In the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is a store catering to the city’s skateboarders. It is called Saigon Skateshop, and it was founded by a 26-year-old man named Thong. Thong is the oldest member of a group of skateboarders in the city. When the shop was opened, the goal was to fill a gap in the skating scene. Previously, the only skateboards that could be found were cheap ones from China that would break easily. The shop is run by Thong, his friends and fellow skateboarders. While the shop exists to sell boards, clothing and other accessories, it also serves as headquarters for Thong and his friends; they gather at the shop and then head out on motor scooters to seek out places to skate.
Skating in Ho Chi Minh City can be tough. Traffic is heavy, and the pavement is uneven. There is some respite, though. Outside the city and at the end of a long and dusty road stands the only skate park in town. Built in 2013, the park costs a little over $2 to get in. It is a little run-down and the roof leaks, especially during the rainy season. Despite this, young people who skate in the park are happy with it and can’t imagine asking for anything more. It is a place where the skateboarders feel as if they can be themselves. At the shop, the skateboarders put on a serious face, all business. But when they get to the skate park, they open up, showing off their tattoos and laughing as they skate. Skateboarding is relatively new to Vietnam but is gaining in popularity every day.
Photographer Martin Bertrand recently traveled to Vietnam to explore the burgeoning skate scene there. These photos show what he found.
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