Ten years ago, women or non-binary people were not always welcome or able to reach their full potential as skaters. But in just under 10 years, skateboarding is currently undergoing a radical change.
Sydney will host a Street League Skateboarding tournament this weekend, providing a high-profile opportunity for local skaters to compete against the best in the world.
Among the many competitors will be Australian women and girls who are taking the sport into a new era of camaraderie alongside competition, while breaking records and winning gold.
Teen sensations make history
When Arisa Trew completed the 720 trick – so named because it involved performing two full 360° rotations in the air – at the Vert Alert ramp competition in Salt Lake City in June, she wrote her name in the history books as the first girl or woman to land the trick.
The 13-year-old from Gold Coast, trained at the Level Up Australia National Sports Academy, landed the 720 ahead of Tony Hawk, who pioneered this trick in 1985.
She also became the first to win this title in an X-Games competition while also winning gold in the women’s vert.
At the same event, Chloe Covell, 13, from northern New South Wales, won gold in the women’s street competition and then gold in the Street League Skateboarding (SLS) in Japan.
Ruby Trew (no relation), a 14-year-old from Sydney, is another emerging world champion, winning silver in the park division at the skateboarding world Olympic qualifiers in Argentina in May.
Young Australian girls and women now have role models like Arisa, Chloe and Ruby who are world-class skaters.
Covell hopes the growing profile and visibility of her and others will now inspire “a lot more girls and women to get involved and start shredding.”
“There’s always something going on during a weekend, whether it’s a competition or just a meetup somewhere at a skate park or street spots,” she said.
“It’s always an open invitation to anyone who wants to come out and skate, regardless of their level.”
As the 2024 Olympics in Paris approach, Australian girls are the main medal contenders, regularly reaching the podium at World Skateboard Qualifiers and winning at the X-Games and SLS – some of skateboarding’s most competitive competitions. largest and most commercially profitable in the world. .
A combination of formal and informal approaches helped bring about changes in skating, resulting in this impressive progression.
Tokyo debuts with a “culture of care”
Skateboarding debuted at the Tokyo Olympics, and what stood out was a culture of kindness among women and non-binary competitors.
Kat Williams, a pioneering competitive and sponsored skateboarder and now coach at Skate Australia, believes two aspects are at play.
“First, skateboarding is incredibly difficult; skateboarders constantly put their bodies on the line to progress in skateboarding. This earns them the respect of all the competitors for their dedication,” Williams said.
“Second, women and non-binary skateboarders have been fighting for equality for a long time.
“In this male-dominated sport, they faced significant challenges, uniting skateboarders in their understanding of the determination required to reach the high level of the Olympic Games.”
Challenges include lack of pay parity, women’s competitions held early in the day with smaller potential audiences, lack of adequate funding and sexist attitudes which have diminished their skill levels and sponsorship opportunities.
Williams said the Olympics played a role in creating change for women and girls in the sport.
“It created equal scholarships and companies started to see growth in the women’s industry, so they started to recognize that there was a market to support more women and non-binary skaters,” he said. she declared.
The Tokyo Olympics also brought attention to the importance of having more female judges, such as Australia’s Shari Duffy from the Sunshine Coast, who had been a World Skate judge and commentator since 2014.
The Bowlzilla/Yeah Girl and Girls Skate Australia competitions are examples in Australia where equal prizes are offered.
Rumble Skateboarding has also strived to employ female coaches, MCs and other roles in its many competitions as well as community-level sponsored events, where efforts are also made by a range of skateboarders to educate and develop inclusive environments and respectful.
All organizations supported the open, girls and women’s divisions.
Building safe and inclusive spaces
Evie Ryder, who has been a sponsored skater, is a social worker and co-founder of community initiatives such as We Skate QLD and Consent is Rad.
She emphasizes that values that should be fostered include “the camaraderie and encouragement of others that gets you started with skateboarding and keeps you in love with it.”
“In the face of sexism, homophobia and transphobia, supporting each other and valuing each other beyond skateboarding is what shines through to the Olympics,” Ryder said.
Ryder also hopes there will still be support for “women’s skateboarding at all skill levels, as well as safe and inclusive skate spaces, access to safe skate facilities and equipment, and coaching.”
At a national level, new initiatives such as the Win Well 2032 campaign, part of the Australian High Performance Sports Strategy 2032+, are also designed to address the wellbeing of athletes, including skateboarders, who engage on the Olympic path.
The program emphasizes values such as “how we win is just as important as when we win” and that participating sports commit to “prioritizing and focusing on well-being physical, mental, emotional and cultural of our athletes, coaches, staff and the sport as a whole.”
The success of such programs often relies on professional staff and coaches, who in skateboarding are rarely women. But lately, more and more people are taking on such roles.
The World Skate organization, which oversees Olympic qualifying, has two men and two women on its commission, and its six-person judging team includes two women.
As part of Skate Australia’s high performance programs, Williams oversees the athlete wellbeing and engagement program.
“It really comes down to the idea that wellness is achieved through a holistic approach…a balance in life is more important than the end goal of a gold medal,” Williams said.
“One element of skateboarding that other sports can learn from in this area, for example, is the importance of ‘play.’
“The key is to have a healthy, enjoyable journey through sport and transition out of sport.”
This includes careers like his in skateboarding after competition.
And with just under 12 months until the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games, the federal government has committed a further $20 million to support Australia’s medal hopes.
Skate Australia will receive part of a $5 million increase, which will be used to directly support skateboarders for Olympic qualifying events and to address support staff shortages to prioritize health and well-being. be their athletes.
Friendships and pleasure
Skateboarding has always had a strong social scene with a culture that emphasizes friendship and having fun with other skateboarders.
It’s this social scene that Covell, an X-Games and SLS gold medalist, considers, along with her family, her biggest supporters who help her navigate some of the trickier parts of the acting profession. elite athlete.
“Everyone is just trying to laugh and we’re all having fun,” she said.
“I think Australia has one of the best skateboarding scenes… I hope it continues to grow and everyone has the opportunity to learn about skateboarding and fall in love with it.”
ABC Sport has partnered with Mermaid Sports to increase coverage of women and non-binary people in sport.
Indigo Willing is a sociologist, skateboarder and co-author of Skateboarding, Power and Change (Palgrave) with Anthony Pappalardo.