One of the rising star skateboarders to take advantage of Yangon Myanmar's first international skatepark is a seven and half-year-old girl named Aye Htike Mon.  She began skateboarding two years ago when the Mya Lay Yone Skatepark was built across the road from her home. 

Nestled next to a busy street, the skatepark was a collaboration between international volunteers and Myanmar workers.  In 2013, the government of Myanmar lifted a 25-year ban on public gatherings of more than five people.  Two years later, the Mya Lay Yone Skatepark opened.  At the time, Aye was five and it was her father who first brought her to the park.

Standing under four feet tall, with carefully applied thanaka and a sparkly dress atop camouflage pants, Aye is unknowingly forging a new path for girls: one that runs with the boys. She is the only young girl who can drop in from the highest ledge, a feat many of the young boys have yet to master.  This worries her grandparents, who often watch from the balcony of their home, nervous that she might get hurt or worse.  As Myanmar emerges from decades of military oppression, gender roles are still quite rigid.  Skateboarding is primarily a male sport.

But Aye rides because she loves it: the wind in her hair and the friends that she’s made.  She skateboards every morning and evening, sometimes accompanied by her older cousin, who has placed in competitions.  She’s still too young to compete, but one day she hopes to win.  In the meantime, she’s content to enjoy the sport that is quickly defining her.

Aye, seven years old, stands in the home she shares with her grandparents, father and extended family.  They also rent the apartment next-door.

Aye, seven years old, stands in the home she shares with her grandparents, father and extended family.  They also rent the apartment next-door.

Aye practices changing direction in her home.  Though her grandparents fear for her safety, they allow her to skate every day: "She likes it so much," said her grandmother.

Aye practices changing direction in her home.  Though her grandparents fear for her safety, they allow her to skate every day: "She likes it so much," said her grandmother.

The skatepark was built across the street from Aye's home in 2015.  Her father bought her her first board and taught her the basics. 

The skatepark was built across the street from Aye's home in 2015.  Her father bought her her first board and taught her the basics. 

The skatepark is nestled between a busy road and the residential road where Aye lives.

The skatepark is nestled between a busy road and the residential road where Aye lives.

Aye is one of the few girls who rides.  

Aye is one of the few girls who rides.  

Aye's favorite part of skateboarding is feeling the wind in her clothes and hair.

Aye's favorite part of skateboarding is feeling the wind in her clothes and hair.

Aye's mother works in Mandalay full-time and her father works long hours, so she spends most of her time with her grandparents.

Aye's mother works in Mandalay full-time and her father works long hours, so she spends most of her time with her grandparents.

Aye takes a break from skateboarding to play with her Barbies.

Aye takes a break from skateboarding to play with her Barbies.

Aye waits for a group of neighborhood boys to run back to the stairwell.  They've been playing tag and teasing each other for hours.

Aye waits for a group of neighborhood boys to run back to the stairwell.  They've been playing tag and teasing each other for hours.

After locking out some of the neighborhood boys, they finally break in to the stairwell.

After locking out some of the neighborhood boys, they finally break in to the stairwell.

Aye takes a break at the skatepark to watch the older boys.

Aye takes a break at the skatepark to watch the older boys.

Aye prepares to drop in.  Pius, who makes the boards and has taught many of the younger riders, claims she is the only young girl who can do this.

Aye prepares to drop in.  Pius, who makes the boards and has taught many of the younger riders, claims she is the only young girl who can do this.

Aye's grandparents watch her skate from their balcony.  

Aye's grandparents watch her skate from their balcony.  

A sleepy Aye lets her grandfather tie her longyi before her morning ride in the skatepark..  

A sleepy Aye lets her grandfather tie her longyi before her morning ride in the skatepark..  

Aye takes a quick ride in a dress.

Aye takes a quick ride in a dress.

Aye plays school while on summer break.

Aye plays school while on summer break.

Aye and her friend, Yoon, blow up balloons in front of their home.  The neighborhood kids spend most of their days together, relatively free of adult supervision.

Aye and her friend, Yoon, blow up balloons in front of their home.  The neighborhood kids spend most of their days together, relatively free of adult supervision.

Aye plays with the neighborhood kids.  In her group of friends, she is the only girl who skateboards.

Aye plays with the neighborhood kids.  In her group of friends, she is the only girl who skateboards.

The neighborhood boys, most of whom skateboard, take a break with Aye.

The neighborhood boys, most of whom skateboard, take a break with Aye.

The neighborhood boys lock Aye out of the stairwell.

The neighborhood boys lock Aye out of the stairwell.

Aye fixes her hair. 

Aye fixes her hair. 

Aye checks her lipstick application in the mirror.  When she's not skateboarding, she likes to play with hair and makeup.

Aye checks her lipstick application in the mirror.  When she's not skateboarding, she likes to play with hair and makeup.

Aye watches the skatepark.

Aye watches the skatepark.