By Amy Gonzales
I remember growing up around the age of 10 and having a bootlegged skateboard that I spray painted and slapped stickers on. When I wasn’t outside playing or at dance, you could find me playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on Nintendo 64. I would invite my friends over during the summer and we would play that game for hours. In May of 2009, I started working at Zumiez in the Moreno Valley Mall; a month before I graduated high school. I remember a couple people from my high school were applying to work there. I dropped off my application and talked to one of the assistant managers. We both instantly connected and he asked me to come to a group interview the following Saturday at 8 a.m. I remember being nervous and thinking, “Wow, this may actually be my first real job besides teaching dance.” I ended up working at Zumiez for almost 5 years and by the time I moved on, I had taken away a wealth of knowledge about the skate industry (plus I got pretty good at putting a skateboard together).
You’re A Girl, What Do You Know?
I remember when I was working at the Tyler Mall Zumiez in Riverside, a customer purchased a skate deck, wheels, trucks and hardware from me. As soon as I said, “Let me go towards the back and I’ll put this together for you,” he paused and said, “YOU’RE GONNA PUT THIS TOGETHER FOR ME? YOU’RE A GIRL! What do YOU know about skateboarding?” I responded with “Well, I’m the only one on the sales floor that knows how to do it. You would be surprised at what I know about the industry . . . So what do you want to do, put it together yourself?” They sighed and said, “Fine, go ahead, but don’t mess it up.” I put that skateboard together so fast with a solid grip tape job. I remember how frustrated I was. I wanted to cuss this person out for doubting me because of my gender. Their response just made me go faster so I wouldn’t have to deal with them any longer. When I was done, the customer said “Wow, I’m impressed by your work. You do know what you are doing after all.” I paused and said “Yup. That’s kind of my job. Enjoy your board.” From that moment on, I knew for a fact that people looked down on women in this industry. Although I’m not a professional skater, I like to skate around for fun and shouldn’t be treated differently because I am female.
Women In Skateboarding: Questioned and Downplayed
Skateboarding has often limited women with sponsorships and recognition. Female skaters have moved from the margins into the spotlight. Big-time sponsors such as Nike and Adidas are now beginning to notice. In the last five years, skate events such as Street League and Dew Tour are now having women only competitions (along with other male competitions that coincide with this). Women-operated skate brands such as Hoopla (R.I.P.) and Meow were both born out of a “dearth of support” for female skaters. They both have an end goal for a world where women are accepted and celebrated as skateboarders (Vice). Lisa Whitaker, founder of Meow stated that at the time she founded Meow, she didn’t want to do a company just to do a company. “I’ve been to some major events and some of the top girls in the world didn’t have board sponsors, or not marketed or seen anywhere.” (Vice). Here are 5 female skaters that are not only killin’ the game, but are also helping the future of skateboarding for women.
A native of my hometown (Riversiiiiide) and one of the most humble individuals you’ll ever meet. In November 2017, Samarria received her very own pro deck by sponsor Enjoi, which she is the ONLY female rider on. She was recently featured on Urban Outfitters: Skate Girls blog along with other female skaters including Vanessa Torres and Jenn Soto. Samarria talks about how she started skating in this video.
Originally from São Paulo, Brazil, she began skating at the age of 9. In November 2017, she finally received her long awaited professional skate deck by sponsor Plan B. She is the first skateboarder to ever be featured in ESPN Magazine’s Annual Body Issue. Here is an episode from The Berrics’ First Try Fridays featuring Leticia.
The godmother of street skating and the only female ever featured on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. Elissa turned pro in March 1998 and had an epic part in Toy Machine’s 1996 skate video Welcome To Hell. She was the first female pro street skater (Patti McGee was technically the first female skater back in 1965). Elissa is one of the legends and many female (and male) skaters look up to her still to this day. Here is one of my favorite clips of Elissa from Welcome To Hell (peep the 90s fashion too, so good!)
4. Lacey Baker
The Elissa Steamer of this generation of skateboarding (in my opinion). Lacey started skating when she was 5, but didn’t start taking it seriously until age 11. In 2017, she was the only female skater to be nominated for an ESPY Award in the “Best Female Action Sports Athlete” category. She has openly discussed her stance on being a queer female skater in the industry and shared interviews with The New York Times and Vogue on this topic. Her “My World” part on Thrasher has to be in my Top 10 video scenes of female skaters because of her effortless style when skating, advanced tricks and music selection. Lacey Baker makes skating look so easy and that is why she is one of my personal favorites.
She has been named “Tony Hawk’s protege” and with sponsors such as Vans, Birdhouse, and G-Shock, Lizzie has come a long way from skating The Cove in Santa Monica. She started skating at age 14 and has since then impacted the female society of skateboarding. She turned pro March 2017. Take a look at her “Lizzie Goes Pro” video from Thrasher here.
I can see the difference in women’s skateboarding even after not being at a place such as Zumiez since 2013. I believe that people are becoming more aware of the Lacey Bakers’ and the Samarria Brevards’ that have the same talent and skill that many male skaters have. As I browse on YouTube, I still see men discriminating against women in skateboarding and talking about how “that was weak,” or “her style sucks.” The point is is that no matter the industry or field, someone will ALWAYS have something negative to say. You could be the nicest person or the most talented individual and somehow a person will try to bring that person down for their pleasure. It’s a sad, sad thought, but it is the reality and women must continue to push through (no pun intended when it comes to pushing on a skateboard).
Did you know that there were women making this much of an impact in the skate industry? Did you ever grow up and play Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater? Share your thoughts with us!