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American Skateboarders in Iran

The short film posted above is part of videographer Patrik Wallner’s Visualtraveling series, which features skateboarders in countries that people wouldn’t normally associate with the sport. In “The Persian Version,” an international group of professional skateboarders take a truly unique trip to the Islamic Republic.

The two Americans, Kenny Reed and Walker Ryan, were prohibited from skating in Iran, except once when they visited a skatepark. So, while their colleagues glided through one of the oldest and most restrictive countries in the world, the Americans had to travel with a 67-year-old tour guide.

“Just being told what you can and cannot do, 24-hours a day. I mean, we had a babysitter the whole time,” said Ryan.

French skater Michael Mackrodt saw the Iranians as engaging in tit-for tat behavior, “They want to show the Americans that you give Iranians a hard time when they come to America, so we do the same…”

While exposing some of the country’s many contradictions, the film invites viewers to arrive at their own conclusions. It also provides a glimpse of Iranian young people, many of whom have very different world-views than their parents and grandparents (who lived through the hardships of the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Iraq War).

M.J. Rahimi, a pioneering Iranian skateboard manufacturer, was jubilant after hanging out with the athletes.

“This is the best ten days of my life,” he said. “I’m really excited about your trip and to see professional skateboarders here. My biggest dream is one day, I can make a skateboard for a professional skateboarder.”

Skateboarding, rooted in rebellion, is an American sport that has gained international appeal. Despite decades of hostility between the governments of Iran and the US, Wallner’s documentary reveals that skateboarding is now also an Iranian sport, and the stuff of some Iranians’ dreams. As skaters would say, that’s just “sick.”

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