Landon Burke skateboarding at the new park (photo Brandon Balayan)

First Yerevan Skatepark Hopes to Start New Era in Armenian Skateboarding

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YEREVAN — On November 15, the Yerevan Skatepark, the first such park in Armenia, was inaugurated. The ceremony included performances by Ukrainian artists, as well as Armenian artists such as the band Garik and Sona (Garik Papoyan and Sona Rubenyan), and Harout Pamboukjian.

It was announced in February 2020 that Mayor Hayk Marutyan of Yerevan had signed a contract with the donor for the park, President of the Union of Armenians in Ukraine Vilen Shatvoryan, which stipulated that the park would be built in the middle of 2020. However, the Karabakh war halted construction. 

The park on opening day was filled with skaters, bikers, rollerbladers, and many onlookers. 

The Yerevan Skatepark is right next to St. Grigor the Illuminator Cathedral (photo Brandon Balayan)

Local skater Narek Sarkisyan was part of the crowd. He commented that the construction of the park appeared standard, but could have been made better, pointing out how the ground felt like sandpaper. He believed the concert was unnecessary. 

Narek Sarkisyan (photo Brandon Balayan)

“I’m sure they spent a lot of money on the concert,” Sarkisyan said. “Instead they could have used that money and built a smaller [second] skatepark either in Gyumri or Vanadzor.” 

Sarkisyan believes this would have developed skateboarding culture more within Armenia. 

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Sarkisyan runs the Instagram account Armenian Skateboarding, which he started in 2015, features Armenians skateboarding from around the world. 

“I feel great when I see all these guys follow the site and get to know each other,” Sarkisyan said.

Before the skatepark was built, he and the other locals would skate at the nearby Vardan Mamikonyan statue. 

The demographics of the skate scene in Armenia range from teenagers to adults, though children nine years old and up are learning fundamentals with the help of Skate School Armenia. Many of the older skaters order their boards and equipment from outside Armenia, but others have been using Skate.am, an online shop that now runs out of the Yerevan Skatepark and rents out boards for $2 per half hour. 

Street skating, which is an important part of skating culture, is prevalent throughout Armenia. The use of plazas, parks, ledges, and rails is an adaptation to not having skateparks. 

Places like the United States already have an established skateboarding scene, which leads to the demand for the constant development or restoration of skateparks. 

Landon Burke, a skateboarder from the US, attended the opening. Burke came to Armenia with the encouragement of his friends who used to live here. He stayed with a host family for six months in Kotayk to enhance his Armenian language skills. 

Through the family, he met Grigor, the grandson of his host parents. Burke introduced Grigor to the sport of skateboarding and eventually taught him how to skate. He mentioned how Grigor was a fast learner, mastering the kick-turn (changing direction by balancing on your back wheels) in one day and how to ollie (leap in the air on a skateboard without the use of hands) in two. 

Landon Burke and Grigor (photo Brandon Balayan)

Overall, Burke said he likes the park but believes it needs improvements such as a better halfpipe (mini ramp) and a better handrail that can go a long way. He also commented on the Armenian skate scene as a whole.

“It’s not very big but the people have a passion for it,” Burke said. “I think there is a lot of potential.”

Skating in Armenia is relatively new, but Sarkisyan’s Armenian Skateboarding YouTube channel published the first-ever Armenian skateboarding video “Mexaz,” featuring a local skateboarder named Tigran. 

The skateboarding video features Tigran street skating in Yerevan. It is an impressive seven minutes that showcases the creativity of Tigran and the potential of the Yerevan skate scene.

The skatepark provides an environment for more kids to learn how to skate and to immerse themselves in skate culture. 

As far as the future of Armenian skateboarding goes, Sarkisyan believes locals hold the responsibility for its development. He plans on organizing a street skating contest and believes there will be a skate shop in the near future.

“We are responsible for its development,” Sarkisyan said. “Nobody else will do it for us.”

 

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A post shared by @yerevanskatepark

The above video is of the opening day of Yerevan Skatepark, taken from the park’s Instagram page. The following video is of Vardan Mamikonyan plaza, where skaters usually skated till now.

 

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