WATCH: Amsterdam opens trailblazing skatepark, a safe haven for LGBTQ and women skaters

Image: Supplied

Image: Supplied

Published Aug 25, 2023


Nestled within a warehouse in the vibrant southern heart of Amsterdam, a compelling message echoes from the walls: "Skateboarding is for Everyone."

Embracing the spirit of inclusion, a rainbow-hued emblem graces the walls of the wooden skate ramps.

This recently inaugurated skatepark in the Dutch capital carries a clear purpose: to serve as a safe for LGBTQ individuals and female skaters alike.

"There is no judgement," says Tem, a 22-year-old wearing a black helmet and T-shirt and a pair of blue and white checked trousers while riding an 80s-style freestyle board.

The skater, who works as a food volunteer, added that it was a "comfortable environment where I feel like I can learn to skate without the icky vibe in a public skatepark".

A pioneering initiative

Despite its reputation as a counterculture sport associated with rebellious attire, skateboarding has grappled with long-standing challenges tied to sexism, homophobia, and at times, an overly masculine culture.

Hence, it's no surprise that the Netherlands, which was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage and is renowned for its liberal attitudes, should provide an alternative.

"I feel like I have the space to be myself and to skate and to have fun with friends, which is all we want," the skatepark's 25-year-old manager Flip Zonne Zuijderland 25 says.

The park is a trailblazer, as NGOs (non-governmental organisations) have previously promoted skateboarding for women in countries such as Afghanistan and in the Palestinian territories, but not for LGBTQ skaters.

"For sure, it might be the first," Zonne Zuijderland says.

While women and LGBTQ athletes have become increasingly accepted in skateboarding, particularly after veteran US professional Brian Anderson came out as gay in 2016, the sport still has far to go.

How the inclusive skatepark came to be

The skatepark emerged as a collaborative effort between two organisations, Women Skate the World and New Wave. Its inception can be traced back to spontaneous skate sessions during the initial summer of the Covid pandemic.

"It started out as a group chat being like 'Hey, guys, there's a bunch of queer people skating at an outdoor park, who wants to come?'" Zonne Zuijderland says.

"It started out with 10 people and within a few months it was about 40."

When winter came they started having twice-monthly nights at another indoor Amsterdam skatepark, Noord, but it was "way too little" so they wanted a place of their own.

With donations and public funding they found an empty warehouse, and created one.

It's now a safe space for an up-and-coming generation of skaters who might otherwise be put off by what Zonne Zuijderland says can be an "aggressive group with a no pain, no gain mindset".

But the park is not just for LGBTQ people and women, even if that was the initial idea, Zonne Zuijderland adds.

"Respect is the biggest focus," he explains.

"It really doesn't matter if you're gay, straight, queer, cis, trans, as long as you're here to have a good time and make other people have a good time, you're welcome,"  Zuijderland adds.

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