Source: ABC News
A man from Broken Hill has accomplished a dream almost three years in the making to provide a South-East Asian country with its first official skate park.
Tom Drury grew up in the Silver City but spent several years traveling overseas with his board in hand. One of these trips was to South-East Asia, where he spent five to six years living near the Thailand-Laos border. “Living abroad by myself, I found it quite lonely at times,” Mr. Drury said.
“Laos people have always been so kind to me and really made me feel like family.
“The first time I went there was 11 years ago and I noticed there was no skate park, and I’d seen through the years some attempts to get parks built.” Mr. Drury says Laos has a growing skating community, but the sport is not taken seriously. That was something he hoped to change with the building of a skate park in the capital, Vientiane.
Years in the making
Mr. Drury began in 2020 by engaging on non-government organization Make Life Skate Life, which built India and Nepal’s first skate parks. Describing the journey over the past few years as “a bit of a rollercoaster”, Mr. Drury said the two biggest obstacles were finding land for the park and money to build it.
“I started cold-calling around looking for land. We were really lucky. We found this great couple in Laos that donated us the land,” he said.
Mr. Drury spent months between late 2020 and early 2021 skateboarding thousands of kilometers up Australia’s east coast, ultimately raising $45,000 for the project. A range of sponsors also jumped on board to help provide materials, skateboards, and accessories.
Despite the support, construction had to be put on hold during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented Mr. Drury from re-entering Laos until late last year.
Works on the park finally began in January this year with volunteers from across the world working to complete the build by mid-February. In the days since the park has held free skateboarding programs run by locals to teach skating and to discuss its health benefits.
The park also has several loan skateboards, which can be checked out in a similar way to a library book.
Reflecting on his efforts over the past three years and in achieving his vision for the park, Mr. Drury said he felt “complete”. “My heart is just so full … it really has been such an amazing experience and it’s really taken off,” he said.
After a few more weeks in Asia, Mr. Drury plans to return to Australia for the time being. Eventually, though, he hopes to return to pursue other endeavors, such as additional skate park projects. “It starts with one skate park but it’s kind of like a stepping stone into the future of skateboarding for these countries,” he said.
“Because when the government and the people start seeing the positive rippling effect it does for the community, they’re likely to want to build on it.”