In Hong Kong, A Rollerskating Community Is Promoting Inclusion
Snooky Wong, the co-founder of Hong Kong-based skate shop Madame Quad Skate Emporium, explains why life is better on wheels
Rollerskating is growing as a sport in Hong Kong, thanks to the efforts of dedicated skaters like Snooky Wong and the close-knit community that she and fellow enthusiasts are building based on the founding principles of acceptance and inclusion.
Born in Hong Kong, Wong lived in the UK when she was younger but moved to Australia for university. After returning to Hong Kong in 2009, she struggled to get onto a master’s degree course in psychology, and while she tried to decide on the path she should follow in life, she volunteered with charities, watched films and ate junk food.
During these self-described “very depressing binge-eating days”, she watched Whip It, the 2009 US comedy film about a girl who breaks free from societal conformity through roller derby, a two-team sport played on quad skates. Wong, who skated as a child, was intrigued. “[I remember] thinking ‘Oh my God, this is amazing,’ and that this was something I could actually do,” she says.
The first roller derby team in Hong Kong was established in 2013 and, after finding her way into the group a year later, Wong became one of its most dedicated proponents. She launched Madame Quad, a skate emporium and training group which organises events like roller discos, with fellow skater and Gen.T honouree Milanie Bekker in 2019. Here, Wong reveals what keeps her skate dreams rolling.
I talk a lot and I’m always dreaming about something. I was always saying “We need to start a skate shop”, and people would agree, but that would be the end of it. One day, Milanie came up to me and said, “If you want to start a skate shop, I’m with you. Let’s do it together.” From there, we became best friends. She always has such a bright attitude. When we are in public, I sometimes get a little withdrawn and drained from social interactions, but she’s always so good—sometimes too good, and I have to drag her away to stop her talking to so many people. When I’m with her, I feel much safer and more secure. She’s the best business partner.
Madame Quad is on the second floor of an obscure building in Causeway Bay. When we first opened the shop, we didn’t have many skaters coming in. People didn’t even know you could buy skates, so it was very much about rediscovering a love for rollerskating for Hongkongers. For a time, we assumed that every single person coming to us was actually looking for the candle shop that was there before us—and they often were.
Running the business has been a painful learning curve. I had no previous retail experience—I had sold beers in a bar but that was it. Now, there are times where I look at my sales report and I think, “Did I mess something up?” because I cannot believe how well we’re doing. People are thirsty for rollerskating; it brings back childhood memories. It’s funny that something like rolling down a hill a little faster than walking pace can make people so happy, but it does. It’s amazing to see the community growing in Hong Kong.