I met Robert at the 2016 Mt Keira IDF World Cup, he was on crutches, and as an event organiser you tend to avoid people on crutches :-). We struck up a great conversation, which continued via email later in the year, and it sort of turned into an interview.
Here it is, I hope you enjoy the read, you are going to learn a lot about the scene in Hong Kong. It is an amazing country, and it should be on your bucket list.
Hop: How old are you? Where do you live?
Rob: I’m 16, living in Hong Kong
Hong Kong[/caption] Hop: How long have you being skating? What board do you skate? Rob: It has probably been around 6 years since I first started skateboarding. Currently riding a board from Pantheon Longboards, stellar designs coming from my homie Jeff Vyain who’s now residing in Colorado, USA. Hop: How long have you lived in Hong Kong? Did you skate in the US before you moved to Hong Kong? Rob: I’ve been living in Hong Kong since 2010 but went back to live in New York City for a year and a half 2013-2014. Basically started skating in Hong Kong, at least this is where I met other skaters and started going down hills. Hop: When you started skating in Hong Kong. How did that happen? It seems so unlikely. Did you street skate or longboard first? Rob: Well I always had a normal skateboard since I was really small that I messed around with while I was little. It really wasn’t until I met another kid with a skateboard in like 5th grade that I was introduced to sliding and bombing hills haha. Hop: Do you have any sponsors? Rob: Yea. Repping for Pantheon Boards, Rey Trucks, and SBDW Longboard Shop!! A shout out to Ahmyo wheels for helping me out recently, supplying me with superb goods and putting out some edit of me. Hop: Do you short board skate? Or only longboarding? Rob: Ya I skate park and street pretty frequently though I’m not very good and either of them haha. You’ll usually find me at the park after school or when nobody’s down to skate hills. Hop: What is the scene like in Hong Kong? Are there many longboarders? Much of a downhill scene? Rob: Its nothing huge, but I love it. There’s probably a circle of less than 50 people that are into skating down hills, and there’s an even smaller circle of 6 or 7 that go out every week. I’m stoked though, sometimes we have some huge night sessions and I keep seeing more and more people I’ve never seen before. The scene is definitely growing! Hop: Is it mainly expats? Or are the locals into skating? Rob: On the contrary, it’s mostly local born and bred Hong Kongers that are taking an interest into downhill. There are only really 2 or 3 white guys on board and the rest are local haha. Hop: Are there any skateparks in Hong Kong?
Rob: Oh yea! The government spent a lot of money trying to get us dirty wood pushers off the streets ha. You can usually find me at one of the more popular ones; TKO skatepark in Kowloon.
Hop: What skateshops are in Hong Kong? Do they sell much longboard gear?
Rob: SBDW Longboard Shop! These are the boys! And yeah, they sell all the gear haha. That shop is built on dedication for skateboarding and NOT selling out! We got only the best from Pantheon to R.A.D. Wheels to Rogue Trucks.
Hop: Regarding skateparks: Is PKV Skatepark is closed? If not what is that park like, it looks enormous.
Rob: PKV is awesome. A bit hard to get to so I don’t go there that often. It’s definitely a sick park, quite big. It’s the more bowl/pool influenced park. It used to be only open for BMX but they just opened it up for skaters.
Hop: Morrison Park almost looks like a pump track? Is it a circuit? You could almost set up a slalom course there.
Rob: Ha yeah a slalom course would probably work there. I don’t think Morrison Park was built for skateboarding, its sort of a recreational bicycle track or something like that. Pretty fun to skate as it’s a circuit track with banked sides, and it’s a popular place for street skaters to be.
Hop: Is there anyone doing slalom or slalom races in Hong Kong?
Rob: I haven't seen anything like that here.
Hop: Can you give us the laws about skating in Hong Kong? Are you allowed to skate on the footpaths? On the road? What are fines if you are caught skating illegally on the road?
Rob: Well I don’t know the exact laws for skating. I know skateboarding is not very acknowledged in any of the rules in HK. One time we were skating this super steep windy walking path in one of the country parks and one of the ranger guys comes to kick us out. Lucky I had taken a picture of the rules and regulations board and showed him skateboarding was not banned in the park. We also showed him we could stop by sliding and could spot corners, putting nobody in danger. We were not kicked out. Also we made a new friend.
Hop: If someone is traveling to Hong Kong and want to bring their board, what is the best way to hook up with local crew? Is there a Facebook group or forum they can go to? Is SBDW Longboard shop the best place to go to find people to skate with?
Rob: Yeah there’s a group called “HK Longboard” on Facebook you can join. But the best way if you want to go out and skate that good shit is either message SBDW Longboard Shop on their page directly, or me. Hop: I don’t want you to blow any runs or local spots, but can you tell me what downhill runs there are in Hong Kong?
Rob: Well there’s To Shek, which is the hill SBDW takes all the beginners and teach them the basics. We don’t really skate “freeride” hills if you’re talking about straight hills and big stand-up slides. There is a pretty popular spot in Yuen Long that is sort of a closed road and really wide making it a really fun and safe road to draft and pull out some tiny drifts on. There are a bunch of gnarly insane roads on a few of the mountains which I can’t name. There's a really sketchy one way only a small few of us skate because there is a high chance of death, shits crazy.
Hop: Are they easily accessible or do you need a car? Hong Kong seems to have an amazing transport system, does that help you get to downhill locations?
Rob: The transportation system is definitely one of the best in the world. Having a car is a luxury and we do still skate without one, it’s great if someone comes out that can drive though.
Hop: I have been to Hong Kong a few times, the last time a few years ago there was a lot of smog or air pollution. Does this effect your skating? Are there times you don’t skate because of air pollution?
Rob: No there has never been a time I haven’t skated because of air pollution. Honestly, I don’t notice it anymore. At least it’s not like Beijing where my friends are wearing masks because it’s so bad.
Hop: Are there any races legit or grassroots in Hong Kong?
Burns: Well, um, no. We have the occasional outlaw, but they’re always super small. Along with the rest of the SBDW crew, we’ve hosted/organized 2 clinics in Guangzhou and Shenzhen. These cities are basically right outside the border of HK. Nothing is backed by any of the governments so it’s all illegal, but whatever.
Hop: Do you know of any plans to do any world class races in Hong Kong? If not, why not? Or what would it take to create one?
Rob: Harry Clarke has been trying to communicate with the HK gov for probably years now about getting an IDF race at a pretty perfect road on one of the outlying islands. No luck though. HKG is not about it.
Hop: What is the most dangerous thing about longboarding or downhill in Hong Kong? Rob: Well there are the normal things like cars, and pedestrians. Gotta look out for the occasional dog, and be careful of the cows haha. Hong Kong is a very densely population region, so there is sometimes an abundance of cars, buses, and trucks. Definitely got to watch out for the hikers on a lot of roads or trails.
Hop: You said you have to watch out for cows? Have you hit a cow before? I been to Hong Kong a few times, I have never seen a cow!
Rob: Haha the cows. Unfortunately I don't have any cool stories about hitting cows, I've had to dodge a few before. They mostly lurk around Sai Kung. Harry and this guy Mo have a video they sold to Break about skating around a herd of cows
Hop: Do you think you could hippy jump a cow?
Rob: If I could hippy jump a cow I would've tried out for a basketball team by now. Hop: What is Kendama? I see the toys on the SBDW website - is that part of the longboarding culture in Hong Kong? (Normally associated with rollerblading in the USA.)
Rob: Hahaha, Kendama! I’ve got no idea how to play Kendama but yes, it’s highly popular among longboard culture in Hong Kong and China. Ha didn’t know it was a thing with rollerbladers in the US.
Hop: There is light rail that takes you to top of Victoria Peak (highest mountain on Hong Kong island). Is this a run? Or is it too dangerous with traffic? Rob: I got a call from Harry Clarke and Pierre van Remoortere once at maybe 3 or 4 in the morning. They were trying to get me out of bed to skate Peak Rd and on to Stubbs Rd. I didn’t because I was sleep, but they’ve done it. You can’t skate it in daylight because there is mad traffic. Would be an awesome run, probably will do it one day in the future too. There is a road we used to skate a long time ago on the Peak that's a low traffic residential area. As we moved on to bigger hill we don’t go as often, but I’ll take a run down it once in a while because I live somewhat close.
Hong Kong city from "The Peak" (Victoria Peak)
Hop: Could you skate on that HKJC BMX Park?
Rob: Hm never thought about that, its dirt so I probably would not. Maybe I threw on some fat wheels we could sneak in and try haha.
Hop: Are there any talked about mountain roads that are too busy or gnarly to downhill on? Does Route Twist ever get skated?
Rob: Man! Route Twist is insane! I brought it up once a long time ago when I was nowhere near ready to skate something like that. Thank god we never did. It’s something I would really like to try skating but unfortunately most of the pavement is made with this stuff we call “death tar”. It’s like a sand paper type asphalt with glass in it to keep cars from slipping in the wet. If you fall on that stuff its gonna get up you skin like a cheese grater. I do hope to try and dawn patrol it sometime in the future.
Hop: Is the track on Needle Hill skateable? Or anyone skated the road to Robins Nest?
Rob: I’ve looked at both these roads on google maps, Needle Hill is paved with all concrete which isn’t too nice. Robins Nest looks like a possibility but we’ve been occupied with some new hill at the moment and I forgot about it. Definitely gonna try and check it out soon!
Hop: You have skated in a few different countries, Australia, USA, China. What is unique about skating in Hong Kong than other places in the world?
Rob: Well there are pro’s and con’s just like any other country. Public transportation makes it easy to get to spots, so not many people have cars meaning it’s difficult to shuttle full runs. The great thing is that Hong Kong is built around mountains, and we have some sick access roads that lead to weather stations and observatories.
Racing on Mt Keira, Wollongong
Hop: What are your racing plans for this year? You raced at Mt Keira, what is next? (Note: I asked this question in March)
Rob: Well Keira was the first race I did this season. Unfortunately landed in the hospital but it was still a good time. I’ve already booked tickets for the YuPing Cup IDF race in Chengdu, China. I went to the test race in September and it was a rip. I’m going back to the US of A this summer and starting it off with Killington in Vermont. Hopefully hitting some Canadian events like Giants Head and Whistler. Going to Burke Mountain Freeride. I think I’m driving from New York to California with my friend James who is moving to the west coast. Hitting up all the spots in between.
Rob at Giants Head Freeride photo by Nwest Media
Hop: I got ask about the food. Any must eat local food? Or places to eat? If I go to Hong Kong, visit SBDW skateshop are there any good places to eat nearby?
Rob: "Cha Siu Fan", BBQ roast pork over rice is the local favorite from office suits to construction workers. One of my favorite dishes depending on where you get it and what part of the pig they use. Also "Dong Yin Yearn", its a coffee/milk tea mix in ice which is super local Hong Kong; you can't get this anywhere else. You can most likely get it at any of the dai pai dong's (outdoor restaurant places) around SBDW haha but ask the guys to take you because they know what to get better than I.
Chinese BBQ Pork
And bottled Tsing Tao which is everyone's favourite beer, not the best of the best but very Hong Kong. I think they sell in Aus too if I remember right.
Hop: Huge thank you to Robert Burns for the interview. Any shout outs?
Rob: Shoutout to SBDW for giving me a 2nd home, all the homies for the adventures, and my parents for being chill. To Pantheon for supplying me with boards and Ahmyo for all the love.