Work in Skateboarding was created in 2012 to promote skateboarding and its career opportunities to potential future generations. They recently interviewed Skate Like a Girl’s Chapter Director, Kristen Ebeling. Check out the full article on www.workinskateboarding.com
Kristin Ebeling is a talented skateboarder and community leader who is responsible for growing Seattle’s skate scene in the past decade. As Skate Like a Girl’s Seattle Chapter Director, Kristin spends her time teaching kids to skate, producing skate events for the community, helping to build local skateparks and providing free/low cost skate lessons for youth in underserved communities. Her passion for giving back and commitment to growing the skate community in a positive direction is what makes Kristin one of the best examples of what it means to be a skateboarder. We could use a lot more Kristin Ebelings in our industry.
When did you start skating, what was the point you realized that you couldn’t stop & how did that make you feel?
I started skating at 12 years old. I realized I wasn’t going to stop when most of my friends decided to quit by the time we were 13, but I stuck with it. I felt like a weirdo. I remember thinking, “why do I even do this?” Looking back, I know I loved the challenge, not having a coach yelling at me, and also frustrating my dad by not doing traditional girly things.
Do you think it’s important for girls skating to be regarded in the same light and included in the mainstream industry?
This is a tough one for me. I love skateboarding in a general sense, yet I’ve been consistently frustrated by the lack of female exposure and participation in the industry since I started in 2001. For many years I truly believed that it was extremely important for women to be featured in magazines, and for girls to be seen as equals to guys in the eyes of the skateboarding industry. However, over the years this has left me wondering, “what is the point?” By and large, men run the skate industry and they have shown us again and again that they don’t really care about girls skateboarding. They run Hubba Wheel ads in the magazines, cut female-focused product programs and tokenize a few talented female skaters by saying things like, “well she skates like a dude.” Why would they cater to women when we’re just a tiny sliver of the skateboarding market? Right now, I think it’s more important for women to be supporting other women, by creating our own companies, media outlets, competitions, and the like. For instance, it’s more important that Girls Skate Network continues to put out content to inspire women globally to pick up skateboards, not whether or not Thrasher is going to run one picture of a girl actually skateboarding this month. I don’t think it matters whether guys take us seriously or want to support us. In the future, I would hope that the mainstream industry would be more open to supporting females, not just for a few years, but for the long-haul. I think grassroots female-run support in collaboration with mainstream support would create an ideal environment for women to join skateboarding and supported through the upper echelons if so desired.
At some point in the future, we will be regarded more as equals to men in skateboarding, similar to sports like figure skating, gymnastics, and tennis. I believe this to be true because skateboarding is not about height or brawn, and therefore males don’t have a distinct advantage. I feel the “talent gap” is a result of a lack of female participation. What’s exciting me about Skate Like a Girl is that we are not only changing the culture of skateboarding and how people are introduced to the sport, but also are exposing thousands of girls and women to the sport and giving them a positive space to hone their skills.
How has the organization helped the local skate community?
We have provided free/low cost lessons & programs for populations that are often underserved or otherwise wouldn’t have access to skateboarding, including low-income youth and females. Essentially we are not just serving existing skateboarders, but “growing the pie.” By creating many new skaters, we have in turn stimulated the local skateboarding economy. Further, we’ve provided opportunities for folks who are already skaters by hosting multiple local skateboarding competitions/events and providing free volunteer/leadership trainings such as the Youth Employment Skateboarding program.
What types of events and programs does the organization hold to encourage girls participation in skateboarding?
We host multiple weekly “Ladies Night” skate sessions, which provide an opportunity for girls & women of all ages and abilities to skate together. We host Ladies Night year-round at All Together Skate Park, and seasonally at Bellevue Indoor Skate Park, Seattle Center Skate Park, and other outdoor facilities. During the summer, we host multiple weeks of “Girls Only” skate camps that are exclusive to female participants. Finally, we host the Wheels of Fortune all girls skateboarding showcase, which is our annual competitive event for female skaters of all abilities. Participants travel from all over the world to attend this event, which boasts between 30-50 participants each year.
Why are organizations like this important to skateboarding and the non-skateboarding community?
Skateboarding is a male-dominated sport and is not traditionally organized. With these two factors, it can be hard in particular for females & youth to become involved. More specifically, it’s extremely intimidating for a girl to pick up a skateboard and try when there’s no one that looks like them participating. In the same vein, it’s hard for a parent to feel comfortable with dropping their child off at a skate park that lacks supervision and structure. Skate Like a Girl is important because we are creating spaces & pathways for these populations to join skateboarding. In time, we hope that participation in skateboarding is larger and more diverse, simultaneously sustaining the skateboard industry and creating a more inclusive culture. For those outside of the skate community, we serve as a friendly face or a bridge into skateboarding. For instance, our positive and inclusive focus, Skate Like a Girl has been able to work within school districts and local government to provide skate programs, as well as advocate for the construction of skate parks.