BEIRUT: In their quest to popularize skateboarding and secure space for a permanent park, the Lebanese Skateboarding Association has opened Lebanon’s first pop-up skate park for 40 days of slides, grinds and air at the Beirut New Waterfront.
The park – which opened May 2 with around 200 people attending the event featuring skating displays and street art – is the latest step for LSA to promote their case for a permanent location to skate, says LSA director Elias Fayad.
“Our main objective is to open a permanent public skate park, if not more than one. Yet every municipality we approached has a misperception about the sport and about the skaters. Skaters are always kicked out and looked down on,” says Fayad.
“The pop-up [park] is a start to change this perception,” he explains, discussing the objectives of the 1-year-old LSA, including lobbying the municipalities, promoting the sport through public events and empowering youth.
According to Fayad, the sport is growing quickly in Lebanon, evidenced by the high turnout the park has seen so far – about 25 people on average per day.
On a weekday afternoon, the pop-up park has a steady crew of skaters, from kids as young as 8 up to 28 years old, tackling the obstacles: a mini ramp (a smaller version of a half pipe), a quarter pipe, manual pads, rails, thumbwalks, ramps and more.
Another of the pop-up park’s organizers from LSA, Ghassan al-Salman, says that Lebanon’s skaters suffer from a lack of “some place safer than the streets” to skate.
“We’re always getting chased out by police, security guards, and residents. You always get kicked out,” he says, adding that LSA’s goal is to change the unfair, renegade image that skaters have and provide safer conditions to practice the sport.
“A lot of people have negative connotations because we skate in the streets all the time. We skate between cars and all that, but we’ve got nowhere else to skate,” says Salman.
“You can’t stereotype us based on that. We’ve got nowhere else to skate, so we’re going to skate the streets. When we skate the streets, they label us as bad people or street kids. We can’t help it unless we have a park,” he points out.
“It’s a good sport. It promotes creativity and it joins all sects and backgrounds of youth,” Salman continues.
The space for the temporary park was donated by Beirut by Bike, but LSA’s mission to secure a permanent location has been met with roadblocks. Three times rejected by the Beirut municipality, their sights have now turned to Horsh Beirut as a possible location.
“There’s a piece of land inside Horsh Beirut that’s already built, it’s all concrete waves and stuff. It’s beautiful and would be perfect. It wouldn’t cost us a lot to turn it into a park, just fixing things here and there,” says Salman, adding that so far LSA has gotten positive feedback from Hazmieh and Sin al-Fil.
For now, Lebanon’s skaters will have to take full advantage of the pop-up park until it closes shop June 15. Then, it’s back to the streets.
Nasser Mukharesh, 21, who has been impressing the park’s small crowd with tricks, says having the park is “great.”
“I finish class at university and come down here. There’s always someone to skate with, you have obstacles and no one hassles you.”
For Mukharesh, getting chased out by security is simply and unfortunately “part of the routine of skating.”
“It’s nice having a place like this as a home base, for convenience and for safety’s sake.”
The pop-up skate park is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day through June 15 at the Beirut New Waterfront.