It is a very good day to shred. I’m skateboarding to work, coasting fast along the buttery-smooth surface in front of Bill Graham, the sidewalk squares popping like firecrackers underneath my feet when…
It’s inevitable. Some Butthead doppelganger on the corner screams, “WHAAT? A girl skater, hell noo!” A dude on BART asks me, “Is that your boyfriend’s skateboard?” And I throw up the requisite middle finger as I pass.
Yes, the heckling is condescending, but in a way, I can understand it. These men are operating under the assumption that girls don’t skate. And while that’s clearly a sexist idea, even we female skaters subscribe to it.
Because more often than not, the girl-skater origin story is the same. Girl picks up a board in high school to hang with her guy friends. She’s the only female she knows who skates. When she leaves her house with her board it does not cross her mind to call a girlfriend to skate with, because there simply are none.
But in the past year, I’ve realized that we are not alone. They’re out there – more and more girls whizzing past on their boards. Young, old, punks, businesswomen. So I started chasing them down.
Years skating: 6
So you’re the founder of Skate Like a Girl.
Tell me about it.
Skate Like a Girl is based in Seattle and they also have a chapter in Portland. It’s an organization that promotes empowerment of girls and women through skating. I started the chapter in San Francisco because I felt like it was important. I’d met so many girls who wanted to learn but there wasn’t an organization to provide an opportunity for them to get together. And we’re all-inclusive, all ages, all abilities.
It makes me not want to skate when people
catcall me, even when they’re positive statements, because it just makes me
feel like people are paying too much attention to me. I’m afraid to mess up.
When I was first learning, I thought everyone was looking at me, like, “Let’s see, how does a girl skate?” And as a beginner I didn’t really want to be there representing girls skating. That’s the great part about going to skate parks with other girls. Going with girls who were ripping the park, really talented skateboarders, I felt like I could just relax.
Years skating: 1
Why’d you start skating?
When I moved to SF, I would see people all over the streets skateboarding. And I was like, oh, that’s cool. I wanna give that a shot.
What do you love about skating?
I’m getting faster. I just wanna keep pushing my boundaries. I have a long way to go, but I love going around the streets. That’s my favorite – just street skating at night.
Years skating: 11
Love that you’re rocking a skirt to skate. I
do that too.
If I’m going to the skatepark and attempting tricks I wouldn’t wear a skirt, but I’m just going around the neighborhood. So I’m gonna wear a skirt because it’s a beautiful day outside and I feel like lookin’ pretty. Sometimes I use my skateboard as a nail file.
I’ve done that too.
Right! We all have!
I think girls who skate have to be stronger
than guys who skate. Thoughts?
I think so, too. When dudes ride skateboards, they have a support group. When a chick rides skateboards, she’s a social pariah. The dudes don’t wanna ride with her and the chicks don’t know what she’s doing. She’s just on her own.
Years skating: 4.5
Years skating: 3
What’s the difference between male and female skaters?
Maranda: The feminine energy is completely different than the male energy. If you look at any of the action sport industries, when the girls are out, it’s about being out there having fun and pushing each other. We’re not trying to snake each other’s runs or compete. It’s more of just embracing that we’re out there and having fun. You can come across guys who treat you as like that, as equals, but that’s rare.
The toughest part of skating is kind of getting over the fear of falling, isn’t it?
Maranda: You’re gonna fall, definitely. But if you have confidence, that’s fine. If you fall, don’t cry. Go inside and cry. Don’t let the boys see you cry.
Naomi: I hate it when I fall and the boys are like, “Are you OK? Are you OK?” I’m fine.
Maranda: You don’t have to treat me like a princess. That’s the worst part. We can hang with you. I’m not trying to say that girls rule and boys drool, but girls rule too.
Naomi: Anything you can do I can do better.
Years skating: 16
How is skating now different than when you
I started in the late ’90s. When I grew up in Palo Alto, there was maybe only one other girl in the whole city who skated. We didn’t have that many resources growing up. How you learned was you just went out with the boys and hung. Technology has helped so much. Now everyone can broadcast what they’re doing, so you can see tons of girls skating. Just go to girlsskatenetwork.com.
Everyone’s so friendly at Skate Like a Girl.
Has this always been your experience with girl skaters?
That’s how it is! One day you’re strangers, next day, you’re best of friends.
Years skating: 6
Have you encountered harassment being a girl
I’ve had older men come up to me and give me unsolicited advice. Like, this guy started his sentence off with, “I don’t mean to sound sexist, but…” and I thought, if you’re starting your sentence off with that disclaimer you probably shouldn’t keep going. And then he said, “I saw the way you were carving around the bowl, you should really learn how to carve and push rather than kick turn.” But it’s definitely made me more confident, to say, “I don’t really need your advice, and if I need it, I can ask you.”
You’re amazing in the bowls. But I know that
many people don’t ever skate them because dropping in (going from the edge down
into the bowl) is so scary.
It is. If you don’t commit all your weight forward, you’ll fall backward. So you have to put yourself in a position where you feel like you’re going to die. You can’t back out. Your whole body and mind has to be committed to throwing yourself down into the Grand Canyon. That’s the greatest thing about it. You have to force yourself to do these things you never thought you could do. And then after that you have to say, “Holy shit, I just did this!” I’m not a risk-taker type person, so I can’t believe I’m involved in skateboarding. But I’m really glad I got into it, because I’m a lot more adventurous since I started.
Years skating: 11
Have you encountered harassment being a girl
People have told me, “Girls shouldn’t skateboard because you end up getting scars and then you can’t become a model.” My mom said that! Oh, I’ve had people get really angry at me and throw their skateboards at me or glare at me.
I don’t know. For skating, and being in the way. Especially at Potrero Park. When I saw Skate Like A Girl’s Myspace page a few years ago, I almost cried. I said, “Yes, finally a group in San Francisco where I can actually go and meet people.” I hadn’t met any female skaters at that time. It’s been awesome.
Years skating: 9
Where did you start skating?
I grew up in Chicago and there were only, like, three or four girl skaters in all of Illinois. But because there were so few of us, my friend Julie and I got to skate in the Chicago Warped Tour! We skated this big ramp while the bands were playing, and afterward we got to sign autographs. But when I came out here, I saw that California girls are much better than the Midwestern girls.
Can you tell me about your first time dropping
My neighbor built us a mini ramp, so I put on a giant snowsuit and put a bunch of pool floaties at the bottom to cushion my fall! Since then, I tried to teach my boyfriend to skate, and he threw out his back. Both times.
Check out Skate Like a Girl’s Facebook page for upcoming skate dates. Girls of all ages and abilities are welcome – the girls are happy to help you get started. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to get involved.