RIYADH: Sitting on the upper level of LocoSonix, a Riyadh-based skate shop, Saudi skateboarder Shareef Masarani is approached by a young girl. The mix of excitement and shyness overwhelms her expressions as she presents a board she picked from the shop.
“I just wanted to ask you, I’m buying this board. Is that cool?” She wanted his opinion on buying her very first skateboard after seeing it at the store via Instagram Live.
“Hydroponics is good, as a starter board, yeah… It’s actually a good choice,” he replied.
The girl found his account on Instagram one day, and later met him at the Riyadh Boulevard skatepark. The coincidence inspired her to hop on her own skateboard for the first time.
Masarani has been an intermittent skateboarder for almost 20 years, starting his career at 15. After leaving his job as a chef to focus on growing the skate community in Saudi Arabia, he’s become something of a go-to resource for all things. related to skateboarding for many up-and-coming skaters, alongside its 11-person skate community Sandlifers.
Masarani went from pursuing skateboarding as a hobby while living in the United States to becoming a resource for learning and collaborating with major brands such as Vans and Mountain Dew.
One of his young client’s mothers calls him one day to thank him for his work. Not only did her daughter’s skills improve, but as a result, she became a more open and confident person.
“His personality has developed. At home, she’s a quiet kid, she doesn’t talk to anyone. Now it gave her confidence and gave her a personality, she talks with the family. It changes people, really,” Masarani told Arab News.
“When you learn a trick, you do things that you didn’t think you could do,” he said. “I saw what it did to me, and I would love to launch it here in the Middle East,” he said.
Masarani’s client, Reef Khalid Hassan, 15, said her training helped her deal with the tricks she was aiming to master. His support kept her going.
“Since I met him, he told me that I could be anything… Masarani also helped me explain to me how skateboarding works, different tricks and how to think in the right frame of mind “, she told Arab News.
“You have to know when to bail and when to commit,” he told her during a lesson.
Hassan started skating alone a few months ago and has become one of the rising young stars of the Riyadh skate scene, according to Masarani.
“A few months ago I needed a little help with some tricks, so I did a month-long training, which helped me a lot,” she said.
His first two tricks were a revert and an ollie. “It was really good, actually, because I tried for so long until I got it… Skating gives me something to look forward to because there’s more stuff (to learn) every day,” she said.
But the skate scene hasn’t always been so popular in Saudi Arabia. According to Masarani, only a few groups of people, including Sandlifers and some Filipino residents who had brought the practice from their country, were skating until 2020.
It was then that the Al-Nakheel skatepark opened its doors to the public. Slowly, more and more parks became accessible, such as the private club Diriyah and the purpose-built Riyadh Boulevard skatepark, which rents equipment on site.
As her followers grow, Masarani uses Instagram as a learning tool for others. It uses the app’s live feature as a platform to answer common questions people have about sports or to demonstrate which LocoSonix products are best to buy for your needs.
“That’s my goal. I want people to be better than me,” he said.
Masarani also partners with LocoSonix, the Kingdom’s only specialty skate shop, and frequently showcases their newest gear. Stepping into the active lifestyle store is like stepping into an art gallery.
“I see great potential in the sport as it becomes more and more integrated into Saudi culture,” Safi Marroun, founder of LocoSonix, told Arab News.
“The moment you learn to balance on a board and start riding your own board, you enter a new way of life. LocoSonix brings together the artist, professional gamers and those who just want to have fun on wheels .
LocoSonix plans to create skateparks to promote the sport in 2023.
Skateboarding was recently legitimized by its recognition as an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee, making its first appearance at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
In the Kingdom, the Saudi Extreme Sports Federation recently concluded two rounds of skateboarding camps in Riyadh, with 111 participants. It also held its first two-day skateboarding and aggressive inline skating competition which hosted 38 female and male participants.
“I see (the scene) getting bigger, if people keep doing what they’re doing. Like anything, if they stay consistent, it’s only going to get bigger,” Masarani said.