Get to know the trailblazers who have fought an ongoing struggle to carve out a rad space in a white male-dominated culture
When I first became interested in skating, I wish I could tell you I had the confidence just stroll up to the skate park by myself, as the only black girl, and not care what anyone thought. But that was never the case. Instead, as a pre-teen in the early '00s in Toronto, I would privately skate back and forth in the confined space of my backyard. I built this idea in my head that I had to get better before I let anyone see me skate, because I would already be judged enough as it is by the boys at the park. When I wasn’t out in the backyard, I was looking up videos on YouTube from women skaters I admired, like Lacey Baker, Vanessa Torres, Amy Caron, Lauren Mollica, Alex White, and more. To this day, these women are some of my favourite skaters, but none of them are black.
Noticing that fact as a young skater only strengthened my idea that I had to keep my hobby a secret. After spending hours on the internet not coming across any black girls skating, naturally my understanding was that I wouldn’t be welcome. Today, I don’t believe in “performing blackness”, living within the narrow idea media and sometimes even our community says we’re capable of. But when I was that young, it was challenging to my self-esteem trying to navigate who I was and what I liked alongside wanting to just be accepted. I eventually gave up hope that I would find a community like the ones I saw on YouTube. I was so demoralised, I didn’t even want to skate along the patch of pavement in my backyard.
It wasn’t that I just needed to see women skateboarding – I needed to see women that looked like me. As a child, I never did, but now there’s plenty of fearless women of colour who would have been the reason I didn’t want to give up. Skate culture was built around white boys, and because of that, even today, men still are provided the best opportunities in professional skateboarding – so what these trailblazers represent is so much more than just skateboarding.
This 25-year-old Florida native grew up being the only girl that skated in her town. Despite being the odd one out, she was able to hone a unique style that’s respected by the community. Throughout that time she’s picked up sponsors like Supreme, Fucking Awesome, and CHPO.
This list wouldn’t be complete without Sammaria Brevard, who last year became the first and only black woman to come out of X Games with a medal. Brevard’s relationship with female-focused sponsors like Hoopla speaks volumes. In 2016, after turning pro, she appeared in the full-length all-girls skate video Quit Your Day Job, a project to inspire the future of skateboarding.
After skating through downtown Toronto for several years, Stephanie Battieste noticed the lack of female skateboarders in the city, and decided to do something about it. She founded Babes Brigade in 2015 to build a stronger community of women who love to skate. She uses her passion for skateboarding to create an an inclusive environment through meetups, lessons, and contests.
Christiana Smith is making an impact both on and off her board. In 2015, Smith started a positive seed, an organization inspiring positive change. In her video from 2014, Skating in a Dress, she said, “They’re going to judge you no matter what you do, so do what you want.”
Adrienne Sloboh is slowly becoming a big part of the global skateboarding scene. On her Instagram grid you’ll see countless videos of her pushing herself and having fun while doing it. Meow Skateboards recently announced her as a new flow rider, alongside a powerful all-female team.
Australian Briana King is a model who can hold her own on a board, and overflows with a confidence I could only dream of having had when I was younger. King is someone who embodies the idea that, as black women, we can express ourselves in so many different ways.
THE SKATE KITCHEN: DEDE LOVELACE, BRENN AND JULES LORENZO, KABRINA H ADAMS, JANI LUCID
The Skate Kitchen is the type of crew every girl who skates wants to be a part of. Each of them have been recognized for the unique style they bring to skateboarding, earning them collaborations with brands like Nike, G-Star RAW, Miu Miu, and a self-titled documentary about the crew that recently debuted at Sundance. “I hope The Skate Kitchen serves as an affirmation for people who aren’t sure if they can join the skate scene for whatever reason,” member Rachelle told Dazed in 2017.