Skateboard moms – women in skateboarding
You’ve been skating since you were a kid in the 70s. What’s kept you skateboarding so long, when other kids ‘grew up’ and thought kerb-crawling was about scarlet ladies, not doing tricks on a board?
Actually, I took a break from skating for nearly a quarter of a century. I started running cross-country and track in high school, and my coach (who equated skating with broken bones) pressured me to choose running. I came back to skating after I became a mom in 1996. Six months after our son was born, my husband bought me a new longboard for my 35th birthday, and I fell in love with skating all over again. But the entire time I wasn’t skating, I was still thinking about it. You know, driving along, looking at every concrete bank and asphalt hill with exclamation marks in my eyes. I had this vague idea that I could get back on a board, but for some reason or another, I never got one until my husband surprised me with that longboard. But with that first glide, I was totally hooked. Or re-hooked! And now, I might pause here and there, but I’m in it for life, I think!
Was there ever an issue with being a girl skateboarder?
“Back in my day,” as I like to say (smiling), there was absolutely no problem being a “girl skater.” No one would even describe it that way because your gender was *never* an issue. I’ve had other women who grew up in the 1970s say it was, in fact, an issue for them, so maybe it’s more to do with where I grew up–Newport Beach, Calif., in the heart of what was then the mellow, surfer culture of coastal Orange County. Skateboarding (as we called it then!) was no more of a “boy” sport than kite flying, so no one even thought to question it. Maybe there were some moms who didn’t want their daughters getting bruised and dirty, but the guys I knew certainly saw us as equals and supported us as such. So, as I grew older, it was particularly depressing for me to have watched the sport devolve into this Boys Club kind of thing.
I know some say it was a matter of the skating getting more radical, and that girls couldn’t hang with that. But I don’t think it was the skating that scared the girls away as much as an increasing macho vibe, a subtle (or not so subtle) message that we were not welcome. I remember the first time I picked up a skate magazine after a couple decades away. I’m fairly sure it was a copy of Big Brother. You can imagine my horror. I had the misfortunate of opening it up to a page which had an ad for a certain skate truck. It took my brain a few seconds to realize what I was seeing. The truck was shown partially shoved inside a woman’s crotch. I’d never been a feminist, but I’ll tell you, I became one at that very moment. I’m not naive. I know Big Brother and their ilk did sick, stupid stuff just to get a reaction, as immature as it was. So I guess I should thank them for pissing me off, because it definitely sparked a fury that fuels my inspiration to support other females—not just in skating, but anywhere where “male dominated” is the operative phrase.
Do you get active skateboys and passive skate betties admiring from the sidelines, or is that a fakey cliche?
I still see that here and there, but any time I have the chance, I try to strike up a conversation with the girls on the sidelines. I really don’t have to say a whole lot. I mean, in once glance they see my wrinkles and my sweat and that alone should be enough challenge to them to get out there. If it doesn’t, oh well. Hopefully they’ll find the courage to get off the sidelines some day. If not in skating, in something else.
It seems like skateboarding has mutated over the years. What’s your perspective on that?
Well, I’ve already touched on that above, but I should add that I do see the pendulum swinging back to a more accepting phase for girls and women in general. Thank God! Today, we have many female skater organizations like Skate Like A Girl and Girls Learn To Ride that are helping get girls on board, and that’s a great thing.
Aside from the gender thing, I see that movies like Lords of Dogtown helped bring a touch of the 1970s back to the sport. I see a lot more longboards. Surfy skating, bank skating. People are rediscovering slalom and downhill. Pools have never been so popular. Kids are finally discovering that there’s a lot more to skating than ollies and kickflips. Not that there’s anything wrong with those! 🙂
When growing up in London I had skater friends from troubled families who were skipping school to skate and hang out. Do you think skating can be a safety zone for some kids who have found a place where they can escape troubles and bond?
Absolutely. I think everyone needs to find their “tribe” so to speak, and skating certainly offers a haven for kids who aren’t into the traditional “jock” thing. I’m not a huge fan of the traditional school system, anyway. It worked for me, I guess. But I think there are a lot of kids, especially the highly creative ones, who would do better without the traditional school structure. Sometimes it’s those “back of the class” types, who are so often labeled as “underachievers,” who turn out to be the brightest kids in the class. Instead of forcing them to comply, schools need to figure out how to spark them to be their best. I’m not sure how that’s viewed in the UK, but here in the U.S., homeschooling, along with “child-led learning,” is a growing phenomena. Not everyone is meant to be in the same box, that’s for sure. Oops, I see I’ve gotten quite off topic here!
That’s not to say I think it’s all that healthy to spend your entire day at the skatepark, hanging out. I certainly believe it’s good to strive for balance and all that. But overall, we all have to find our way in this world, and as long as you’re contributing in some way, and respecting yourself and others, well, I think that’s the key.
I meet parents all the time who want me to tell their kids that they should do their homework before they go out and skate. My conservative side agrees with them, but in my heart I have to ask: what will spark this kid into being who he or she is meant to be? Does homework really teach us diligence and self-discipline? Or does it just teach us to follow the rules without question? As you probably know, our country has gotten into a lot of trouble because not enough people questioned the status quo. It’s been a big game of Follow The Leader, and look what a mess we’ve made of things. We definitely need more critical thinking, less “do it because I said so” around here, in my opinion. All that is to say, find your true calling, find your tribe. And if you can’t find your tribe, be your own tribe and others who share your passion will follow.