COVID-19 has led many to keeping themselves confined between four walls. And while this is helpful in impeding transmission of the virus, being stuck at home can have a lot of negative impacts on one’s health. So with a few precautions, spending time outdoors — where the possibility of transmission is known to be lower, is highly encouraged.
The World Health Organization advised people in self-quarantine without any symptoms of the Coronavirus to stay physically active during their time of confinement. Examples of physical activity included walking and at-home exercises. However, since at-home isolation has been going on for over five months now, many people around Egypt and the world have decided to get creative with their physical activities and hobbies.
Of those activities are rollerskating, skateboarding and biking, all hobbies and modes of transport popular in cities and towns where the roads are more equipped for walking and similar activities. However, in Egypt they have made a comeback with the decrease in traffic and an increase of free time for many, especially students.
The popularity of rollerskating initially skyrocketed in the U.S., where Google search interest skyrocketed to a five-year high in early May, according to the New York Post.
Egyptian Streets spoke to fans of the activity, along with those of skateboarding and biking, to learn more about their recently inspired practice of it.
“I’ve been biking for around a month now. I bought it a means of exercising. I’ve been wanting to buy a bike for a couple of years now, especially since I have good memories of it ever since I was young. Quarantine-ing this long period of time gave me the impulse of buying a bike in order to reminisce about the good old times,” Farida El Deeb said.
But in El Deeb’s experience, the benefits of this hobby were not exclusively physical.
“Biking has totally been good for my mental health in quarantine! I’ve even reached the point if I don’t go on my daily bike ride I get moody and cranky. The feeling of the wind blowing in your face while listening to good music is an immeasurable feeling,” El Deeb added.
While many, including El Deeb, learned to ride a bike from their parents from an early age, the same does not apply for skateboarding, a self-taught activity for its specific fans.
“I’ve just always wanted to try so, one day last year I just went online and ordered a skateboard locally and started teaching myself to skate!” Amenah Abouward told Egyptian Streets.
Abouward has been skateboarding for over a year now, but has been practicing a lot more often since the pandemic started.
“It’s a nice way to go out and take a breath of fresh air without worrying about social distancing as much. I honestly haven’t gone to any skate parks or public spaces because of safety issues and just because I feel like I’m not good enough of a skater yet,” Abouward added.
Samir Becic, health and fitness expert, said that skateboarding is indeed beneficial to one’s physical health, as well as mental. It provides flexibility, offers a full-body workout as well as improving coordination. He also added that it teaches consequences, practice and patience.
“It provides a perfect opportunity for a young person to take calculated risks in a controlled environment, with very real and immediate consequences if maneuvers are not executed properly,” Becic said.
Shahd El Ashmawy, a new skateboarder, started because of the pandemic and also being inspired by TikTok videos.
“I try to skate as much as I can but Egypt isn’t really the safest of places to learn so progress has been a bit slow. It’s been nice to have a new skill to focus on, especially since it requires a lot of patience so I was pretty certain this was something I wasn’t gonna be able to master in a couple of weeks and then drop and be bored again,” El Ashmawy said.
El Ashmawy added that she has felt it has been a good outlet for distraction, despite being slightly restrictive due to location and that Egypt is not the most specialized in the skateboarding field.
“The streets aren’t really safe, especially for girls because it ends up with catcalls amongst other things. Not to mention that the ground itself, whether in the streets or in clubs, isn’t smooth and has a lot of breakages and pebbles and irregularities, all of which could toss you off your board very easily,” she added.
Despite the obstacles, people like Mostafa Karama have been practicing skateboarding for many years now. He started in 2011, and made skateboarding his main hobby. He later founded Egypt Skateboarding Hub where he tries to unite Egypt’s skateboarders.
“Skating is like any sport. Every person has their own capability. When I started skating, I was slow, then I became good at it with practice,” Karama said.
While Karama said that he skated less during quarantine, going from an average of five times a week to two times, he was still able to practice the sport.
“I wished I could skate during quarantine, but the people that always used to skate with me would not skate as much because of the virus. Over time, we started meeting up more and skating more. Unlike the gym or university, it was a privilege for me during quarantine that I could still skate, and it definitely helped me. I would practice it normally, taking my precautions, skating in empty open spaces,” he added.
Also considered a niche activity, rollerskating was once considered a childhood activity for some that they have revisited after its online popularity resurgence.
Kareema Hamdy practiced rollerblading as a child, but decided to revisit a different form of it after a long break during the quarantine.
“I was with my parents in London, we saw a bunch of kids rollerblading in the street, and I thought I wanted to do that. I was only six years old, so my dad just bought me a generic pair of rollerblades, and he started teaching me in the house. He would hold my hand on a carpet in the house and I would move around with them I caught on really quickly, so he decided he’s going to ditch the generic cheap pair and he bought me an actual professional pair of rollerblades, and I started rollerblading,” Hamdy told Egyptian Streets.
Hamdy later outgrew her rollerblades and stopped practicing. When the pandemic forced people to stay home, she rediscovered her love for the sport.
“I bought myself a pair of quad skates, and I tried using them a few times. Of course, the very first time I tried them, I nearly face planted into the ground because inline skates are easier to balance. But again, it just took a few hours of practice and I think I started getting the hang of it,” Hamdy added.
Hamdy expressed that her experience with her quad skates has been entertaining and a fun way to be physical and move around. She emphasized how enjoyable it has been for her to revisit the old activity and try it out with close friends.
However, similarly to skateboarding, it has been difficult for her to find suitable spaces in Egypt because she said it needs smooth ground.
“It just needs a lot of patience. You have to be willing to fall a few times in order to get the hang of moving around. It needs a little bit of bravery to be able to push yourself into doing it, because if you’re just scared and trying not to fall, it’s probably not going to work as well. But I mean, the falls are also fun,” Hamdy added.
Zeina Rostom, who has also become fond of rollerskating during the quarantine period, has agreed that the falls are a fun part of the experience.
“I’ve been doing it for three months. I needed a physical activity I can do both indoors and outdoors without having to come in contact with other humans,” Rostom said.
Rostom told Egyptian Streets that rollerskating is like learning a to ride a bike.
“Once you get into the rhythm of it, you’re golden, and every day you ride your muscles get a bit stronger allowing you more control,” she said.
Rostom added that listening to music and focusing on the motions of the activity has been very relaxing for her at this time.
Omar El Kholy also used to practice rollerskating when he was young as a hobby many years ago, and bought new rollerskates at the beginning of quarantine to enjoy his time at home.
“The learning process back then when I was young wasn’t very difficult for me, and when I bought it now, it took a couple of days to get the techniques back. It was surely a perfect way to spend this hard time, and for my mental health in general it was very useful,” El Kholy said.
People worldwide have been in consensus that outdoor physical activity has been immensely helpful to them in a time where other regular activity has been limited, regardless of which activity it is. Getting fresh air and sunlight has never been more important.