Women In Boardsports – The Way Forward for Skateboarding

Jenna Selby

Sometimes we, as women in boardsports, can feel as though we are islands – working to change the state of our environments all on our own. But when we get together at events like Women in Boardsports, we realise that we are all connected and share a common bond and goal. It feels really good to be within a community of women who are likeminded and it becomes ever apparent how much greater our capacity will be to change things if we unify and continue to support each other, to inspire and motivate each other as one unified group. Essentially, instead of looking for support from outside, we should strive to find that support from within and then nurture it so that it grows for future generations.Cori Schumacher – World Champion Longboard Surfer

Some of the ladies at the Retreat

Interviews by Jenna Selby

Over the weekend, the 3rd annual Women In Boardsports conference took place in Saas Fee. Firstly a huge thank you has to go out to Carmela Fleury and Daniela Meyer for again making this event happen and bringing so many inspirational women from the skate, snow and surf communities, together. World Champion Surfer, Cori Schumacher gave one of the most compelling speeches of the weekend; addressing the issues found within the female surfing world. Although many of the points she made were with regards to her own sport, the issues she raised were also clearly identical to those faced by women in the other boardsports. Skate speakers this year included Mimi Knoop, Sophie Friedel, Jenna Selby and Lucy Adams who all gave their thoughts on progressing the female skateboard scene in a positive way:

This is how it's done!

Start at the Beginning – Change the attitude at Grassroots

Lucy – ‘By running Skateboard Coaching sessions or informal workshops, it gives younger girls, and boys, a safe introduction to the parks and skateboarding itself. Also at this young age, you dispel the myth that female riders are something alien to a skate park.

There isn’t much of a difference in confidence and generally girls will try and do as well as the boys. Everybody just seems to want to push themselves to the level of the ‘best’ in the group. It is very positive and great to see.’

Getting involved early on

Sophie Friedel works for Skateistan, a charity set up in Afghanistan in 2007.

Sophie – ‘There is a strict 50.50 policy for girls and boys to receive skateboard lessons. Girls have always been a part of the skate classes on the street and also part of the main drive to build an indoor facility. Therefore it is natural to make sure they have as much time to skate and be educated as the boys have – we want to ensure that they have equal rights.

Because equality was pushed for from the start gender is not an issue amongst the Kabul skate scene.’

Mimi - discussing the issues

More Awareness of Riders

Mimi – ‘One of the biggest challenges women are facing in skateboarding right now is visibility. A few years ago, it was saidthatparticipation numbers and standard needed to be higher – we have both of those now. So many girls have started skating and are progressing to amazing levels today; however, the rest of the world still has no idea. It’s still so underground.

As a female [professional] skateboarder, I feel like it’s my responsibility to help move the sport forward while I am here. In 2006 I started Hoopla Skateboards with Cara-Beth Burnside. We teamed up with Skate One Corp – Powell Peralta, Bones wheels, etc. – because they are such an established company and we knew they would do it right. Our vision and hopes for the brand have always been to support female skaters, and help create more opportunities for them. Not many board brands are supporting women right now. We’d like to see Hoopla get huge, and one day be able to pay the female riders on the team salaries, offer travel budgets, and put girls skateboarding on the map in a legit, classy way.

I think girls and women need to be seen skateboarding on a larger scale – and then the opportunities will follow. We will be able to bring more value to sponsors and events that way. Something really needs to happen on a global scale with women’s skateboarding to get the message out there!’

Positive Role Models

Cori – ‘We need to give more exposure to positive role models in the industry. Instead of rewarding hyper-sexuality, we need to make visible those who are complex, intelligent, pro-active, creative women in boardsports. There also needs to be that support for the women who are creating projects to bring female role models to the foreground.

We need to encourage the abandoning of lazy, short-cut marketing that surrenders to “sex sells” and reward those companies that reconnect with the creativity and artistry that make our boardsports industries unique. I would love to see the boardsports fashion industry focus on developing and encouraging their sponsored riders to create designs and/or authentically engage in the design process while committing to artistry rather than pushing short-term austerity alone.’

In Conclusion?

Cori – ‘If we use the Women in Boardsports retreat as a network and begin to hold each other accountable in these areas while offering assistance and support when needed, we can do all of this – as islands we can connect by building the bridges with our common desires and create a better future for girls and women in boardsports.

Trying it out for the first time

It is so often the case that those of us [women] who excel at what we do, do so independent of each other. We are few, competing for fewer resources. Putting aside our competitive, individualist natures and reaching out across the water, asphalt and snow, we can work together with greater impact to build the needed resources instead of relying solely on existent ones.’

Sophie – ‘From my perspective, grassroots skateboarding can be a powerful tool of transformation. By empowering youth and equipping them with their own ‘change making’ tools they can learn not to be prejudice against someone because of their social, ethnic, cultural or gender background. Combining life-skill education with skateboarding on a grassroots level can effectively be used to build bridges between those differences and transform the issues women currently face in the boardsport industry.’

Mimi – ‘I know we can’t wait around for someone else to give us opportunities on a silver platter. We need to make the change happen ourselves.’

Putting heads together - Lucy, Mimi and Jenna

If you wish to make a donation to Skateistan, please visit http://skateistan.org/content/donate

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