JEDDAH: “Sidewall skiing,” — the perilous driving stunt that involves balancing a car on two wheels — is growing in popularity among young Saudi drivers, who risk their lives to show their skills and impress an audience.
Popular in many Saudi families who allow their teenagers to drive a car without even getting a driving license, the culture has spread and now many youngsters are doing racing, drifting and sidewall skiing, which is considered the most controversial phenomenon in Saudi society.
Sidewall skiing is a perilous driving stunt in which passengers perform all kinds of tricks, such as standing on top of the car, hanging out of the window, or even changing tires at high speed. Some even lie on the road as the car passes over them.
In 2013, a video of Saudi men changing their car tires while driving on two wheels went viral. People strongly criticized those youngsters and reacted via social media.
Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, 23-year-old Saudi who lives in Tabuk, told Arab News he was doing sidewall skiing at the age of 19 when he started to hang out with his friends.
“Earlier, we used to watch other drivers who gathered every weekend at one spot to perform this kind of stunts that was really exciting for us.” He added: “Sidewall skiing is all about balancing your car, which is not dangerous for me. The stunt is performed with the help of a ramp or by sharply turning the car.”
“The easiest technique is to let some air out of the tires that will be on the ground so that the car can tip more easily, as well as keep its balance better,” he added.
The stunt has gone beyond the local framework and reached the international channels, which convey some serious footage of the movements practiced by Saudi drivers. These performers who show off their risky skills through social media have a large worldwide audience as their crazy performances always leave people shocked.
One of the most famous Saudi drifters and racers on Instagram, known as Abu Faza’a from Riyadh, who has 76,000 followers, told Arab News that the joy behind sand driving is that you are doing something crazy and fun but you are not harming anyone.
“It needs good skills in driving and balancing, otherwise your car will drown in sands.”
Aseel Al-Hamad is a board member at the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, which aims to supervise the activities of motorsport and motorcyclists in the Kingdom and work to develop, sponsor and represent the Kingdom in international federations. Al-Hamad, who is also a big sports car fan and enjoys hearing the roar of her Ferrari, told Arab News: “It is our role in the federation to direct these energies to the right path in the sport of cars.
“In general all motorsports and stunts, including sidewall skiing, are welcome to me as long as they are done professionally and legally under specific instructions of safety and at suitable places without harming anyone,” Al-Hamad said.
Saudi lawyer Dima Al-Shareef told Arab News: “At the beginning of 2017, the authorities began implementing the amendments to the traffic regulations which were adopted and focused on the fact that drifting, racing, sidewall skiing and other stunts are a traffic violation. The drifter is punished for the first time by having to park the vehicle for 15 days and fined SR20,000 ($5,333). He is then referred to the competent court to be considered for a prison sentence.
“The second time the vehicle is booked for one month only, and the drifter fined SR40,000, and then referred to the competent court to be considered for a prison sentence,” she added.
“The third time the vehicle is booked and the drifter fined SR60,000 and then transferred to the court who will look into the confiscation of the vehicle, or for the dirfter to be fined the value of the vehicle or the stolen car, and the drifter goes to jail.” Rami Fadhel, a civil engineer and a big fan of sports cars, said: “I love to watch professional drivers driving on two wheels but honestly they are risking their lives and their cars, as any slight error would lead to real harm.”
Another auto enthusiast, Kamel Rahman from Riyadh, told Arab News that although these kinds of stunts are illegal in Saudi Arabia, concerned authorities should facilitate and encourage youngsters with other entertainment activities related to cars. “People are really passionate about driving and spend a lot on their cars in Saudi Arabia. The government should start a festival including racing and drifting activities in a professional way with security and safety.”Stunts that made movie history.