he development of Ghana’s first skate park is pioneering creativity and sustainable tourism in West Africa. As a result, action sports, particularly skateboarding, take on a fresh twist. Sandy Alibo, the brain behind Skate Nation and Surf Ghana, is on her way to turning Ghana and West Africa into a massive recreational and creative destination.
On December 15, 2021, Ghana’s creative community, volunteers, skateboard enthusiasts, and Accra residents opened the Freedom Skate Park. Alibo, a native of the Caribbean, relocated to Ghana from France in 2016 and is determined to realize her goal.
“When I initially arrived in Ghana, I met surfers on the beach and learned there were no platforms to assist the African surfing scene,” says Alibo, who develops content and events for action sports.
Through dedication and hard work, the surfing community became an NGO whose main objective is to provide sporting equipment for surfers in Ghana. So far, Alibo and Surf Ghana—with the support of volunteers and friends worldwide—have collected and donated over 230 pieces of sports equipment and trained over 200 children in surfing and skating. Today, the skating community has a home with the relentless aid of global brands and icons like Virgil Abloh, Daily Paper, and Vans.
The Surf Ghana online community grew over the years and, in 2020, launched a crowdfunding campaign to commence the skate park project. Volunteers, supporters, and some brands worldwide believed in Surf Ghana’s dream and have supported them with their generous donations. Freedom Skate Park is located within Accra’s bubbly suburbs, East Legon, increasingly drawing the international community’s attention.
Ghana’s appearance at the recent Tokyo Olympic Games for the skateboarding category has further inspired these skaters to aim high.
Freedom Skate Park, brilliant in architecture, spans 5,382 feet with a distinctive Adinkra symbol representing the Akan word “Fawohodie,” meaning freedom and emancipation. Volunteers from some parts of Africa and Europe helped construct this magnificent structure that skateboarders in Ghana now call home. The park is painted bright yellow and black, including the names of all supporters who contributed to the cause. However, the most outstanding of the inscriptions on the wall is the statement: “Virgil Was Here,” which recounts the contribution of Virgil Abloh and the legacy he left for the young who looked up to him.
“When you try to develop new things in a country, it’s difficult to convince people,” says Alibo, who faced challenges when she started building this dream. As a non-Ghanaian woman, leading a project team with 90% men can be difficult, and finding a seat can be challenging, but Alibo has also seen the movement’s growth.
“I am pleased with the community that we are developing, and I see the advantages since most of the skateboarders I encountered in the early phases were school dropouts but today have acquired employable skills as a consequence of the expansion of this park,” she adds.
The Freedom Skate Park is not only an avenue for action sports but a vast infrastructure for change, community, and entrepreneurship. It promotes creativity through self-expression, mental health, and self-confidence of the African youth. Today, the skate park attracts global community attention, especially from the media, investors, and the diaspora. As Ghana continues to receive annual PR on travel, partying, and merrymaking, Surf Ghana is taking advantage of the opportunity to bring skateboarders home and together. News about the park has encouraged Nigeria to commence building its first skate park, and that’s another bundle of joy Africa cannot wait to share.
Alibo and Surf Ghana give young people a shared outlet. In the afternoons and on weekends, you’ll see aspiring young skaters of all colors, nationalities, economic backgrounds, and races here at the park learning and competing harmoniously. Ghana’s appearance at the recent Tokyo Olympic Games for the skateboarding category has further inspired these skaters to aim high.
“The park in itself is promoting gender equality by encouraging competition for and between women skaters locally and internationally,” says Alibo as she narrates how vital the park’s building is.
Alibo and her team are not quitting any time soon. This is just the beginning as they’re developing more than just skating but a sports and recreation industry. Through skate tours, Alibo and her team embark on road trips to rural communities to discover new talents, train new skaters, and expand the skating community outside Accra. The park in itself is advancing sustainable and responsible tourism for locals and the diaspora by connecting skaters and first-time visitors together in the creative and arts industry. Today the park is raising the next generation of filmmakers, artists, designers, and creatives as the youth have found their arch to freedom.
The Freedom Skate Park is a manifestation of a tremendous push for what the African youth have yearned for years. The skate community in Ghana has a bright future, and with more funding and support, the park will eventually be able to include a Wi-Fi Café, a specialist training and mentorship center, and a skate shop. The park has gotten little official attention so far, but Sandy and her team won’t be stopping anytime soon. Alibo is confident about the future of skateboarding in Ghana and the African continent as she and her team are breaking the odds to foster community, creativity, and the determination to succeed in a world dominated by men.