The Loaded Ambassadors are an international team of like-minded people who, with the help of Loaded Boards, cultivate love and togetherness through the sport of longboarding. The Loaded Ambassadors are made up of individuals of different cultures, ethnicities, and walks of life who all follow the same goal of growing the community that longboarding is made of, and fostering new, long lasting relationships with those around them and abroad.
This is the story of Loaded Ambassador Yassine Boundouq, a 23-year-old longboarder from Safi, Morocco.[caption id="attachment_22498" align="alignnone" width="625" caption="Yassine Boundouq reading the reader"][/caption]
Currently living in Philadelphia, Yassines first-ever encounter with a longboard was during his late teenage years at Khawarismy High School. After witnessing his friend practicing with his longboard, Yassine knew he was hooked.[caption id="attachment_22497" align="alignnone" width="625" caption="Yassine Boundouq in Safi, Morocco"][/caption]
Remembering his first encounter, Yassine says that I liked the way his body would move with the board, how the tricks were different then what I would normally see with a skateboard.After witnessing the sport for the first time, Yassine went in search of a place to buy his first board. But fully stocked skate shops were hard to come by in Morocco at the time. It was rare to find a longboard; most of the riders had to order from outside the country. [caption id="attachment_22499" align="alignnone" width="625" caption="High flying movements with Yassine"][/caption]
After searching non-stop, Yassine found an old used longboard in a small local shop, Tamara. But since money was tight and his parents were only willing to pay for his schooling, Yassine had to plead with the owner to hold it for him until he could afford to get it. It wasnt until summer that Yassine found a job working in construction with his father that he was finally able to afford his first board. I bought my first longboard for $150 and told my parents it was only $75 so they wouldnt get mad at me.[caption id="attachment_22501" align="alignnone" width="625" caption=""Told my parents it was only $75 so they wouldn't get mad at me""][/caption]
Despite not being a new and perfect board, Yassines fascination quickly turned into a new-found passion. Seeking tips and help in learning new maneuvers, Yassine unfortunately found himself skating alone after a falling out with the person who first inspired him. He even blocked me on Facebook, Yassine recounts.
It didnt end there. Yassine remembers the difficulties and lack of support from all of those around him when he first started out. When I started, nobody supported me. And when I say nobody, I mean my parents, my entire family, even society in general. Everyone was making fun of me because they had this idea that skateboarding is just for kids. So, my first goal was to prove them wrong but also make them proud by trying to make a difference. I used to skate every single day, sometimes from 8pm until 2am by myself. Nobody was close to me and would teach me. Other skaters use to make fun of me when I would go to skate at the small local park. But after working hard at it and practicing non-stop, I slowly started to earn their respect.[caption id="attachment_22502" align="alignnone" width="625" caption="Yassine was our local guide during the filming of "Tarab | A Moroccan Longboarding Adventure""][/caption]
His drive was fueled by the videos he would see on YouTube. With longboarding trick tips and other self-education videos, Yassines skate abilities grew quickly. With his newly learned skills, he put together his first skate-edit. But Yassine was ready to take on greater endeavors to test his limits and promote excitement for his new-found passion.[caption id="attachment_22503" align="alignnone" width="625" caption="Yassine embarks on his first long-trek"][/caption]
My first long-distance trip on my board was 80 miles, done in one day. A few months later, I started thinking about what I could do for the community. Slowly, people started coming to skate with me. In January of 2014, I decided to put on the first longboard competition in Morocco. It was a slalom contest with painted water bottles as cones. 20 people showed up; everyone took turns using my board for the competition. It was an awesome experience.[caption id="attachment_22504" align="alignnone" width="625" caption="Yassine taking the time to teach the next generation"][/caption]
Wanting to spread the word of the slowly growing scene in Morocco, Yassine made another video of himself. But rather than just focus on skating, he wanted to shed some light on what was going on in the community around him. Through his second video project, he got in touch with Lotfi Lamaali, a Loaded Ambassador from Morocco currently living in France.[caption id="attachment_22505" align="alignnone" width="960" caption="Lotfi Lamaali, DockSession organizer visiting Morocco"][/caption]
That video was the changing point in my longboarding career. I was able to get in touch with Lotfi, who told me that he was going to talk with his sponsors about me. So yeah, after our first chat, Loaded Boards sent me a brand new Tesseract with lots of other gifts. I came home and found the box in my room. It was like a dream come true.[caption id="attachment_22506" align="alignnone" width="625" caption="Yassine taking his Loaded Tesseract to new heights"][/caption]
After witnessing the fruits of his efforts and seeing a company willing to support him, Yassines family changed their tune and began supporting and encouraging him to do more. Yassine remembers, All of a sudden, family started believing in me. My mom even started asking me when I would be making new videos. That was really weird for me to hear.With support from his family, Yassine began to feel a sense of purpose and responsibility to the longboarding community and his family alike.
I felt that I had more responsibilities to fulfill and more personal goals to achieve. I began making priorities, with building the longboard community in Morocco as my main one.[caption id="attachment_22507" align="alignnone" width="625" caption="Community building is at the top of Yassine's to-do list"][/caption]
Yassine knew he needed to show people the experience that got him so addicted to longboarding. He wanted to sharing the sensations that he got when riding, sure that anyone willing to try would succumb to the same fascination that gripped him in the beginning. I started getting people to try my board, giving them the chance to ride it and feel the same feelings that I felt. After that, more people started watching me when I train and I could feel their interest in participating.[caption id="attachment_22508" align="alignnone" width="625" caption="Sometimes, trying something new means stepping out of your comfort zone"][/caption]
Knowing he had to keep the momentum going, Yassine began organizing free weekly skate sessions. It worked out well for Yassine, with 20-30 people showing up for each skate session. His materials and resources were limited: It was difficult to manage everything and only have 3 boards for everyone to share. But seeing the fun they were having and the smiles on each of their faces made it all worth it.[caption id="attachment_22509" align="alignnone" width="625" caption="Yassine's hometown crew in Safi"][/caption]
After making waves in his own country with the help of exposure through social media, Yassine began getting invitations from other skate communities in Europe to come and skate with them. When Spanish longboard distributor FortRate asked him if he wanted to come to Spain to join in a local competition, Yassine quickly began making plans to visit. Unfortunately, after getting his documents in order and visiting the Spanish embassy for a visa, he was denied.[caption id="attachment_22510" align="alignnone" width="906" caption="Contemplating his next steps, Yassine weighs his options after being denied entry into Spain"][/caption]
They said that I need a lot more money in my bank account to be accepted. Also, that someone needed to prove that I would be coming back to Morocco. It was borderline the stupidest thing Ive ever heard. I was so disappointed when I saw the pictures and the videos of the event. I felt so bad because that couldve been my chance to meet a lot of other riders that I had seen on YouTube. But in the end, I said to myself one day my opportunity going to come and Ill not miss it.
Rather than sit and wait for the chance, Yassine made moves to create an even bigger splash in the Moroccan longboarding community. He was going to shatter his previous distance-skating record with a 3,000km skate trip, stopping at several different cities to host skate sessions and events, all while carrying his food and water and prizes for the events on his back.[caption id="attachment_22511" align="alignnone" width="625" caption="Yassine is king of bringing the joy of longboarding to new communities"][/caption]
The idea for the trip was to make 7 events in 7 different cities to get the community together so that they can skate and get to know each other. Thats exactly what happened. I was so proud to see more than 25 people skating next to me in each city. That had been one of my dreams ever since I started. I was always skating alone, even in the weekly session, since people didnt have their own boards to skate with. From this trip I was able to meet more than 400 people. They all got the chance to try longboarding and see the potential of what we can do with it.
His efforts worked. After a successful trip, Yassine officially became part of the Loaded Ambassador team, became an organizer for DockSession Morocco, and was even invited to speak at a TedX conference. Standing in front of a large crowd, Yassine explained his story of starting small and with very little. He described the personal impact of sharing the joy longboarding had brought him and others all around his country. He was proud of what he had accomplished and even prouder to be sharing his experience to a large and receptive audience.[caption id="attachment_22512" align="alignnone" width="743" caption="Yassine recaps his recent adventures to a receptive audience at TedX"][/caption]
In 2016, Yassine was granted a Green Card, allowing him to freely travel to the U.S. and find a job. His family and friends expressed happiness for the opportunity he received, as well as some jealousy. However, his biggest fear was that after leaving Morocco, the community he helped foster would wither away.
I made something from nothing. I was afraid that the longboarding scene in Morocco was going to go back as it was, which was nothing. So, I made sure that there was going to be people keeping the community alive after I left.
When Yassine finally arrived in the U.S. he found himself living in Philadelphia, PA. Thankfully, there was already an established community in his new city, as well as several other up and down the East Coast. There were local sessions to take part in, skate camps to volunteer for, and for first time for Yassine, events that he didnt have to organize himself. He was finally able to be a competitor and skate alongside other riders.[caption id="attachment_22513" align="alignnone" width="700" caption="Yassine taking podium as a competitor in his first longboarding contest"][/caption]
I practiced in my first competition ever. It was an 8-mile push race in which I ended up taking 2nd place! Last September, I skated in a skateboard-freestyle contest with some of the best freestyle skaters in the game. I was just so happy to be in third place behind those guys.
But life in the U.S. was very different than life back in Morocco. Living in one of the country's busiest cities, Yassine found that his new adventure was very demanding of him.[caption id="attachment_22514" align="alignnone" width="625" caption="Yassine hits the roads of Philadelphia for the first time"][/caption]
When I moved here I was so happy to meet new people, new riders, learn new things. But then I found out that life here is so crazy and fast and you need to keep up so you can stay alive. Sometimes, I feel that Im getting deeper into this new U.S. lifestyle. I dont like that because I have my own dreams to work on.
Yassine just finished one of his first film projects in Philadelphia. With a sprawling urban landscape, Yassine makes the most out of the abundance of concrete, where anywhere and anything is skateable.
Despite encountering consistent obstacles in achieving his goals, Yassine has demonstrated uncanny determination and persistence over the years. He embodies what it means to be a Loaded Ambassador and a leader within his community. Even when things get tough, Yassine keeps his head high and marches towards his dreams at a steady and inspiring pace.[caption id="attachment_22515" align="alignnone" width="625" caption="Welcome to the US, Yassine. Follow him on Instagram: @YassineBoundouq"][/caption]
I believe that nothing is impossible. If you believe in yourself, your dreams can be free. So, dream and work for it, and you'll get it. Life is your choice and you choose how to live it and what to live for. Everyone has something special in them, but you just need to find it and show the world who you are. Be smart and transfer negative energy around you into fuel to push you forward. Big thanks to the Loaded team who believed in me even I when I lived far away. Thanks to my family and my friends who have supported me. Also to my new friends in the U.S., Garrett and Earl; it's not even been a year, but they believed in me and we've done great things together.