Why do girls constantly feel the need to define themselves as girls? We are more than just the genitalia we have between our legs. We are doctors, lawyers, civil servants, journalists, writers… I could go on forever but it would just be a list of everything a person could do regardless of whether they are male or female. This year, girl skating has really taken off. Girl skate crews are popping up all over the place in the UK, which is a great thing because it’s giving girls a name in skating and encouraging more girls to get involved. There are also girls only nights at skateparks across the UK, and even brands of street wear that are durable for skating and are designed to fit girls. I am 100% on board with pushing girls skating, the issue lies in the way we are pushing it.
Sometimes drawing attention to the fact that we are girls when we do something great can be counterproductive. There was recently a video posted on a magazine website, similar to the Always advert, discussing what it means to skate like a girl, which involved interviewing girl skaters and basically pushing the fact that girl skaters are rad and skating like a girl means to skate really well. But why is it always necessary to focus on gender? If this video included a chat with the girls and then a clip of the girls skating and showing what they could do, that would have made more sense. In that case, it would be a video that is more about the insane talent these girls have, rather than them just being girls with skateboards talking about skating. One of the girls talks about how people think girls skate to try and get a boyfriend, and she’s right; there are numerous, ridiculous stereotypes like that. But if there is no skating in a video like this then it doesn’t give the viewer any reason not to assume that the stereotypes are correct. If we want to move forward and gain more respect in the skate/surfing industry, then why should we do anything different to what the guys do? The only way guys prove themselves is by flaunting their skills and tricks, so why can’t we do the same? The problem with “girls only” is that we start to lose sight of why we’re doing it in the first place… the focus on skating and surfing is lost and focus on gender overrules.
Aside from the hype, so much has gone on in the skate and surf world over the last year. Gone are the days when only the Bones Brigade could Ollie and a bottom turn on your 9ft board was the gnarliest move in the water. Take big wave surfing for example. Over the last year, big wave surfing has received a lot of attention, especially in Europe this winter. Our very own brit, Andrew Cotton challenged big wave records when surfing a massive swell at Nazare, and Maya Gabeira survived the most talked about wipeout of the year there too. Over in the states, Keala Kennelly won best performance award at the Billabong XXL Awards for this monstrous wave, describing it as “the most amazing feeling you can feel in the world”, and adding “I actually thought I’d die”. It’s easy to forget how difficult it is for these surfers to train, both physically and mentally, to even go out there - so hats off to them. The progression on the ASP tour has been hard to keep track of as well. Check this ridiculous “club sandwich” from Josh Kerr at J-bay a few weeks ago… unreal. In skating it seems like there’s a new video every week of someone pulling off something unimaginable. This clip of Sandro Moral’s frontside flip went viral a couple of months ago, and is just an example of the insane levels skating is reaching now. Also this 9 year-old kid pulled off a 540 on a vert ramp! 9 years old… just let that sink in. The pro’s aren’t doing too badly either, Lizzie Armanto killed it at the Van Doren Invitational taking home first prize and Greyson Fletcher in this video will make you want to go and drain your local lido.
So, did you notice that in the last 298 words I didn’t once refer to the gender of the surfers and skaters in these videos? No? That’s because you are impressed by WHAT they are doing and not whether a boy or girl is doing it. There aren’t many guys who can skate like Leticia Bufoni or surf 70ft waves like Maya Gabeira, but there aren’t many girls who can do that either, so why is their gender important? All that matters is that we love what we do and we have a fucking great time doing it. When you finally land that new trick or pull into the barrel, set your rail and fire out of the other end, do you think: “I just nailed that even though I’m a guy/girl”? Hell no. You think: “That was so rad, I need to do that again.” To progress as skaters and surfers, and for girls to be accepted as equals in this industry, we need to drop the attention on which gender is doing what and focus our attention on what we are doing and what we can do NEXT.