I grew up on the Central Coast of California 10 miles from the beach. Being the daughter of a surfer, I was exposed to the surf/skate culture at a young age. I learned to surf at 6 years-old by my Dad and his friends who would push me into waves. I received my first skateboard on Christmas when I was 7 years-old. I went to the skate park only a few times but I was hooked. Although I wasn’t very good, I was having fun and that was all that mattered.
What I don’t remember throughout these young experiences were seeing girls like me. There were only boys at the skate park and boys in the water surfing. I didn’t have many girlfriends as a kid who liked to surf or skateboard. I was definitely a tomboy, somewhat of a rebel and a rule breaker, especially when it came to how girls should dress and what was socially accepted.
As I got older I would skate by myself or with my sister, because we were the only girls we knew who enjoyed the hobby. I stopped going to the skate park because I was too intimidated and at times felt extremely uncomfortable. There seems to be endless unwanted male attention as a woman on a skateboard. I felt like I wasn’t allowed at the local skate park, like I wasn’t good enough and couldn’t hold my own. I felt like that was because I was a girl, which of course isn't true. Because I hadn’t surfed in years I was also timid to suit up and get out in the water again. In my early years of college, I noticed more girls out in the water, but of course there were always guys dominating the lineup.
As my sister and I teach our younger sister to ride a skateboard, we also want to teach her that she has a community of girls supporting her as well. She is not doing this alone, it is not just us, we are doing this together.
GRLSWIRL is an all-women community of like-minded skaters with the desire to show girls they can be a beginner at skating, which is (more often than not) something that keeps girls from getting involved in the sport in the first place. The founders of GRLSWIRL are nine women who are on a mission to create an exclusive skate sisterhood. GRLSWIRL is all about community, uplifting, and empowering. Their goal is to raise awareness and support philanthropic organizations within Venice and elsewhere.
I attended a weekly skate session put on by GRLSWIRL every other Tuesday to see what it was all about. We met near the Venice skate park around 7pm, you’ll know it’s GRLSWIRL because all the girls have a board and a big smile. There were at least 60 girls of different age groups and experiences of skating. I met many of the women on the GRLSWIRL team and was welcomed by each of them with a hug and contagious excitement. We met new friends, talked about our fears, how we started skating, how long we have been skating, and truly supported and empowered one another. I learned that many of these women had the same experiences growing up. After we talked we headed out as a pack of 60 women skating the Venice boardwalk to the pier. I skated passed men who said, “I didn’t know girls could do that.” I felt so empowered and free. It was amazing being together with a group of like-minded women just skating. Some girls were practicing their tricks and getting tips from each other, others were learning to get more comfortable just skating around. It was a beautiful sight to see women supporting women.
GRLSWIRL has created a community that women crave, they are a huge light within a male-dominated skateboard culture and we could not appreciate their existence more.