Skate Boarding – in AbaY?

Manu Dharmaraja: the Skate for Sri Lanka story

Words: Jonathan Frank

Surfing is the most popular form of extreme sport in Sri Lanka. Thanks to the country’s ideal, year-round waves, small fishing hamlets like Ahangama, Midigama, Weligama, Mirissa, Polhena and Arugam Bay have transformed into tourist hotspots frequented by surfers from all parts of the globe.

And just like skateboarding’s genesis in California surf scene in the late 1950s, skating in Sri Lanka is slowly emerging out of the Down South surfing community. If you visit Ahangama, Midigma and Polhena today, you’d find skatebowls and half-pipes at hotels, hostels and restaurants.

Although skating had a local presence before its advent Down South, most skateboarding happened around Colombo and skaters didn’t have proper infrastructure like ramps and half-pipes etc. Given the lack of space and proper equipment, the few loose skating communities in and around Colombo faded out as quickly as they came.

Manu Dharmaraja is an extreme sportsman, model and master of ceremonies who have been a part of the Colombo skate scene during its tiny emergence in the 2010s and the Down South surfing and skating scenes. Manu started Skate for Sri Lanka right before Covid as a mission to popularise skating among local youth, especially those from underprivileged communities.

For instance, in Arugam Bay, this cop was like, “Oh, but if you’re skating on the road, if something happens to you, like a car hit you. What do I do about it?” Maybe they’re concerned in that manner. But like at the end of the day, it’s my decision, you know. If I choose to do this and because there’s no actual safe place for us to skate, you know, we’ll keep doing it here. Skateboarders are adrenaline seekers at the end of the day

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