Own It: A Discourse On Being The Only Girl Skating At An Event
It was a rare, sunny day in the Pacific Northwest and the Washington Triple Crown of Downhill was in full swing. This event would offer three separate races with the first location of the day being a narrow, windy, and technical path that reached top speeds of 25-30 mph. It was the type of track that made me feel right at home since some of the best runs back in Ontario are just that – narrow, windy, and technical golf paths. [Feature photo: Jonathan Nuss]
I found myself standing atop the run contemplating my first drop in. It had been a couple of weeks since my last slide and I felt rusty to say the least. In times like these, I often find myself going through an internal dialogue.
“Alright Cindy, you can do this. Just forget about the fact that you’re the only girl here and that this group of guys will be watching and most likely judging you when you descend. You got this! You’ve been the only girl at an endless amount of events. Go kick ass!”
With that, I was off on my first run. I crashed three corners later.
Dusting myself off, I grabbed my board and made the quick trek back to the top with the worst part of every event behind me – the first run. Up. Down. Up. Down. High five. Up. Down. Up… Whoa!
It was on this one particular climb back up the hill, that a group of young, female soccer players had congregated to watch from the top. I failed to mention earlier that this path was situated next to a park that had multiple soccer fields. Pulling into the parking lot, the soccer mom vans easily outnumbered the skate vans. As I hiked up, I could hear this gaggle of girls saying things to one another like, “Look how fast they go!”, “Would you do it?”, “It looks like so much fun”.
In that moment, I smiled, and remembered why embracing participation, despite being the only girl at a skate event, is so important.
1. You have the ability to inspire. The majority of the time, all it takes for a human being to believe they can do something, is to see someone else do it. Mahfia TV founder, Kim Woozy has a whole Tedx Talk dedicated to this concept of possibility models called ‘If she can do it, so can I’ that you should definitely check out. I also recently interviewed Valeria Kechichian to learn more about her Tedx Talk and how Longboard Girls Crew has inspired women all over the world to begin longboarding . I highly recommend giving that a read too!
2. Participating earns you more respect than you’ll ever know. Skateboarding is a unique sport in the sense that while it is an individual activity, group dynamics and community still play a huge part of it’s DNA. In particular, the acts of learning and progression are things that are celebrated. We holler and cheer when a fellow skater lands a new trick, takes a faster line, or survives a sketchy situation. And this reaction happens regardless of skill level. Whether it’s somebody’s first 1-foot slide or 100-foot slide, the camaraderie is the same. When you’re the only girl at an event and doing your best to get better every run, you will inevitably earn you more respect than you’ll ever know.
3. You will progress. When you skate, you will improve. The more you skate the better you get. When you skate with people who are better than you, you are bound to learn and get better as well. Guys have been some my best teachers and supporters. Don’t miss the opportunity to get better just because you’re the only girl at a skate event.
4. This ‘give-it-a-go’ mindset will help you succeed in other parts of your life. Skateboarding is by no means the only time I’ve felt like I shouldn’t be participating because I am a minority. Over the past four years, pursuing a career in the sports industry has been a constant reminder of how I am a female in a male-dominated space. It’s only when I remind myself that it’s more important to try, fail, and progress than to never try at all, I know that everything will work eventually out.
At the end of the day…
Being the only girl skating at an event is something I’ve experienced more times than I’d ever like to. Even having done it countless times, it doesn’t get any easier. The weight of the female skate world can feel like it rests on your shoulders. You represent a sample size of one for how well a girl can skate in real life and it can be terrifying and empowering all at once. Like it or not, many will see you as a spectacle. The best advice I can offer is, if you’re that girl, give yourself some words of encouragement and own it!