What Does a Rise of Women in Skateboarding Mean for Female-Focused Brands?
April 15, 2018 - skateboarding
For decades, women’s place in skateboarding was questioned and downplayed. Despite a fact that a mythological Zephyr group counted Peggy Oki among a ranks, that total like Cara-Beth Burnside and Jaime Reyes were subterraneous heroes around a 90s, and that a era who grew adult with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater saw Elissa Steamer as a member of skateboarding’s elite, women were still relegated to a teenager role, given tiny press and few sponsorship opportunities. In this vacuum, female-focused brands like Meow and Hoopla were established. Recently, though, a accumulation of factors have total to pull seductiveness in women’s skateboarding to an all-time high. Female skaters have changed from a margins into a spotlight, and big-name sponsors are noticing. But now that a transformation is on a verge of mainstream acceptance, will a brands combined to give women a place in skateboarding be done obsolete?
Meow and Hoopla were both innate out of a default of support for womanlike skaters. “At a time [I founded Meow], we didn’t wish to do a association usually to do a company, yet I’ve been to some vital events and some of a tip girls in a universe didn’t have house sponsors, or not marketed or seen anywhere,” Lisa Whitaker, who founded Meow in 2012, told me about a company’s roots. Prior to rising a brand, she skated for Rookie Skateboards in a late 90s and ran a Girls Skate Network for 15 years. Mimi Knoop shares a identical story: After using a competition circuit, she and Cara-Beth Burnside started Hoopla in 2008. Neither association drops vast promotion dollars for monthly spreads in magazines or video diversion product placements, relying instead on a energy of word-of-mouth. Both brands state their finish idea as a universe where women are supposed and distinguished as skateboarders. Indeed, on Meow’s website, Whitaker goes as distant as to explain that “hopefully one day, there won’t be a need for a code like this anymore.”
That day could be sketch near. Recently tip Hoopla group riders like Nora Vasconcellos and Samarria Brevard left after receiving offers from bigger brands that government knew they couldn’t, and shouldn’t, refuse. As such, Knoop recently announced around Instagram that a code would be shuttering a doors in a nearby future. Though there are few sadder moments in skateboarding than when a dear code calls it quits, she positive me a preference was wholly her own, “a integrity [made] after months of clever consideration.
“The strange goal of Hoopla was to emanate a support complement for womanlike pros where nothing existed prior,” she said. “To put it simply, that complement now exists! It’s indeed unequivocally extraordinary to see unfold, even yet it was eventually a passing of Hoopla.”
The uptick in women who movement is in no tiny partial due to a coming of amicable media and increasing entrance to skateparks around a United States. According to Meow’s Whitaker, “more skateparks all over a place make it easier for girls to get involved,” and increasing entrance to a internet means that “girls can find any other, share their footage, pull one another, and build a community” in no time during all. As such, mainstream support for women’s skateboarding popped adult “seemingly overnight,” according to Knoop, swelling around a attention in a form of some-more high-level sponsorships for women and fostering a swell in women’s skateboarding of all levels. As of 2018, some-more women have pro play than ever before, on a preference of brands as opposite as Welcome, Plan B, and enjoi. And several shoe companies, including Nike, New Balance Numeric, and adidas, not usually unite women, yet actively highlight their achievements. Even Thrasher, skateboarding’s self-proclaimed bible, is starting to gleam a brighter spotlight on women: In Aug 2017, Birdhouse rookie Lizzie Armanto became a third lady featured on a cover (after Cara Beth Burnside in 1988 and Jamie Reyes in 1994), and 14 pages of a Apr 2018 book are clinging to a skating and exploits of an all-girls debate by Arizona, featuring skaters like Armanto, Nora Vasconcellos, Lacey Baker, and Samarria Brevard.
Though there’s still a prolonged approach to go, according to contestant manager Yulin Olliver, who’s worked with distinguished skaters like Vanessa Torres and Lacey Baker, there are distant some-more opportunities for women now than there were even 3 years ago, including “contests, blurb work, and… profitable opportunities from their sponsors that didn’t used to exist.” Olliver spent over a decade in movement sports government before splintering off and combining her possess group in 2014, specializing in usually womanlike athletes as a approach to coax seductiveness in women’s oft-overlooked talents. When asked about a increasing direct for her clientele, she had no necessity of examples.
“We went from no pro women’s travel movement contests solely X Games, to Street League adding it [in 2015]… A few womanlike skaters are now pro, and assimilated teams, not as a token lady as it competence have occurred to a open in a past, yet as a legit partial of a team, regardless of gender (or so I’m told). So by these measures, there has been a expansion in direct over a past several years. The womanlike skaters would substantially contend there have been some-more profitable gigs this year than any prior year.”
Nowhere is this some-more clear than a competition circuit, which, in further to a annual Street League and Dew Tour events, now includes a 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Though a Games are over twin years away, a effects of skateboarding’s newfound inclusion on a Olympic module are already starting to make ripples around a industry. With these new opportunities comes not usually a possibility for bearing on a huge, presumably worldwide scale, yet also a risk that a some-more marketing-savvy mainstream brands competence make offers to some riders on all-female teams, in an bid to pledge interest and sales to a opposite demographic.
“I consider a Olympic awaiting has already pushed some companies to deposit some-more in women than they differently would have,” Alexis Sablone, WKND and New Balance pro, told me. “In a past, it’s been easy to get divided with a customary ‘oh good nobody watches a women’ or ‘there’s no market’ or ‘they’re not good enough.’ Now, it’s harder to deny. If it’s good adequate for a Olympics, it’s good adequate for a universe to see.”
Sablone’s career trail predates Meow and Hoopla, and exemplifies some of a hurdles faced by women in a mostly masculine sport. She initial gained notice alongside PJ Ladd, Ryan Gallant, and Jereme Rogers in Coliseum’s subterraneous strike PJ Ladd’s Wonderful Horrible Life , and had a brief coming in The Firm’s Can’t Stop before dedicating herself full-time to Columbia University’s undergrad program, earning a vital in pattern before jumping behind into a skateboard attention in 2008. Though she never had an emanate removing product from companies, a attribute frequency grew to a subsequent turn of contracts or a pro board. She positive me this was due, in part, to her twin concentration on skating and academics, yet gender also played a role. Eventually, she saved adult adequate competition loot to compensate for grad propagandize during MIT, from that she graduated in 2016, before jumping behind into a ravel as both a engineer and a pro skater for WKND. Musing on a differences between a attention in 2003 and 2018, she tells me “there are some-more opportunities and also some-more money” nowadays, yet “there’s still a estimable opening in both a volume paid and series of opportunities accessible to women when compared to men.” Sablone is assured about a intensity a Olympics brings women over a payday, however.
“What I’m many carefree for, post-Olympics, is a series of girls it will move to skateboarding,” she told me. “Skateboarding’s about style, finesse, creativity—it’s not all energy and strength and ‘hey, how many stairs can we burst down?’ so we consider a some-more girls that start skating, a clearer their value to skateboarding—and not usually contests—will become.”
That’s not to contend womanlike professionals are usually a commodity now since of a Olympics. Lacey Baker, who rides for Meow, is one of a many in-demand pros of her generation, regardless of gender. Unlike many of her peers, she gifted what a vast brands had to offer womanlike skateboarders firsthand when she rode for Element toward a commencement of a decade, yet a code “decided to go in a opposite instruction marketing-wise, and a attribute no longer continued as a result,” Baker said. Her accomplishments are as sundry as they are celebrated. Her life and career has been documented in fact in Rolling Stone. She was handpicked by Thrasher as a mystery guest for a 2017 deteriorate of VICELAND’s King of a Road. She’s warranted a desired mark on a Nike SB roster, and she was a initial lady to win a Berrics’ Populist award, in 2017. Despite her standing in a attention and offers from bigger brands, she’s adhering with Meow, praising a brand’s intentions and a artistic outlets it provides her.
“Meow’s rad since it’s thorough and for girls who skate,” Baker asserted. “That, in itself, creates it unequivocally special. Also, being means to do my possess graphics and a lot of a other graphics has been unequivocally fun, since I’m also a striking designer.”
Being means to pattern one’s possess pro graphics is a oppulance that many incomparable brands repudiate their riders, a use that allows smaller brands and artistic thinkers like Meow and Baker to mount out. This competence be a double-edged sword, as it’s no tip a contingency are built opposite smaller house brands, in vast partial due to a low lapse on tough products and an oversaturated market, yet Baker is assured about Meow’s place in skateboarding.
“Meow is flourishing on a own,” she maintained. “I consider what Lisa’s doing is unequivocally rad, and there’s been a lot of expansion in a company… Board companies are small, they’re for family vibes, we know?”
Meow’s expansion has continued comparatively unabated over a past few years. And while Hoopla has had a rockier journey, for a time being, women “are on a design of one of those high points in terms of popularity, new opportunities, and increasing value,” Knoop says, and it’s high time they reaped a benefits. However, she emphasized a continued need for female-centric brands and initiatives in skateboarding, and she skeleton on staying in a attention by approach of a Women’s Skate Alliance, that will ideally “create new opportunities for women in skateboarding where nothing now exist.”
Every denote seems to advise a splendid destiny for women’s skateboarding. Hoopla’s black passing was during a hands of a flourishing direct for womanlike faces in a male-dominated industry, and both Whitaker and Knoop’s work seems staid to continue fostering female-friendly spaces in skateboarding unfettered.
“There has always been a need for companies run by women in skateboarding for women in skateboarding, and for people like Lisa Whitaker and Mimi Knoop—people who were honestly invested in women’s skateboarding from a start,” Sablone said, in regard of a two. “These are a people who were dedicated to building a community, and display that there was a womanlike marketplace before other companies were even peaceful to acknowledge a existence, let alone put income into it.”
Baker echoed these sentiments. “Brands like Meow and Hoopla give space to girls where there wasn’t space before. It creates a community, a support system. It’s not fucking huge, yet there’s prominence since of it… display girls that other girls skate.”
Follow Andrew Murrell on Twitter.