As part of the community studies social documentation course at the University of California, Santa Cruz, we were asked to select a medium and to produce a short documentary on a subject of our choice. The subject I choose was women’s skateboarding with a goal of highlighting not only the barriers that continue to exist today, but the rich narrative of women who have been riding since the rise of the sport as well as the recent growth of female skate communities that empower and encourage girls of all ages and abilities to ride with confidence. What you will listen to here is not only an assignment for a course, but a project for the community of women skateboarders all over the world who have ridden and those that continue to push the limits of skateboarding with passion. Produced 22 November 2009.
Read the full transcription below or click here to download:
Jolie: When I hear the word skateboarding, I just think about life.
Cindy: If I had to describe skateboard in one word, I would say rad.
Judi: If I were to describe skateboarding in one word and describe what skateboarding means to me I would have to say it means friends and friendship.
Erica: The one word that comes in my mind when I think about skateboarding is fun.
Cindy: I think girls have always been surfers, skateboarders, the what not. Just didn’t get a lot of recognition but if you look back through history, you can find them and you’ll see pictures of them and it’s pretty cool ‘cause they were really, you know, trend setters and ground breakers. My name’s Cindy Whitehead. I’m forty-seven years old and I turned pro when I was sixteen and a half, and it was 1979 at Winchester Skatepark and it was the Hester Series. There were a lot more girls in that era right before me like the early 70s there were more female skaters than there were when I started skating, because those girls had retired and the new ones were coming up in my group and we had less I think. But before the 70s, back in the 60s there was a woman named Patti McGee. She was the one on the cover of Life Magazine doing a handstand. She was, in the 60s, one of those skateboard girls on those metal and clay wheels and she even has a television commercial that you can see from the 60s where she skateboards through a house and uses a telephone and I forget what the ad’s for, but it’s really cute and funny.
[Patti McGee Commercial Audio Clip]:
Narrator: Here is a young housewife doing her morning chores. She’s found a rather ingenious way to save steps whenever the phone rings at the other end of the house. Watch. There goes the phone down in the kitchen and she’s off. Out the door and down the hall. Watch out! That was close. She’s skating faster now. Two steps, she can’t! The bird cage! She made it.
Patti McGee: Hello? Hello?
Narrator: Well she almost made it. Goes to show that even Pat McGee girls national skateboard champion needs a better way to save steps.
Steve: Well from the 70s, you know, there was like Ellen O’Neill. Terri Lawrence was really good at bowl riding. Patty Hoffman, you know, Judi Oyama. In the 80s was Cara Beth-Burnside she really pushed the limit in the 80s and she’s still skating crazy these days and now a days you know you got a lotta girls not only competing in bowl events and vert but in street as well. It really blows me away to see the girls competing and where they’re at as far as their level is. It’s just awesome to see. I think it’s very encouraging not only for my daughter but also for women across the world and also young kids, because back in the day women weren’t really portrayed as people who could be athletic and compete with guys but they’re sure showing them that they’ve been wrong all these years. This is Steve Caballero, I’m a professional skateboarder and I’ve been skating for over thirty years.
Judi: My name’s Judi Oyama. I’m fifty years old and I’ve been skateboarding for thirty-seven years and I was born and raised in Santa Cruz. Alva of course was one of my favorite riders and we had a really fun experience skateboarding Rodeo Gulch of the night before the Capitola Classic and he wanted to go warm up and do some downhill so went at the very end of Rodeo Gulch and he never even rode it, but he pushed started and I went after him on my board. He was on a park board and I remember halfway down he turned to look to see where I was and I was right on his tail and he just smiled. I’ll never forget that because it was a really fun skate and then we stopped at the end and hitched a ride back to get the car.
Jolie: In the past some struggles that I faced as a female skateboarder were people heckling me or people underestimating my skating ability. My name is Jolie. I’m twenty years old and I’m from San Mateo, California.
Kayla: When we come to the skateparks, like here at Lake Cunningham, I’ll watch him skate and then sometimes I’ll go over in a different spot and try it or just, you know, roll around watching people, you know, how their foot works and doing tricks and usually I’ll have my dad come over and watch me and I just try and make him proud. My name is Kayla Caballero. I’m twelve years old. Sometimes I feel like when I skate around people and everyone’s watching me I feel a little scared, because I’m afraid I’m going to fall and then people will laugh at me, but I just try to face my fears.
Julia: My name is Julia Davis and I’m twenty-seven and I’m from Vancouver B.C., Canada. When I started I was a little rug rat. I was like only ten years old, and I, you know, I hid it from everybody pretty much and I was just kind of embarrassed. I didn’t want to tell anybody. Nobody I knew skated and it was hard to stand up for what I wanted to do.
Matthew: I’ve seen a girl skate. She was really good. She could do a 5-0 grind and she was kind of dressed like a man. I don’t know why. I guess she was kind of embarrassed, because you don’t see many girls skateboarding. My name is Matthew George. My age is nine. If I went to an all girls park, I’d disguise myself as a girl.
Gary: My name is Gary Holl. I’m forty-eight years old and I live in Palo Alto, California. I’ve been skateboarding since 1975. You know there’s certainly an inequality in terms of event prize money and coverage that the women get. I’m not really sure why that is. It doesn’t really make sense to me, but I think, you know, when you can turn the TV on and watch the X-Games and they’re going to present the pros. You know, if there’s some other kind of contest going on that’s not X-Games they’ll show the masters and then they might just show the results of the women’s. They won’t even show like the coverage on TV.
Judi: For instance the Hall of Fame that just happened they had voting for 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s till current and they had no women listed and I feel like that was a big mistake, because there was Patti McGee in the 60s, there was Peggy Oki and Laura Thornhill in the 70s, and, you know, Cara Beth 80s, and Lyn-Z and they voted and of course all the different men won, but the fact that they didn’t even have women on the list is to me a sign of what skateboarding still has as an obstacle.
Erica: I don’t think that girls are encouraged to skate and I think that, like a lot of things, it’s like the ultimate insult to be a girl, you know, like oh you run like a girl, you throw like a girl, you skate like a girl. So, if a girl does something well it’s like for a lot of guys it just kind of like puts them down. I don’t think that that’s true. I think that guys are really psyched to have girls at the park and stuff, but I think that there’s definitely been a history of that. My name is Erica Harris. I’m twenty-nine years old and I live in San Francisco, California. I’m the director of San Francisco chapter of Skate Like a Girl. SLAG is a girl’s empowerment organization that uses skateboard programming and we’re an all inclusive community. We provide opportunities and promote girls skateboarding.
Erica: What we have going on today is one of our monthly skate dates. Basically one of the girls will choose a park and we’ll put the word out and anyone can come and skate with us. People who have never skated before and want pointers or other girls that want to skate with other girls. All ages, all abilities, and we have about ten girls here today and we’re having a lot of fun.
Erica: I think the growth of skate communities has contributed a lot to increasing the number of girls skating. There’s not a lot of parents that buy skateboards for their girls or, you know, maybe the girls or friends don’t skate at school so they’re gonna be less likely to skate. So, I think when they have a community and where they fit in and they can skate and be themselves then there’s gonna be more girls skating. Myspace, Facebook, online girls’ skate forums, websites like The Side Project that are posting news. The internet has played a huge role in giving people that community where maybe they’re the only girl in their town that skates. Well, now they can be connected to all these other girls and be part of a community and encourages them to keep skating.
Jolie: In the future, I think more girls will be skateboarding. It won’t be just seen as a male dominated sport.
Erica: The process of learning to skateboard it’s like overcoming all these barriers. It’s really empowering for people when they learn to do these tricks. It’s really a lifestyle and it takes somebody who’s really determined to do it.
Kayla: When I’m older, I just want to influence girls that, you know, girls can skateboard too.
Music from the Piece By:
“Skateboarding” By Jan and Dean. Album: Ride the Wild Surf, Released: 1964.
“Soon it Will be Cold Enough to Build Fires” By Emancipator. Album: Soon It Will be Cold Enough,
“Billy Bowlegs Blues” By Langtry. Album: As Upon the Road Thereto, Released: 2004.
“You Wish” By Nightmares on Wax. Album: In a Space Outta Sound, Released: 2006.
(Photographs courtesy of their respective owners)