SINGAPORE, June 9 — When 34-year-old renovation contractor MD Hossain picked up rollerblading in Singapore two months ago, he was excited about the prospect of trying a new sport that he could not experience back home in Bangladesh.

Hossain said his home village does not have paved roads, which would make skating there “very difficult and dangerous”.

Though he has worked here for almost 15 years, he started rollerblading only in April this year, after a friend introduced him to a skating interest group for migrant workers.

Before this, Hossain said he usually spent his free time on Sundays just relaxing, or going around Singapore to visit places of interest.

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But such is his love for his new pastime that he prefers to spend his free time skating these days.

On what drew him to the sport, Hossain said: “It’s very good, but learning is hard. Everybody has a sport they like — some want cricket, some want football. I like this one, my choice.”

Hossain is a member of a skating interest group made up of more than 200 migrant workers from four countries: The Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh and India.

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The group — the Skate Club Singapore — was founded by six friends from the Philippines in September 2022. It has since ballooned in membership through social media postings and word of mouth.

Ella Lyn, 35, one of the six friends who founded the interest group, told TODAY that she was very surprised when the group started getting bigger.

She did not expect people to join them as they were not professionals in the sport, but she believes that prospective members probably saw the “energy, fun, good vibes and pictures of places we have been to ride”.

A group picture of Skate Club Singapore at the 100Plus Promenade in Singapore June 2, 2024. — TODAY pic
A group picture of Skate Club Singapore at the 100Plus Promenade in Singapore June 2, 2024. — TODAY pic

‘Skating keeps us stress-free’

Lyn, a domestic helper, said that the original group of six had started skating during the Covid-19 pandemic, as they were limited by the type of activities they could do outdoors together.

They all grew to love the hobby.

“Skating helps us because it keeps us stress-free for the whole week,” she said.

“I started with nothing, I didn’t know this type of sport. But we just tried it, and we like it.

“We’re not professionals. Most of us just like the pictures we take while skating and the adventures in the park. We just enjoy it — the views, the parks — we can go around Singapore and we enjoy it.”

Lyn said the group welcomes anyone who wishes to join. The only prerequisite is that members buy their own rollerblades and safety gear such as knee and elbow pads.

The club’s members take turns to guide and teach newcomers on the basics of rollerblading.

Today, Lyn is an administrator of the skate club. The group meets between 9am and 9pm every Sunday, at gate seven of the National Stadium’s 100Plus Promenade.

A member of the group would usually cook and prepare food each week, which they share in the morning before setting off to skate, said Lyn.

They aim to attempt different routes each week, which could include skating from the stadium to East Coast Park, Marina Barrage or Marina Bay Sands.

When TODAY met the group on June 2, they had just returned from skating at the Jurassic Mile along the Changi Airport Connector.

Sporting a yellow and black custom-printed T-shirt designed by a club member, Lyn said: “Actually we were just thinking, if we rode in one place or in one park and we were wearing different outfits with different colours, it’s not that nice.

“So we thought it’s better we have a uniform. So each place we go, we have nice pictures because we’re all wearing the same T-shirts.”

The bright yellow shirts also serve as an avenue for recruiting new members.

Lyn said: “A lot of people see us and they go, ‘Oh! This is a skate club?’ when they read our uniforms.

“When we go skating, people will approach us on how to join our team. So we just tell them to come to the stadium, buy your own gear and skates, and we will guide you.”

To date, the club has had three iterations of their T-shirt. These include a long-sleeved version, to offer sun protection during long rides under the sun.

The third and latest T-shirt design is an “international version of our uniform”, said Mercy Dumlao, who designed the shirts. She is also part of the original group of six friends who founded the skate club.

This version features the national flags of the four countries the club’s members hail from.

The group also started a Facebook group to collate and share pictures of the views from their skate routes around Singapore.

“Our old pictures and memories will stay there (online),” said Lyn.

“Because we are not citizens of Singapore, when we go home, at least we have memories of rollerblading here in Singapore.”

Members of the Skate Club Singapore showing their skating moves at the 100Plus Promenade in Singapore June 2, 2024. — TODAY pic
Members of the Skate Club Singapore showing their skating moves at the 100Plus Promenade in Singapore June 2, 2024. — TODAY pic

A community away from home

It is also through the group’s Facebook page and other social media platforms such as TikTok that members Mithu Arifurzaman and Reynalyn Cidro came to join the club.

Arifurzaman, 36, a construction site supervisor from Bangladesh, joined the group in November 2022 after seeing their Facebook page.

He remembered thinking that rollerblading looked fun, after watching some videos of the group. He did not know how to skate and only picked up the sport through the club.

Today, Arifurzaman also serves as an administrator of the skate club’s WhatsApp group for male members.

As administrator, he helps to plan the club’s weekly routes, broadcasts announcements to other members in the WhatsApp group, and documents pictures and videos of their rides to be uploaded onto the club’s Facebook page.

For Arifurzaman, who works long hours from Mondays to Saturdays — sometimes stretching from 5.30am to 10pm — being able to spend his rest days rollerblading breaks the monotony of work and brings him happiness.

“Coming here, I have more friends, more brothers and sisters... and I also enjoy (myself) more here,” he said.

Agreeing, Cidro said: “I joined the skate club because I want to enjoy my day off, and to meet others from other countries and be friends.”

The 31-year-old domestic helper from the Philippines joined the group in October last year. She had reached out to club members after seeing videos of the club on TikTok.

Cidro picked up the sport in a day, and now also helps to coach newer members of the club.

She said that Sunday’s skate trip from the National Stadium to Changi Jurassic Mile is her favourite route to date, and that she generally feels much happier being able to spend her free time rollerblading.

Besides building new friendships and finding a community of their own away from home, Joan Soria Villanueva, 38, said the weekly exercise makes her body feel good.

While she was initially apprehensive as she did not know how to skate, she was thankful she could pick up the sport slowly and at her own pace through the club.

Today, the domestic helper said she also joins her employer on rides to Marina Bay in their free time.

Asked about her hopes for the club as it approaches its two-year anniversary in September, Lyn said: “I hope for more people to join us and experience the good vibes — to share more ideas and opinions with each other.

She added: “Being far away from our family is not easy, so we plan more excitement and help each other to be fit mentally.

“As I always remind them, we are not (of the) same culture and character, but we can be the same by showing respect and being kind, so each and every one has the memories to remember when we go back home.” — TODAY