x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Best trick is one you walk away from

On boards, skates and BMX, young thrill-seekers will do almost anything for the rush, and the approval of their peers at Rage Skatepark.

The Rage Skatepark in Dubai is for performers, and the more complicated their tricks are, the more kudos they get from other skaters.
The Rage Skatepark in Dubai is for performers, and the more complicated their tricks are, the more kudos they get from other skaters.

DUBAI // It looks like chaos at the Rage Skatepark behind Dubai Festival City.

Skateboarders, in-line skaters and BMX riders zip up and down ramps, along rails and in between each other. Some land tricks while others fall awkwardly, their skateboards flying across the park.

"I just landed a one-foot tail whip," shouted one skater to his peers, who were sitting on the sidelines, drinking water and taking a rest. He was clearly chuffed with his sweaty afternoon's work.

Skaters pay Dh30 to use the park, which is surrounded by a 4-metre fence, for the day. The place is scattered with ramps of varying sizes, including the "roll-in" - a 3-metre tall quarter-pipe. It is a rite of passage for those who dare to try it.

Most skaters arrive on their own while others come with parents in tow. The sound of wheels rolling along the concrete and boards crashing to the ground dominate in the 30 square metre area.

Outside the fence, spectators abound. Some are waiting for their turn at the nearby go-kart track, wearing fire-retardant suits and carrying crash helmets under their arms. They watch in awe as the skaters spin boards under their feet.

It is not unusual for shoppers at Festival City to take a respite and watch the action.

Basel el Alla, 19, a skateboarder from New York, says the first time he tried the roll-in he went down with his wrong foot forward - known as switch. He got a big scare.

"Now I do it regularly - but not switch," Basel says.

He is sitting by the side of the park watching the other skaters zoom around.

"Skating is popular but not as big as other countries," he says. "But it's growing. There were not nearly as many skaters about three years ago."

About 30 people are breaking a sweat with their wheels of choice on this Friday evening.

In winter, the park can have between 50 and 60 visitors a night. It does not do any mass marketing, and this kind of sport is not trendy. People come because it is just plain fun.

"It's a social sport. You come out and see all your friends," Basel says.

The park is for performers, and the more complicated their tricks are, the more kudos they get from other skaters.

As they move around the park, others watch and cheer their approval or groan loudly when another skater tumbles.

Skateboards, in-line skates and BMX bikes all fall under the extreme sports umbrella and while the skill sets required are far different, the injuries are the same.

Several riders at the park are recovering from injuries. Sprained ankles, broken fingers and twisted knees are the most common.

Ibrahaim Mohammed, 20, is at the park nursing an injury. Six months ago, the Emirati was in the middle of a 720-degree turn in the air and lost control on his in-line skates. His left foot landed in one direction; his left knee the opposite way.

"I'm back skating in a few weeks but I'm not particularly worried about injuring myself again," Ibrahaim says.

Basel's mission for the night is to perform a "misty flip" stunt - a combination of spins and straightening of the body mid-flight.

"That's the one thing with rollerblading. You can bail in the air and still make it out," he says.

Feras Ahmed, 22, another Emirati, did not make it out of a stunt six months ago and tore a knee ligament. Feras had been trying to perform a simple grind along rails when he left some skin on the concrete surface.

"It's the most basic of tricks," says the American University of Sharjah student. "It was kind of embarrassing to fall off."