Skateistan’s Tin is Building Skate Culture in Cambodia

We asked the Cambodian skate coach about her native country’s politics, beliefs… and weird fish.

food | Interview | Skateboarding

We electronically bumped into Skateistan skate coach Tin from Cambodia and here’s what she had to say about the skate scene and how europeans smell of cheese.

Photos: Sam Jam

Who are you?

I am Tin from Skateistan.

What did you do today?

Today when I came into work, I cleaned the skatepark and classroom and then I taught the kids skateboarding and art class. I also had English class and then a lunch of rice and fried vegetables. I ran another class in the afternoon and wrote a report.

Do you think Europeans smell like cheese?

Yes!

My Mum taught English as a second language to Cambodian refugees in New Zealand. I imagine your childhood was different from mine. What was it like?

My childhood was a sad life. I was born to a poor family and they didn’t have enough money to support me to study. But I can make my parents smile now. They are proud of me because I made my own way in life.

Do you think that because you have experienced deep sadness that your can reach amazing happiness?

Yes. From a sad life we can improve to a happy life. I still remember the sad life but it helps push me. If I forget it nothing will improve. It made me hurt but it has also made me strong. Like the more we try, the more we succeed. Other people can make it, so why not me? 

Tell me about the skateboard scene in Cambodia?

In Cambodia we are not allowed to skate in some places because they don’t understand what skateboarding is. That happens less and less, especially since Skateistan has been in Cambodia for more than 3 years now. Sometimes we skate in the park and sometimes we skate in the street. There are many smooth places to skate but you have to get the timing right.

Do you have a local skateshop?

There are 2 skateshops – the skateshop Phnom Penh and 10K.

Do you have any sponsors?

No, but we have sponsors at Skateistan – TSG, Spitfire, Fallen, Zero.

Favourite trick that’s not a backside 180?

Kickflip!

What are regular people’s reactions to seeing skateboarding? Is it more normal now?

It depends, some people get really excited when they see skateboarding. A few weeks ago I saw one girl when I was skating with the boys. The girl was really motivated and thought it was so amazing that I could do it too. Some people when they see us skate, they think it is dangerous and don’t think they can do it. So I just show them what I can do.

If I had dinner at your house I think I would burn my face off. What’s your favourite food in the whole world?

Prohok. It’s made from fish and we keep it for a long time – it smells bad but tastes good. Some people really don’t like it.

Wow, that sounds nasty. I guess some of the crap we eat here would sound nasty to you though, right? How do you think dipping old bread into hot melted cheese mixed with wine would taste?

I think that sounds nasty too. I was born here – that is Cambodian food, so that’s why I can eat it. The bread with wine to me sounds as bad as the Prohok to you!

Favourite crew to skate with?

The Skateistan team. But my wish is to skate with Leticia Bufoni.

So you teach skateboarding. You want to tell me about that?

I just want the kids to skate, like me. I want to improve their life, to motivate them. Skateboarding is really important to me. It really changed my life because before I was a sad girl and afraid to talk to people and I didn’t have any friends. Especially my relationship with boys – when I picked up a skateboard it changed. Now I can skate with them and we can be friends.

So now are all the boys lining up to talk to you?

Haha, yeah. If they want to speak with me I speak to them. Now the boys really look up to me and when I play with them some feel jealous of me. I’m not the best, but just better than some of them. 

If you were the president of Cambodia what’s the first thing you would change?

I would change the rules. I think rich people and poor people have the same rights. I would make sure people don’t look down on poor people. I would try to build many organisations to help the poor people on the streets, I would build many skateparks and make one rule – we are allowed to skate anywhere in Cambodia. 

Sounds like a good future Tin, thanks for your time!

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