Going Against the Rail 

Video and story by Tinu Thomas, Liam Alteneder and Blaise Compton

Even in a community that goes against the grain of society, female skateboarders struggle to find their place.

“It’s like being a fish in a shark tank,” said Halie Davis, a 26-year-old skateboarder. “It is intimidating coming out here by yourself.”

Female skateboarders are outnumbered by males in local skateparks. Similarly, on the professional level, female skateboarders struggle to reshape the industry and earn the same monetary incentives as their male counterparts.

“The biggest challenge for them to get into skateboarding is obviously that it’s a male-dominated sport,” said Rebecca Dreiling, a 34-year-old longboarder and skateboarder.

Dreiling teaches women who are interested in skating how to get comfortable on a board, breaking down the fear some women have of the inherently rugged sport.

“It’s challenging because women were taught to not get hurt or do dangerous things when we were a lot younger and that kind of goes against that grain [of] preserve your face preserve your skin,” Dreiling said.

Christina Hayes is 28 years old and just started skating a few months ago with Davis and six other girls who frequent the skate park together. Hayes said asking for help is the first step girls should take to succeed in skating.

“It’s really intimidating when a lot of skater dudes are hanging around just watching you mess up all the time,” Hayes said, “but it turns out they really don’t care, they just want to help.”

A skateboarder of 14 years, Davis disagreed with Hayes about the limitations females face when skating in local parks.

“I think that’s because you’re still new,” Davis told Hayes, “and you came in at such a different time.”

While the climate for female skateboarders is less negative now, Davis said it is still clear girls are not entirely welcome, especially in the professional realm when money is involved.

“Growing up the only pro that I was even aware of was Elissa Steamer and that’s because she was pro in the ‘90s,” Davis said.

Davis said the rise of social media created an even larger platform for people to express criticism toward female skateboarders.

“On social media, it’s just so much shit-talking because guys just don’t want to see those girls being pro,” Davis said.“They feel like if these girls are going to be pro then there needs to be a men’s and women’s division.”

Davis is right. In a sport heavily reliant on timing, it was only in 2003, nearly a decade after the X Games began, that female skateboarders were allowed to compete. Despite the late start, EPSN reported Cara Beth Burnside as the winner of three of the first four gold medals awarded during first year of the X Games.

Although being included in the X Games was a huge triumph for female skateboarders, it was later revealed females were competing for a fraction of the prize purse that men were.

Alongside unequal pay, Dreiling has noticed a double bind for female skateboarders on the professional level.

“Females who are dressing sexy on skateboards are getting shamed, but also they’re the ones getting the sponsors and airtime,” Dreiling said. “The ones who are not dressing up are not getting the airtime but are being more respected in the street culture.”

Although female skateboarders still struggle to find footing, amateur skateboarder Taylor Stevens, said she has hope for the future.

“You see a lot of younger girls doing it [going pro] and they’re shredding,” Stevens said, “eventually they’ll be our age and even better.”

As she continually empowers other women to skateboard, Dreiling is cautiously optimistic for the future.

“For the future of female skateboarders– I would like to see any women getting on a board or stepping into a skatepark will feel comfortable no matter where they’re at in their life, or what they’re doing, or what they’re wearing.”

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