It has taken years of hard work, but Ghana is finally getting the home that its flourishing skateboard scene deserves: a fully functional skate park right in the middle of Accra. Over the last decade, skateboarding has become a cultural phenomenon in the country, largely spread through kids on Instagram, as has been documented right here on this site. But, because of the sport’s relative novelty on the continent (there are an estimated 4,000 full-on skate parks around the world but only 10 in Africa), the bustling capital has been without a dedicated spot for the community to coalesce. Now, thanks to the hustle of its most prominent crew, Skate Nation, and Surf Ghana, an NGO that supports outdoor sports in the West African country, Accra could have a state-of-the-art ramp by July 2021. A location is already secured in the Dzorwulu district and a finished blueprint has been drawn up for the project, to be called Freedom Skate Park. “I know what skating can do for the youth,” says Sandy Alibo, Surf Ghana’s founder. “It makes kids forget their problems. No drugs, no violence. Just one goal: Learn the tricks, do the tricks. It’s a family.”
Alibo, who also works to increase women’s participation in the sport, has been dreaming of a ramp for Accra since at least 2016, but always wanted to think bigger than just quarter pipes and grinds. At Freedom Skate Park, there will be a cafe with Wi-fi, bathrooms, and a store that will not only sell serious equipment, but also offer private lessons to newbies, and employ local kids. The park will be sustainably made of recycled and local materials and offer lush and free-to-the-public green space right in the middle of the city, with construction and design handled by Wonders Around the World, an international organization dedicated to making skateboarding accessible worldwide, and local architects Limbo Accra. Vans, the holy grail of skate shoes, has agreed to come on to support a skate teaching program. “We deserve to create a quality ramp—if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right,” says Alibo.
But this level of ambition takes resources, and so today marks the very first day of a months-long fundraising campaign. Ghana’s skaters have a couple prominent allies in the effort: the pan-African clothing brand Daily Paper and none other than Virgil Abloh, Off-White founder and Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton Men’s. Abloh, who first heard of Skate Nation through Vogue, quickly reached out to see how he could support the crew, and has agreed that he and his design studio Alaska Alaska will craft the brand identity of the skate ramp, including the park’s logo, the design of the skate house, and furniture in collaboration with Limbo Accra. In addition, Off-White and Daily Paper will be releasing a series of exclusive capsule collections to benefit the project, with the first launching next week on December 21 at a pop-up in Accra at Mhoseenu Gallery and online on January 15. “Virgil and Daily Paper came and listened—they didn’t just do whatever they wanted, they talked to us and supported our ideas,” says Alibo. “This project has a nice flavor—it has the diaspora, it has the local. We are working together all of us for Africa. We have a common goal.”
Alibo’s dreams for Ghanaian skating culture don’t end with the skate park. Next up, she wants a Ghanaian national team, sparking competition across the continent and eventually participating in the newly-formed skateboarding category of the Summer Olympics, which will debut in Tokyo next year. “We’re hoping that the park will make it easier for people to practice in one place, but also for us to organize official competition. I can invite people from Togo, from Ivory Coast. We can build something in Africa,” she says. “Sometimes you need to be the first. You struggle, but then you see a movement. And I’m just happy to be part of the movement.”