Guangzhou is the largest city of the Guangdong Province in South China and a popular travel destination for pro teams from around the world. The old city is filled with tradition and culture, and it is home to the famous Hero Skate Shop. Hero is located in the center of town on Jiaochang Xi Lu, right next to the city’s local skate plaza. We checked up with the founder, Tim Jun, who told us about how he turned from a military translator to a shop owner and introduced some of the local spots to us.
I started in 1992, when I was 16. I’m not from Guangzhou originally. I’m from Shanxi, close to Xian. I came here in 1998, when I was 22. I had just graduated military school and got a job here.
Wait, how did that come about?
My dad was a high-ranked military officer, he’s retired now. He wanted me to do the same when I was younger and so I went when I was 18. I stayed there for four years, barely skating because there was no free time. It was an army school after all, so I couldn’t practice or learn new tricks. If I hadn’t gone to army school I would be pro now. (laughs)
Did you get to skate more once you came to Guangzhou?
Not really, no. I mean, I was still an officer then, part of the army. I was wearing a uniform and all my work mates didn’t even know I was a skateboarder. Most of them only played cards, maybe golf. In their eyes skateboards were toys. I struggled from that, because to find skaters meant to drive an hour into the city. You know, military facilities are never central. I did that for eight years.
And when did you decide to quit your job and open a skate shop?
A lot of time passed and after some years I realized that my job wasn’t making me happy. I saw my work mates, even older guys at age 40 or 50, who were doing the same thing as me. I could see my own future, but that’s not what I wanted. Then, when I was 28, I had the chance to work in another position in Shanghai. I accepted and went. I met Jeff, the shop owner of Fly, and we became friends. He wanted me to help build their website, skatehere.com. That was in 2004. I came back to Guangzhou in ’05, and I began thinking I could do that in Guangzhou. If I opened up a shop here a lot of skaters would support me. So I opened Hero in ’06.
And what happened to your other job?
I had to keep it at first, I was still an army officer. I had no shop assistant, so my parents looked after the shop while I went to work everyday. And everyday after 6pm, I drove my motorcycle here to take care of everything at the shop and skate a little bit. At night I would return to my work place, by 1 or 2am. And at that time I still had to update the website for Jeff, you know. So I went to sleep at 4 or 5, only to get back to work by 8. I did that for two years, it was very exhausting. I told my parents I wanted to quit and they thought I was crazy. I talked to them for a whole week and eventually they gave in. In 2008, I quit the army. I turned 30 that year.
Any regrets so far?
Not a single one. This is the life I wanted to live. The shop is doing great, we’ve got a solid crew now, shop assistants and riders, a media and camera team, a website and licensed brands, we organize events and travel. This is the life I wanted. I’ve got a beautiful wife and kid, and my parents are happy for me, too. Now I take care of the shop and they’re looking after the baby.
Congratulations on the good life, man! Before we leave, can you tell us about some of the spots in Guangzhou? People might want to come and join you guys for a session.
Sure, please drop by at any time. Well, Guangzhou has spots en masse, some of which we like to keep a secret, but the ones we want to visit today are two of the more influential spots of the city. First, there is a famous sports stadium spot with manual pads and ledges, a mellow four-stair gap and plenty of flatground. It’s been visited by many pro skaters already, but it doesn’t get old. In fact, it’s a rather old spot in terms of time. Skaters used to gather there a lot in the late nineties. The great thing about it is that it’s roofed and therefore skateable during the rain. The other spot is our current local main spot. It’s a plaza in the center of the old part of Guangzhou, right next to the shop. The ground is smooth and we’ve fashioned some obstacles to enjoy everyday. There used to be ledges, too, but they got rid of them a few years ago. The spot is easy to reach with public transportation and serves as a meeting point and training facility. If you ever make it out to Guangzhou, make sure to skate at Hero Plaza and feel free to drop by our shop and grab a post-session beer with us!
Hero Skate Shop
18 Jiaochang East Rd, Yuexiu, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China, 510100
+86 20 8374 1202