Chinese women turn to skateboarding to ease COVID strain

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Some women in China are discovering that they don’t need to be gifted like 15-year-old Olympic champion Nishiya Momiji from Japan to love skateboarding.

There is a version of skateboarding called surfskating which is a bit easier for older people to learn.

The city’s sport is giving women like Mina Zhao, 40, some time off from their COVID-19 worries.

Easing COVID-related tensions

Zhao said she felt “shut inby Beijing’s recent COVID-19 restrictions. The measures closed exercise centers like gymnasiums and parks. But she discovered surfskating on social media and decided to give it a try.

Mina Zhao, 40, and Zheng Yue, 27, both members of the Beijing Girls Surfskating Community, ride skateboards on the streets of Beijing, China, July 6, 2022. (REUTERS/Tingshu Wang)

She learned by going to a lesson near Beijing’s famous Water Cube Pool stadium in May. At that time, the classes had about 12 people. Now nearly 100 come every week to learn from the teacher, a professional dancer named Duo Lan.

Zhao even brings her husband and son.

She said skateboarding “had a positive effect” on her life. She said she’s lost weight and doesn’t feel as bad about how COVID restrictions could affect her child’s education.

Zhao said she feels good about herself now and feels better spending more time away from home. She even changed her hair color. It is now lighter than its natural color.

She said sport helped her feel comfortable being herself.

Sometimes, when she feels worried, she even uses the skateboard inside her house.

Mina Zhao (C), 40, Zheng Yue (L), 27, and Pang Jing, 33, chat after a skateboarding practice session for the Zhao Women's Club, at a cafe in Beijing, China, July 6, 2022. (REUTERS/Tingshu Wang)

Mina Zhao (C), 40, Zheng Yue (L), 27, and Pang Jing, 33, chat after a skateboarding practice session for the Zhao Women’s Club, at a cafe in Beijing, China, July 6, 2022. (REUTERS/Tingshu Wang)

The surfskate has also caught the eye in part because of the “buzz“Snow sports, such as snowboarding, made their debut at the Beijing Winter Olympics earlier this year. Many people say that the surfskate resembles the snowboard. But skaters can make slow, wide turns without having to worry about hills or snow.

Duo Lan, 31, founder of the Beijing Girls Surfskating Community, rides a skateboard during a free weekly practice session, outside the National Sports Stadium in Beijing, China June 19, 2022. (REUTERS/Tingshu Wang )

Duo Lan, 31, founder of the Beijing Girls Surfskating Community, rides a skateboard during a free weekly practice session, outside the National Sports Stadium in Beijing, China June 19, 2022. (REUTERS/Tingshu Wang )

“You feel so free”

Chen Yanni, 29, is another woman who tried surfskating this year and feels calmer.

“You feel so free,” she said.

Yanni also discovered the sport on social networks.

She said that even though she is approaching her thirties, the sport makes her feel young. “I love that feeling,” she said. “It’s like being a teenager again.”

A Chinese search engine said the number of people searching for the term “land surfboard” increased 50 times in June from a year earlier.

JD.com is an online retailer based in Beijing. He said surfskateboard sales were up 80% in June compared to the same month in 2021.

Members of the Beijing Girls Surfskating Community stand on skateboards as they attend a practice session for beginners, outside the National Sports Stadium in Beijing, China, June 19, 2022. ( REUTERS/Tingshu Wang)

Members of the Beijing Girls Surfskating Community stand on skateboards as they attend a practice session for beginners, outside the National Sports Stadium in Beijing, China, June 19, 2022. ( REUTERS/Tingshu Wang)

Burning Ice is a skateboard store with five stores in Beijing. A store supervisor, who did not want his name used, said stores had seen a 300% increase in sales this year compared to the previous year.

Skateboards and surfskateboards cost between $60 and $600. They represent 50% of the increase in sales. And women are the buyers 70% of the time.

Some women have said they started skating when they found out they couldn’t travel because of COVD-19. Yoyo, 34, works in commerce but enjoys diving and surfing when she goes to the beach.

Duo Lan, 31, founder of the Beijing Girls Surfskating Community, hands out stickers with the community's logo to members, during a free weekly practice session in Beijing, China, June 18, 2022. (REUTERS/ Tingshu Wang)

Duo Lan, 31, founder of the Beijing Girls Surfskating Community, hands out stickers with the community’s logo to members, during a free weekly practice session in Beijing, China, June 18, 2022. (REUTERS/ Tingshu Wang)

She said skating made her feel “like I’ve gone back to the beach.”

And she added, “It’s hot in the summer but I have the wind in my hair and I feel free.”

I am Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learn English based on a Reuters report.

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words in this story

shut in – v. (phrase) to keep (a person or an animal) inside a building or in a small space especially for a long time

stadium nm a very tall, usually roofless building that has a large open space surrounded by plenty of seating and is used for sporting or musical events

lesson -not. an activity you do to learn something

comfortable – adj. a feeling of carefree and physical ease

buzz – nm (informal) the things that are said about something in particular by the public or people in general

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