DUBAI // A community centre is introducing youngsters to an unusual triathlon, mixing sport and art.
Tashkeel, the arts centre in Nad Al Sheba, has come up with a full month of skateboarding, surf and art activities to bring out the creativity of local and expatriate children.
The idea of blending physical and artistic activity has become popular in the US, and made its UAE debut last week.
Youngsters skate on Tashkeel's ramp, the slopes of which are cleverly shaped to spell the centre's name in Arabic when viewed from the side.
They are then encouraged to paint skateboard decks inside the gallery before being given surfing lessons on Sunset Beach, and returning to the Tashkeel centre for more skating.
Bradley Kirr, one of the organisers, said the goal was "to inspire the kids into a heightened state of creativity … and convert some of that energy into creating the visual arts such as painting, drawing, photography and these type of things".
At the programme's opening last weekend, 15 local and expatriate youngsters took part.
"They all stayed here until 10pm last weekend," Mr Kirr said. "We had to stop them and send them home."
Omar Al Abbar, 15, an Emirati, was glad to attend.
The Dubai resident started skating a few years ago after he took a Dh5 dare to go down a ramp on a skateboard. He has since reached a level where he is sponsored in skating and surfing by local companies.
"Once I started skating I started to get support and I got sponsored," Omar said.
"I hope to grow interest among local kids. Not many Emiratis are skating and I hope [this event] will help because a lot of Emiratis will come down and they'll get the bug."
Daniel van Dooren, the managing partner of Surf Dubai, said the youngsters quickly came to grips with surfing last weekend, and the programme would help to expand the surfing scene in Dubai.
"Having the locals involved will definitely give the scene here more credibility," Mr van Dooren said. "This will also help other generations to follow."
Mr Kirr said he hoped there would be a lasting effect on the 1,000 expected participants.
"Skateboarding is addictive. It's a battle against yourself constantly," he said.
"It teaches you discipline - basically trying a trick over and over again until you get it teaches you to be creative, and when you have an obstacle in front of you, you have to decide what you are going to do on it.
"Creativity, discipline and self-awareness are three extremely important life lessons skateboarding teaches, along with peripheral art that kids already want to capture through the activities they do on the ramp."
On February 11, there will be a surf and skate video-editing workshop and the following weekend, Tashkeel will host Skate Biladi, the final competition of the programme.
Spectators will upload their photos to Facebook and the photographer and skater with the most "likes" will be the winner.
"You're seeing now with places like Camp Woodward in the US, where they have this giant skateboard camp in the middle of the country and they offer actual real-life type of skill lessons like video production, photography, music production - these type of skills where kids are already making skateboarding videos but they now have a place to perfect it.
"They are making those skills better and giving them something useful to do further down the road in real life."