Walking into a skatepark, you will see skaters ripping around the bowl, speeding down ramps, and ollieing in the air. You will feel gusts of wind as skaters whiz past and hear the constant clack of wheels hitting the pavement. Take a closer look and you will realize that most of the people there fit the description of a stereotypical skater — cisgender male.
Seeing the absence of female-identifying people in skate culture, students from Evergreen State College in Washington, Holly Sheehan and Fleur Larsen, founded Skate Like a Girl in 2000. The organization provides a space for marginalized individuals of all ages and abilities to skate. It soon spread all throughout the western U.S.
After years of skateboarding and marketing for skate brands, Kim Woozy befriended Skate Like a Girl organizers. She became the co-director for the San Francisco Bay Area chapter after getting closer with the organization.
“Skateboarding is the vehicle for building inclusive communities,” said Woozy. “We’re really here to provide a space for people and anyone to be a part of something.”
After its establishment as a nonprofit organization in Seattle in 2005, Skate Like a Girl started to build its presence in the Bay Area over 10 years ago with informal meetups and events. The SF Bay Area chapter officially kicked off in 2017 with Ashley Masters and Kim Woozy stepping into leadership roles as co-directors. In 2019, Skate Like a Girl became active in over 20 cities besides the three major locations, hosting over 650 programs and reaching over 10,000 skaters of all ages and gender identities.
To bring inclusivity into the skateboarding industry, Skate Like a Girl constantly gauges who is not at the skatepark. After seeing more female-identifying skaters at parks, they expanded their focus to create space for more members of the queer community as well.
“Skate Like a Girl lives their mission as much as they can and has created safe spaces for women, queer, non-binary, and trans skaters of all ages and abilities to not only get their start in skateboarding, but also to find a community,” said Sima Safavi-Bayat, the outreach and fund development specialist for Skate Like a Girl. “[Skate Like a Girl is] building bridges whether that be in skateboarding industry, culture,…or even just at the skatepark.”
Skate Like a Girl currently hosts online events like Virtual Happy Hour with ice breaker games and special guests, most of them professional skateboarders. During Virtual Women & Trans* Skate Sessions, instructors provide tips for improving skills.
This week, Virtual Happy Hour featured pro skater Marbie Miller. As a transgender skater, Miller, when asked what advice she would give her younger self, shared insight on remaining confident while skating at the skatepark.
“Try not to worry what people think,” Miller said. “Just go do it, don’t let someone being negative hold you back from doing what you want.”
The organization’s commitment to uplifting people of identities traditionally underrepresented in skating has sometimes meant excluding those who have often been overrepresented, namely cisgender males.
“We talk about this a lot in our programs. Inclusion exists, like in a paradox, where exclusion is necessary,” Woozy said. “In the future, if equity is achieved and we close the gaps for certain identities and communities then everyone can exist together. But it’s going to take a certain amount of building of equity to get there.”
Despite this, Skate Like a Girl designs and provides programs and events for everyone, including cisgender males, incorporating them into building bridges between different communities.
“Our goal is to end Skate Like a Girl,” Woozy said. “Because in the perfect world that we’re trying to build, you could show up to any public skate space and see every type of person. And until that is a real thing we’re going to continue carving out space and creating equity, so that we could reach that level of equality, one day.”