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Surf Ghana: meet the skateboarding collective making waves in Africa

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A member of the Surf Ghana collective skateboarding in Accra
A member of the Surf Ghana collective skateboarding in Accra   -   Copyright  Surf Ghana
By Rosie-Lyse Thompson  & Agyei Peprah Prince, Emma Beswick

SCENES shines a spotlight on youth around the world that are breaking down barriers and creating change. The character-driven short films will inspire and amaze, as these young change-makers tell their remarkable stories.

Sandy Alibo went on a surfing holiday to Ghana five years ago and the trip changed her life. While riding the waves off Busua Beach, she soon became fascinated by the local surfers and skateboarders.

“They were really, really talented, but there was no awareness about both sports in Ghana,” the French national explains. “So I decided to come back and find a way to help them.”

Working as a sports strategist in Paris, Sandy soon put her skills to good use and started an Instagram profile to showcase the Ghanaian skaters. The social media page took off and two years later, she quit her job, moved to Accra and the NGO and collective, Surf Ghana, was born.

Surf Ghana
Sandy Alibo with members of the Surf Ghana collectiveSurf Ghana

Sandy was determined that Surf Ghana would do more than just develop the country’s board sports; she also wanted it to be a platform for youth empowerment.

“We support skateboarders, but we also give them the chance to grow,” she told Scenes. “The idea is to give them career opportunities and I feel like in Ghana we need to develop youth entrepreneurship.”

Surf Ghana
A member from the Surf Ghana collective promoting skateboarding in a rural villageSurf Ghana

The Collective

The collective is now home to graphic designers, architects, filmmakers, stylists and photographers, who often collaborate together on projects and ideas.

For Joshua Azumah Nelson or Mr Bangers, as he prefers to be called, the collective helped him to start a fashion and styling business. “The skating culture has influenced my styling, increased my ideas on how to style people, and how to do stuff,” he said.

Bangers met his business partner at the collective’s clubhouse and, with Sandy’s support, learnt how to effectively market himself on social media. “It’s your talent, just polishing your talent that’s what the collective is about,” he added.

Surf Ghana
Children selling skateboarding merchandise at a pop-up stallSurf Ghana

Ghana’s Skateboarding Scene

Over the last decade, Ghana’s skateboarding scene has flourished; more youth are flocking to the streets to learn how to skate.

Joshua Odamtten has been skateboarding since he was 13-years-old. The Accra native taught himself how to skate by watching his favourite skateboarders on Youtube.

Surf Ghana
Joshua Odamtten skateboarding in AccraSurf Ghana

“The scene in Ghana is bigger and better than I ever expected. When I started skating there were only two of us,” he says.

The 34-year-old is now one of the country’s best skateboarders and the head coach at Surf Ghana. “I like thinking about how far we've come over the years,” Joshua added.

Surf Ghana
A member of the Surf Ghana collective promoting skateboarding in a villageSurf Ghana

Skate Gal Club

With more Ghanaians picking up a board, Surf Ghana felt a duty to challenge the gender association with the sport and cater for a more diverse demographic. In June 2019, the Skate Gal Club was created to connect and nurture female skaters and provide them with a safe place to grow.

“It's like a meet-up where all the girls meet, connect and try to practise skateboarding, but also we do yoga, we dance, we listen to music,” Sandy explains.

Despite the sports’ rise in popularity, there is no official park in Ghana for the skaters to hone their skills. Portable homemade and DIY ramps have popped up but there aren’t enough of them to meet the demand.

“I think this is the only scene in Africa, which is so powerful without having a proper skate park,” said Sandy.

Surf Ghana
Ghanaian children with skateboardsSurf Ghana

Freedom Skate Park

For years, Sandy has fantasised about providing Ghanaian skateboarders with a state-of-the-art ramp and now her dream is becoming a reality.

The blueprints have been drawn up, the location has been scouted and funding secured to create West Africa’s first skate park. Freedom Skate Park is set to open by the end of the year.

In true Sandy style, the park will be bigger than just quarter pipes and grinding rails. It will be nestled in the heart of one of Accra’s trendiest neighbourhoods, with the park hosting a café and a shop selling equipment, lessons and locally made art and merchandise.

Surf Ghana
Members of the Surf Ghana collectiveSurf Ghana

The ramps will be sustainably made using recycled and local materials. It is hoped that the recreational centre will develop the country’s sustainable tourism.

A training ground to nurture Ghana’s Olympic dreams

With skateboarding debuting in the Summer Olympics, Sandy is hopeful that Freedom Skate Park will solidify the growth of the board sport and provide a training ground for the future Ghanaian Olympic athletes.

“Representing Ghana for skateboarding in the Olympic Games is a dream for everybody here, and I'm sure it will be possible in a few years,” she says.

Video editor • Ivan Sougy