How Women Skateboarders Are Changing The Sport | VOGUE Skateboarding comes through!
VOGUE Skateboard Magazine was the gift that kept on giving. And then they turned it all upside down and put out some “real” skateboard content about how women are taking over. It features rulers both old and new like Lizzie Armanto, Lacey Baker, Samaria Brevard, Cara Beth Burnside, Kim Cespedes, Mariah Duran, Mimi Knoop, Alexis Sablone, Jenn Soto, Elissa Steamer, Laura Thornhill Caswell, Vanessa Torres,Nora Vasconcellos, and Brighton Zeuner. Keep it up VOGUE!
Women, of course, are not new to the sport of skateboarding—since the skateboard was invented in California sometime around the middle of the 20th century, women such as Patti McGee, Peggy Oki, Kim Cespedes, and Laura Thornhill have played integral roles in the sport’s development. Women are, unfortunately, radically new to the industry of skateboarding, which has long been a boys’ club of contests, sponsorships, paychecks, and glory. The world didn’t get its first woman pro skateboarder until 1998, when Elissa Steamer was signed to Toy Machine. “It was a huge deal. There was no way around it,” says Steamer, an undisputed legend for her contributions to the sport, over the phone—though, she admits that in spite of the lack of opportunity, being a pro skater was a goal she’d had since she was a little girl.
By its very nature, skateboarding produces boundary breakers: At its core, it’s a sport of doing something that has never been done before in a place where no one has ever done it. Skateboarders are people who look at a curb, a crack in the pavement, or a cellar door and see opportunity. For instance, when Cara-Beth Burnside became the first pro woman skater to get her own shoe in 1994, it was because she simply brought the idea to Vans. “No one was going to hand it to me,” says Burnside. She applied the same attitude when she and Jen O’Brien convinced the X Games to host a women’s demo in 2002. A year later, women had their own official platform at the international event, though it wasn’t exactly an act of equality. Women’s practice times were scheduled at dawn break, before the male competitors even stirred in their beds. The pay discrepancy was especially egregious: At the X Games, the men’s champions earned 25 times as much as the women. Burnside and Mimi Knoop enlisted the help of lawyer Drew Mearns and formed the Action Sports Alliance. “A lot of people think it [was] about girl power. It was so not like that,” says Knoop, sitting on the edge of an empty pool with her board in the San Fernando Valley. “I just wanted to skate. If I could get a sponsor to pay me, that meant I could skate more and didn’t have to have a job working somewhere else. So, for me, it was about creating that opportunity for other girls.”
Click to VOGUE SKATEBOARD MAGAZINE for how women skateboarders are changing the sport all the way to the Olympics
With more women’s sponsorships, which offer a travel budget and significant prize purses and endorsement opportunities, the advancement of skaters’ lives and interests are starting to become possible. Tap the link in our bio to learn how #AmericanWomen, like @lizziearmanto (pictured here), are ending the gender bias in skateboarding. Photographed by @artofoto.