We speak to the individuals cultivating Malaysia’s inline skating scene.
Sukeats Chee has been part of the local inline skating scene since its popularity boomed in the mid-’90s. He started skating at age 13 – not by choice, but when his father bought him a pair of skates in an attempt to lure him away from video games.
His father’s plan worked, and Sukeats’s love for the sport flourished as online culture grew. He and his friend Yeng moderated and contributed to the first Malaysian inline skating message board (started by fellow skater Nazrul Kamaruddin), which provided a place for like-minded youths from Kuala Lumpur and across the country to connect, discover new skate spots, and share their passion for inline skating. In addition to that, they produced the local inline skating zine KJ ROLLERS (KJ stands for Kelana Jaya) with a few friends, and made skate videos for fun.
“We always did things for skating. [I always thought that] when I go to uni, I won’t have time for this, I’ll quit [skating]. When I get a job, I’ll quit. When I get married, I’ll quit. When I have a kid, I’ll quit. [But] we’ve passed through all those things and… we’re still here!” says Sukeats.
Sukeats goes on to explain that when they were younger, he and Yeng always knew they wanted to do something with skating. After work, they continued to do their skate-related projects, from making and marketing their own wheels to creating videos and hosting skate events and parties.
Six years ago, at the age of 29, Sukeats left his advertising job and together with Yeng opened Wheel Love – a shop that embraces all forms of skating through selling everything from skateboards and inline skates to accessories, protective gear and apparel.
Inline skating was once deemed the “uncool” younger brother of skateboarding, but Sukeats feels the sport is being given new life. Popularity for inline skating may have dwindled and reached a plateau since the ’90s, but a revival in the era’s culture is seeing some interest in it again.
While the older generation may be going back to inline skating out of nostalgia, a new wave of young skaters are coming in with fresh perspective and passion. There is no age limit or gender bias in the local inline skating community, and there are several styles you can pursue within inline skating: recreational, aggressive, freestyle and speed/fitness are the most popular in Malaysia.
According to Sukeats, the Malaysian inline skating community is also one of the healthiest in the region, with each discipline doing well. Most towns have at least one skate park, and although the community is small, it is tight-knit, and a number of individuals are actively encouraging the scene across the country. Many local aggressive inline skaters have also gone out to compete regionally – often placing in the top five if not at the top – and there are several local competitions throughout the year, such as the Major Blade League, Stunts 4 Swag and Grindbaru.
Speed skating has also garnered more interest since the initiation of DBKL’s KL Car Free Morning in 2013, and inline hockey in Malaysia is also doing well with team Underdogs winning titles and receiving support from government and commercial sectors. Head down to Putrajaya in the evenings on weekends and you’ll also see stalls renting out inline skates to curious youths looking for something fun to do.
In cultivating the scene, Sukeats also works closely with Edosh Azhar, owner of the specialty inline skate store, The Blade Store. Their friendship goes back to when they were teens, and they believe that their sharing of knowledge and resources has had a positive impact on the local inline skating culture we see today.
Besides organising competitions and events throughout the year, they help the scene’s development through holding regular skate sessions, sponsoring inline skaters, inviting skate professionals over, and conducting workshops. The Blade Store also does blade tours around Malaysia and abroad, and pushes aggressive skate education further through The Blade Experience (TBX) programme.
Edosh explains that what initially started as a programme to teach customers the basics of skating has evolved into something bigger: “Aggressive blading is not fully governed by any inline skating sports body in terms of coaching and training. We kind of figured out a more practical way to coach people to do aggressive blading.”
“Aggressive blading is very unique to each individual; no two persons can perform tricks the same way, only the techniques are similar. Given our personal experiences, we kind of tailor-made programmes for each student but with the same goal: to help them improve and enjoy the blading experience better. When they enjoy the experience, they’ll stay in the sport for a longer period.”
TBX is split into three programmes: TBX Personal (for private or small group coaching), TBX Kiara (an open learning session), and TBX Major Blade Camp (a three-day intensive skate camp with an emphasis on coaching participants. This year the camp also featured skate specific videography and photography lessons).
As a pair of inline skates don’t come cheap (they can range from RM500 to over RM1,000), the country’s current economic climate may prevent people from getting into the sport. However, Sukeats and Edosh see great potential in the scene.
Sukeats hopes that one day inline skating will be a common sight – perhaps even as an alternative to cycling to work – and encourages those interested in it to reach out to the community and give it a try. Edosh says he would love to see more skaters participate in the scene’s development and urges those curious about the sport to “stop thinking, start doing.” At the end of the day, skating is all about having fun.
Words originally published on Malaysia.my (12 February 2018).