On the crowded streets of Nairobi, you can easily spot Leo Kilel. He’s the one that looks like he’s floating through the crowd.
Leo is one of Kenya’s pioneering skateboarders. And in typical skateboarder fashion, Nairobi’s skateboarders have a propensity for homemade videos.
While skateboarding has been a part of the American urban landscape for half a century, most Kenyans have never heard that distinctive sound of wheels grinding on asphalt. Nairobi hasn’t been too welcoming. Family often disapprove of a grown man riding around on a “toy,” and the Nairobi City Council banned skateboarding on sidewalks, squeezing skateboarders onto the city’s congested roads.
Skaters responded by forming the Skateboarding Society of Kenya, which successfully lobbied for skating space. SSK members now skate just outside the Parliament building in a park typically used for presidential speeches and political rallies. You can check out the SSK’s checklist of the “benefits of skateboarding” here.
Kenya isn’t the only African nation with a growing interest in skateboarding. Skate and surf competitions are well-established in South Africa, and the Uganda Skateboard Union has built skate park in Kitintale, Uganda.
With a soundtrack featuring the American rapper Nas and the Beach Boys, this story from Bridges with Africa is well worth a listen. Scroll down the page to find the report on skateboarding in Nairobi.