“In an expanding universe, time is on the side of the outcast. Those who once inhabited the suburbs of human contempt find that without changing their address they eventually live in the metropolis.”- Quentin Crisp
Outcast. Socially isolated and kept at bay. Unfortunately, it is the human condition to look upon others in such judgmental fashion. In skateboarding, I know that many of us considered the label of ‘outcast’ as a badge of honor. I was glad to not be like ‘them’. To quote OG Zephyr team rider - Peggy Oki- “The differences between us felt very real!” I was at the girls Protec contest and was slightly dismayed. I heard some fat old guys grumbling. One scoffed “Ha! Girls Protec… yeah right. ” I have news for you buddy. Sexism is nothing but misogyny. He should have left those thoughts inside the empty head they originated from. I was more bummed at the lack of media coverage. I thought –and still do–that the ladies deserve so much more. Call me what you will… Things are not what they once were.
At one time, girls were seen riding but they were few and far between. At Woodward–when I was director–I saw only a handful of female skate campers each summer. Few of these girls stood out with exceptional talent. I moved back to California in 1997 and began seeing Carabeth Burnside at places. She was ripping and I remember being amped that a girl could skate so well! At that time, she and few other females were seen riding. Jen O’Brien was on the scene as were Calamity Jean , Jodi McDonald, Heidi Fitzgerald, Jessica Starkweather, Holly Lyons and others. With the concrete skate park explosion of the new millennium, female skaters began to be seen everywhere. The huge popularity and accessibility of street skating helped as well. More skate parks equal more skateboarders and it didn’t take long for the number of female riders to increase proportionally.
With the deluge of ‘Extreme’ this and ‘Extreme’ that, televised skateboarding events and Tony Hawk’s name recognizable in every household, it isn’t a wonder that some serious female skateboarding talent began to emerge. A few years ago, I skated with Carabeth & Mimi Knoop. It was an impressive day. I’ve been skateboarding vert and pools for a very long time and I had to admit to myself that these girls were better than me. It was an odd feeling actually. I remember it quite well. However, I don’t really recall being jealous or bummed… I looked upon them as very talented & gifted skateboarders, much in the same way I would admire the vertical skills of any other amazing rider. Gender wasn’t really an issue. I simply knew they were women because I’m a man and am inherently attracted. However, I was stoked! These women were–in the face of strong adversity–pushing the limits and creating a place for future female riders. Outsiders?! I think not. In my opinion, anyone who thinks female skateboarders don’t belong shouldn’t be walking around without a ‘keeper’.
At the 2010 and 2011 girls Protec, I was floored by the level of skateboarding talent, the style, the great vibe and the willingness these ladies had to take a hard slam. I remember watching the contest this year and seeing judges -Christian Hosoi, Steve Caballero and Sasha –all on their feet–screaming as these girls charged super hard and stayed on. It was pretty impressive. It made me think. Last year, I got a few girls together with my pal Patricia and we had a backyard session. The day was pretty neat. That afternoon stuck with me due to the complete lack of ego noticed during the session. It simply wasn’t there. There was no ‘one-up’, no vibes and no name calling. Fini.
I wondered about getting the top female vert competitors together and having a session. I wanted to set it up and watch what went down. I had only really seen these girls skate together –en masse–during a contest. What would it be like? Would there be a vibe? Would they feed off each other? Would ego’s and rivalries develop and get in the way? Hmmm… I talked with Lance Mountain, Ray Zimmerman & Brandon Wong. They agreed to help me & I set it up. In attendance would be : Lizzie Armanto, Carabeth Burnside, Mimi Knoop, Jen O’Brien, Allysha Bergado, Julie Kinstrand and Amelia Brodka. I wanted to invite Nora Vasconcellos because she is one of the most stylish female rippers I’ve seen, but she is living back east. The girls readily accepted and I came to find out that they had NEVER done this before. They couldn’t recall ever riding in a session together except during contest times. I thought - “Damn! It took a man to bring them together!?” Irony…
The day dawned early for me. I drove over to Lance’s with Ray Zimmerman. A terrible windstorm had torn the hell out of the area a few days earlier. Lance had a tree knocked down in his yard and it seemed as though every leaf on every tree had shed into the pool. I grabbed a rake, trash bags and started getting it all cleaned up. Amelia Brodka arrived first. She is like a bright ray of sunshine on a cloud-covered day… It was great to see her. Mimi, Carabeth, Jen O’Brien, Lizzie and Allysha turned up shortly after. There were smiles and happy faces everywhere. Brandon & Ray set up cameras and we received word that Julie Kinstrand was en route. The girls stretched & quickly hit the pool… hard! Amelia seriously didn’t play around one bit. She started into an attack mode and Ray was quickly scurrying about on the deck to set up a shot. She was ripping and he didn’t want to miss a thing. She decided to pull a FS lipslide over the deathbox. Ray set up and got the photograph. On her next run, Amelia slightly over rotated, went to bail and couldn’t get her foot off her board. Her knee buckled and she was –unfortunately–quickly out of the session. Lance and I helped her out of the pool and into a chaise-lounge. We immediately went and obtained some ice for her. We all wish Amelia a speedy recovery. You are an inspiration.
By this time, Julie Kinstrand was at the pool. It was her birthday and she quickly started flying out of the pool like it was her last day on earth. Mimi, Jen, Carabeth, Lizzie and Allysha followed suit. It was like watching an ‘add a trick’ contest… only there was no contest. Each girl would flow throughout the pool pulling tricks and ripping. The others were cheering and yelling as things were landed. Carabeth worked on lines and lien airs. She pulled super smooth feeble grinds and decked rock-n-rolls. Jen O’Brien threw down speedy 50-50s over the deathbox, FS ollies, FS airs and kept it stylish all day long. Perfection. Mimi nailed fastplants, BS Smith grinds and pounded herself as she worked on lien disasters. She stomped one and everyone was super hyped!
Allysha flew about the pool with smooth precision. Andrechts and picture book FS airs were hers… anytime. Lizzie Armanto will make a man think. Don’t blink. When this woman rides, you can bet that you are going to see something you don’t normally see. BS Disasters, full throttle 5-0 grinds and table-top methods were in her ‘warm up’ run. Damn. Enough said!
Julie Kinstrand dropped in at the end of the day and pulled a Frazier-esque FS nosebone that made us all wonder… Good Lord! What did that girl eat for breakfast! We all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her and ended the day in good spirits. Even Amelia put on a brave face, set aside her ice pack and hobbled about thanking everyone and sharing the stoke.
In the end it all comes down to this. Outsiders. Exclusion. At one time, all skateboarders were looked upon in such a fashion. No more. Things have changed and for the better. Skateboarders are making a living. Progression. The ladies are here and they are ripping. We hear them loud and clear. They are –collectively–grateful for the sponsorship and contests but these do not seem like the kind of ladies that will sit back, be subservient and do nothing. We haven’t heard the last from these women and others like them that are appearing all over the world. I find it exciting and interesting… the human condition fascinates me and anytime I see a wrench thrown into the supposed ‘male-dominated’ mess we live in, the happier I become. Thank you to the ladies involved. Thank you to Lance for the session and Thank you to MRZ and Brandon for the images and film. Skate- Ozzie