Thrashers of Davao

THE Go Skateboarding Day is celebrated across the globe every June 21 yet for some 300 skateboarders who trooped to the streets of Davao City on that day, it was not a celebration but more of an uprising to reiterate their call for a skate park where they could freely enjoy the sport they love and to demand respect for the sport that they chose to pursue.

Dabawenyo skateboarders or “thrashers” as they are often called gathered at the Freedom Park along Roxas Avenue and proceeded to the People’s Park at Palma Gil St. From there, they went on to Magallanes, had a stop there before going to the Davao City Hall. The thrashers then kicked and pushed their boards towards Guerrero St. until they made their last stop at Monteverde St.

In each of their stops, they held competitions where they brought in do-it-yourself (DIY) ramps and rails while they also made use of the available obstacles along the sidewalks and open spaces of the main streets.

The awarding of winners and after party was then held at Reggae Grill at J.P. Laurel Ave.

But while Dabawenyo thrashers celebrated the Go Skateboarding Day successfully, it does not discount the fact that after the celebration, they are still left with nothing but their decks, the streets and the discrimination they bear from those who can’t appreciate the sport.

Joey Betita, one of the founders of the Skateboarding Association of Davao (SAD) organized in 1999, told Sun.Star Davao in an interview that they have been subject to discrimination as they are considered nuisance when they skate along the roads or sidewalks.

“It shouldn’t be that way. There is no law prohibiting us to skate on the road. We also have no records of causing damages on properties to the establishment here in Davao because of skating,” Betita said in the vernacular.

But Betita said it is hard to change the outlook of people towards skateboarding hence, they are praying that a skateboard park will be set up where they can skate all they want. The closest that they got to having a skate park was in 1999 back when former councilor Pilar Braga supported their cause.

The plan for their skate park, however, was derailed after Braga’s term ended and there was nobody else who had supported their proposal. Betita said they have written numerous letters and proposals to the succeeding councilors yet it had fallen on deaf ears.

“If other people find fulfillment in pursuing any sport they want, then why can’t we? The only thing that bothers me is that they discriminate our sport yet they enjoy much more violent sports like boxing. It’s simply double standards,” Betita said.

Neil Reroma, also one of the founders of SAD, said in a separate interview that some of the skaters in Davao City also face discrimination even at the level of their families saying, “There are some skaters here who are barred by their parents because it’s dangerous. But it’s just that way for any sport. This was just considered extreme sports because it’s difficult and it demands ample skill level to pull off a trick.”

He also said that Dabawenyo skaters are full of potential yet it remains to be unlocked due to the lack of facility. Reroma said that if there was a skate park here, then Davao City could cultivate local talents who could represent the city in prestigious extreme sports events like the X Games.

“We only need a skate park so we could develop the skills of the many skaters we have here. It is just frustrating that we could only see them in the streets with no actual training ground. What’s worse is they are even forced to quit skating because of the discrimination,” Reroma added.

Betita, meanwhile, advised up and coming thrashers to expect the worse when they try the ropes of skateboarding.

“Just like any sport that demands physicality, you’ll experience bumps, bruises, sprains and even fractures in skateboarding. But one thing that skateboard teaches is that when you fall down, you shouldn’t stay down since you should learn from every fall,” Betita said.

He added that he has rather chosen to focus himself on developing young thrashers and promoting unity and respect among them. Reroma, on the other hand, said they will continue kicking and pushing their decks on the streets until the day comes when they will finally have a skate park that they could call their own.

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