Longboarder Mu Qing skates through the mega-city of Chengdu in China’s southwest, deftly dancing on and off her ride as a friend tails her from behind, filming on a smartphone.
With more than half a million followers on social media, Mu, 21, is one of longboarding’s biggest stars in the mainland.
She is among a growing group of young women in the country posting videos of their boarding adventures – tens of thousands of views on individual clips is the norm – giving the sport an unprecedented level of exposure.
It mirrors a similar trend in the West where the #girlscanride hashtag has gained popularity on social media, with many posting pictures of traditionally male-dominated sports like dirt-biking, skateboarding, and BMX.
Bigger and easier to manoeuvre than a skateboard, longboarders say it allows for a smoother and more comfortable ride, many using it in their daily commutes.
On Tik Tok, Mu puts up footage of herself riding around Chengdu performing stunts – twirling on and off her board – and even outtakes where she falls off. Her most popular videos attract millions of views.
“In the beginning, I thought [longboarding] was something that only delinquents would be involved in but after I met another female skater, I realised that the sport is not limited by gender,” Mu said.
Street culture elsewhere – which includes rap and graffiti art – is often used to expose social ills or dissatisfaction with the status quo. But in the mainland, where tattoos and even make-up can be considered politically sensitive or inappropriate, there seems little chance of that happening.
Most of Mu’s skating videos are in a style known as “longboard dancing”. Many of her fans from across the country are young and female.
“I am following her style [of skating] now, because I have seen her video, it feels that her style is relatively smooth, unlike someone who also falls off the board,” said Ten, a 17-year-old longboarder based in Beijing.
With skateboarding set to make its debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and break-dancing to be added to the programme in 2024, what was once seen as a niche subculture is gradually entering the mainstream.
“Skateboarding and longboarding are not limited to either gender,” Mu said.
“Whether you’re a guy or a girl … 30 or 40 years old, you can take part in this sport. There is no limit to it, and even girls can perform very well.”