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Dutch open trailblazing skatepark for LGBTQ people, women

by Agence France Presse

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands– Skateboarders in colourful outfits zip around a skatepark unique in Amsterdam, one of the first in the world to provide a safe space for LGBTQ and women skaters.

A sign saying “Skateboarding is for Everyone” hangs on a wall while a rainbow-hued logo is painted above the wooden ramps in a warehouse in the south of the Dutch capital.

“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”.

Despite its image as an alternative sport of baggy-trousered rebels, skateboarding has long had issues with sexism, homophobia and a sometimes macho culture.

So 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 manager Flip Zonne Zuijderland, 25, tells AFP.

The park is a trailblazer, as NGOs 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.


A collaboration between two organisations, Women Skate the World and New Wave, the skatepark’s origins lie in impromptu skate sessions during the first summer of Covid.

“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”.

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.

“Because I’m trans, when I was still identifying as a girl, I would even get standing ovations because I could ride on a board. I never felt taken seriously,” says Zonne Zuijderland, who is also an actor and filmmaker.

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 says.

‘Skate buddies’

“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,” he adds.

The dozen or so skaters whizzing around the park on a weekday afternoon wear a variety of styles from traditional outsize skater-wear to flowery skirts — though most also wear safety equipment.

The park offers “skate buddies” to help people learn the basics of the sport — ollies, shove-its and kickflips — a far cry from the “intimidating” atmosphere of traditional skateparks.

“People here are friendly and understanding and actually willing to help me learn new things compared to other places I’ve been to,” says Wiske Mooney, 21, a student.

“I hope that in a few years this is not a unique concept anymore, or that this is not needed,” Zonne Zuijderland says.

“But I think that will take a while before we’re there, so until that point, here we are.”



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