Meet the Ghanaian-American helping build West Africa’s skate empire

Kofi Dotse January 03, 2023
Kwami Adzitso. Photo credit: Ariana Katechis

Ghana’s thriving skate community is not only inspiring the world but calling on diasporans to return home.

In the heart of Accra, Ghana’s capital, just within the airport enclave of the bustling city, lies  Freedom Skate Park, a massive infrastructure for sustainable tourism and social change. Ghana’s only first skate park, which opened a year ago on December 15th 2021, is fast becoming the next destination for visitors and diasporans returning home. The skate park, a part of Virgil Abloh’s dream, is now home to thousands of young people who are a growing force and are becoming West Africa’s skate empire.

Today, just after a year of its opening, the skate park is seeing a lot of attention, especially from African diasporans looking for a reason to return home. After Virgil Abloh, Kwami Adzitso, a Ghanaian-American professional skateboarder, is one of the many who have found a reason to return home. Kwami, who currently lives in Long Beach, California, after relocating in 2001 due to some hardships, is taking over the skate scene abroad. My family relocated to a refugee camp in Ghana while awaiting asylum. We lived in the camp until I was seven years old before moving to the United States,” Kwami said.

Kwami has been skateboarding for 15 years, and learning about Ghana’s Freedom Skate Park caught his attention, influencing his decision to return home to join his brothers and sisters. It gave me a feeling of satisfaction and euphoria, letting me know that all the years of hard work are paying off and, in other words, a full circle moment”. Kwami said.  

For Kwami, having a skate park back home is a dream come true, and it means a lot to skate for the first time on Ghanaian soil, finally. Unlike others, skateboarding began as a recreation for Kwami in middle school abroad. After school, Kwami will borrow a skateboard from a friend to practice the sport. Not long after, his parents bought his first skateboard. “Skateboarding started as a means of transportation. Once we found out you could do tricks from the video game Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, we were hooked”. Kwami said.

Kwami picked up skateboarding as a hobby because few activities were available then, and it was costly for him, especially as he came from an immigrant family. “My parents didn’t have much money to spend on outdoor activities….” he stated. Kwami was relentless and discovered skateboarding as a sport that could be done by himself or as a group, which drew him more to it. 

Freedom Skate Park. Photo Credit: Kofi Dotse

Kwami’s story growing up is not different from the young skateboarders we find on the streets of Accra and other Sub-saharan African countries. Stories like Kwami’s inspired Sandy Alibo, who is one of the brains behind Surf Ghana and Skate Nation Ghana, two communities that influenced the building of the skate park. The freedom skate park, since its inception, has served as a safe space for young and upcoming professional skaters and an avenue for self-expression. Today, the freedom skate park brings action sports to Ghana’s urban sphere whilst offering opportunities for its young citizens.

The skateboarding ecosystem in West Africa is finally getting the attention it deserves, and the rest of the world is not ready. Recently, countries like Nigeria have been inspired by Ghana’s freedom skate park and are working towards having a skate park in Lagos. South Africa’s skate scene has existed since the early ‘60s and is still thriving. In Kenya, skateboarding is transforming the lives of street children in various communities. Today, Ghana, through freedom skate park, with the help of donors and people like Kwami, is contributing to transforming the lives of the African youth.

For Kwami, West Africa’s skateboarding scene is all about community and bringing people together to have a great time, and that has been one of his reasons for coming back home. A handful of skateboarders in Ghana look up to Kwami, who has been their role model and icon. For about seven years, Kwami has been aching to return home upon hearing of the great news within the skate scene in Ghana. “It was vital for me to go home after seven years for several reasons. One being the skateboard community was beginning to develop in Ghana. Sandy Alibo and  Surf Ghana reached out to me a few years ago to share their fundraising efforts to build the Freedom Skatepark in Accra; I just knew that I had to help in any way”.  Kwami said

For Kwami, returning home and being at the first anniversary of the freedom skate park means a lot. Aside from being a dream come true, coming back home after many years to support and nurture the youth is rewarding. “I feel like when you’re presented with the opportunity to do good and give back in the end, the feeling is always rewarding, and that’s exactly how it felt,” he said.  Kwami supports the skate community in Ghana by serving as a role model to train and inspire the youth. Through collaborating with Sandy and her team at Surf Ghana, Kwami is helping raise funds to grow the skate community here in Ghana. 

Kwami believes African skateboarding has a future, and just like soccer, it will be the next big thing for Africa in a few years. “I feel like I can help grow the scene by continuing to do what I do, teaming up with my sponsors to find ways to provide skateboard necessities to the skaters and getting coverage via different media outlets to put Ghana skateboarding on the map,” he said. Kwami wants the rest of West Africa to know that there’s someone here, pushing for the continent to get recognition as far as action sports are concerned and to make it to the skateboarding Olympics finally.

Kwami hopes to visit the rest of Africa in the next few years,  partnering with organisations with the same passion for providing skateboarding opportunities to as many African youths as possible. Kwami is thankful to Sandy and her team for birthing this great idea and to Virgil Abloh, whose legacy still lingers.

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