just rolling. I’m not really into tricks– I’m not a ‘technical skater’. I’m not going to out-trick you. I just like the feeling, whatever feels the best or sounds the best, because the wheels make noise.

What kind of shoes do you need to wear?

Just flat-soled shoes… Vans are perfect. Anything with a flat sole though.

Do people need to bring their own boards?

No, we’ll supply all the boards and protective equipment, instructors, everything. You’ve just got to register online and show up. There’s a cap of 10 people per session and each session is an hour long, and there’s 4 sessions total.

Is there any age limit or physical requirement for joining the Vans workshop?

No. If you have legs, young and old, all are welcome. Instructors will be there to take care of you, you can’t go wrong. It’s not as dangerous as it looks. We encourage people with absolutely no experience to try! It’s a lot more fun that way– they’ll have a lot more fun than people who already know how to do it. The people who don’t know how to do it will very quickly find out it’s not that hard. It’s just a lot of mental barriers.


Erin Wooters Yip

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