BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Rodney Mullens, Andrew Reynolds – these are just some of the legendary names that had once motivated young Bruneians to become pro skaters.
Some people may keep their youthful inspirations as mere dreams, but there are also those who stick strongly to it and took extra miles to realise them – and Zairy Izhan is one of them.
The 40-year-old experienced skater never thought that he would open up his storefront 10 years after picking up the trend in the early 90s.
His brainchild, the Uneek Skateshop (Uneek) which was established in 2001 is the only store that serves the local skater community today, despite clinging strongly to the niche that was once popular, but now went underground.
Clinging to a small niche
In its early days, the store which was then located in Kiulap was often the go-to-place for people who wanted to get more than what common department stores would offer.
Uneek at the time was the only store in the capital to do that.
Besides the uniqueness of its board, customers were also given the opportunity to custom their kits, with wheels, alignment and other necessary facilities readily available to them over the counter.
With Uneek, avid skaters were also given an avenue where they can maintain their skateboards after long-hour flips and grinds.
Zairy knew that this was what the local skating scene needed at the time – which was exactly why he opened his shop in the first place.
But like any other trends, the skateboarding scene soon went downhill eight years after Uneek established itself – but even then, business went on as per usual thanks to the excellent personal service and knowledge Zairy would usually offer to his customers.
He told The Bruneian that besides being a source of income, Uneek was also a place for him to find friends of the same passion.
Whenever he has the time, he would bring his customers turned friends for skating sessions.
So, when he found that Brunei is building a “Skatedium” at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex in 2012, he quickly moved his store to a closer location; convenient for him and his friends to practice their passion especially after working hours.
In the same year, Zairy managed to secure a retail spot at the Airport Mall.
Now, seven years have passed and despite only being tucked in a small corner of the building, Uneek still gain a special place among experienced and new skaters alike.
A hub for skaters
Besides featuring popular brands including Baker Skateboards, Toy Machine and Element, the store also sells fashion accessories including t-shirts and sneakers.
Beyond that, Uneek now serves as a communal place for skaters to meet and greet their peers.
It was also a place where they can find information on the best places to skate, competitions to join and the best tips to improve their techniques.
This was also thanks to the strong clientele Zairy had built throughout the two decades in business.
While there are those who come and go, there are also people like Bam Johari and Farih Jualihi who stayed because of their passion to skate.
They have been with Uneek since day one and skate regularly with Zairy whenever they have the chance.
There were also skaters who frequented the place just to talk about skating, exchange tips and perhaps organise sessions where they can have fun together.
Zairy, now with a strong portfolio, aspired to bring other local skating brands up.
Apart from housing some of the popular brands, the veteran skater is also open to deals with local businesses especially in helping them to gain more exposure.
He is ready to sponsor skating-related competitions if there are any.
“All I ever wanted is to grow the skating community in Brunei. With Uneek, I hope we can shed more light on the culture and inspire more support for the scene,” he said.
Zairy also pledged to continue building up a better platform for local skaters to gather and learn – and maintain its reputation as the number one go-to skateboard shop in the country.