For almost three decades, skateboarder Denny ZFK had gone through numerous experiences. Battling society’s perception, he persevered and successfully established his own school for skateborders.
From public nuisance to a recognised sport
Back in the day, society perceived skateboarders as criminals and vandals, and in Malaysia, there are no exceptions. Denny ZFK recalled back in 1995, people would see them as troublemakers, “When we skate in public places, people see it as a form of vandalism. We would be skating on benches, jumped over it and when we saw a table, we would jump up and down from it.”
He also recalled running away from a police raid in the late 90s, “It was after class, late in the afternoon. We were doing a short session in front of Kuching Plaza mall. The police did a raid at the place. They came in a van, stopped abruptly at where we we skating, wanting to catch us. Luckily, I managed to escape!
“It’s not like they purposely want to catch us, but I think someone reported us for being a nuisance. But what can we do, there are no specific place to skate back then,” said the 40-year-old.
Nowadays, Denny is glad that the culture of skateboarding is no longer frowned upon.
“These days, we have more people joining in as people see it as an activity that brings more benefit than harm.”
What piqued his interest in the sport in his teenage years was a movie called ‘Skateboard Kid’. To young Denny, he was curious how the characters could do all the tricks while wearing casual outfits, instead of a uniform like most sports. “With skateboarding, I feel like we can wear whatever we like,” Denny explained.
Besides that, the culture of skateboarding can cultivate friendships. “Skate enthusiasts are a minority group but we are close-knitted. When I travel anywhere around Malaysia with my skateboard, I could easily make friends with another skateboarder. Even though I don’t know him, but if we skate together, it would feel like we have known each for a long time.”
Asked how he felt when he get on the board, he said, “The moment I put my foot on the skateboard and start cruising, it felt like freedom. For every skateboarder, when we manage to successfully perform a trick, especially difficult ones, it felt awesome.”
However, when he failed, he would usually take a rest and evaluate what he did wrong.
“I needed time to understand where I can improve myself, and when I try the trick again, it usually works.”
To him, any trick that involved jumping over 10 stairs was a challenge. “I had even injured myself several times. One time, I could not walk and had to depend on crutches. It happened during a competition I joined in the 90s. I cracked my heel bone.”
Though it happened when he was younger, Denny said it did not deter his parents’ support. “They weren’t angry that I injure myself. Surely, I was nagged a little bit. But, they took care of me and nursed me till I was better. And they supported me to this day as they can see the future in what I was doing.”
Denny said that the most important thing before skating was the pre-skating warm-up session. “In any sports, stretching for five minutes to warm the body up is important!”
School of Skateboarding
In 2016, after living in Kuala Lumpur for 12 years, Denny returned home to Kuching.
“When I came back, my old friends no longer skate. And most of the skateboarders were newbies.” Denny decided that he wanted to contribute to society with all the experiences he has gathered.
It was in the same year that he founded the School of Skateboarding (SOS) to inculcate positivity among the newbies of the sport. “In SOS, we have a syllabus. My students have to learn theory and practical. Under SOS, we also share proper attitudes and ethics to instil discipline and commitment.”
Since establishing SOS, Denny revealed that he had taught over 100 students. “I also teach international students — from Germany, Japan and France. When they visit Kuching with their parents, I would teach them.”
Before the pandemic, SOS regularly held classes during the weekends. “We would meet up at the Civic Centre Skatepark.” A beneficial sport, Denny opined that spending time on skateboarding can positively affect children. “When someone has a hobby, they will focus on it. It’s the same with skateboarding. After you learn a trick, you would want to try more challenging ones. So they would discipline themselves while practising it.”
The need for proper facilities
As a skateboarder and founder of SOS, Denny laments the lack of facilities in Sarawak. “Here, we are still far behind. In Kuala Lumpur, there are more than three proper skate parks. In Kuching, we only have one and even that is not fully equipped and does not meet the proper requirements.”
With a proper skate park, Denny said that local skateboarders could hone their skills in the sport. As skateboarding is an official sport in the Olympics and Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games), Denny hopes that local skateboarders can have the opportunity to practice in proper surroundings.
At the same time, he feels that local skateboarders have huge potentials and can go further. “We even have a skateboarder from Bintulu that competed in the SEA Games two years ago,” he added.