by Juliet Elliott, Apr 25, 2012
Times they are a-changing and happily girls growing up today are increasingly likely to forge ahead in their chosen field without too much thought for their gender and its role in deciding where to set their sights.
In sports, music, art and politics there are finally opportunities for women to rocket to the very top and we’re lucky enough to have plenty of strong female icons and role models to inspire us.
The world of action sports boasts a multitude of heroines in every discipline, from motocross superstar Jolene Van Vugt to skaters Leticia Bufoni and Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins and surfers such as Carissa Moore.
Yet for all our progression, I can’t deny that us ladies are most definitely still in the minority! So just how does it feel to be one of only a few women and how do you handle being the only girl to rock up at the skatepark?
I’ve repeatedly taken up male dominated activities, from playing guitar in a metal band to riding BMX and FGFS and the number of times I’ve had to deal with being thoroughly outnumbered are too numerous to list. I’m often conscious of all the eyes upon me but it’s something you learn to deal with or ignore as the other option is not riding and going home defeated. So not really an option I’m willing to take! When you’re a sole lady amongst all the lads, it can seem like everyone is waiting to see you drop in and wondering if you can ride and quite frequently, that’s because they are. But on the whole, no matter what your level, most people will actually give you props for getting out there and giving it a go and once you’ve dropped in they’ll get back to concentrating on their own riding.
There are a few things it’s worth remembering if you’re feeling the strain of being a lone ranger down the park, track or trails.
The first thing to do is to say hi to everyone the minute you arrive – not only will you get that out of the way so you can just focus on riding, but people won’t mistake your nervous silence for arrogance! I can guarantee that you’ll find that most people are friendly, particularly if you make the first move. It’s always a good plan to respect the locals, not only out of courtesy but because you’ll get the most out of a new spot by watching or following someone who knows the lines.
Now you’ve got that out of the way it’s time to start riding. The longer you dither, the more self conscious you’ll feel so jump on your board, bike, donkey or whatever IMMEDIATELY! I promise you, the more you wait around, the harder it will be.
It’s inevitable that people will look at you so it’s worth remembering that the guys at the park/spot/track check out EVERYONE who turns up, it’s not just you! It’s human nature to be curious and the fellas get stared at too so don’t let that put you off.
Still feeling nervous? There’s safety in numbers so gather up your friends and set out en masse. That way you’ll even out the gender split plus get the support you need from your mates. As Nikita skater Maria Falbo put it “a session is always better with a crew of girls”.
If you’re struggling to find female pals to ride with, check out sites such as Girls Skate Network, Girl Riders Org or Yeah Zine’s Facebook to find out about women’s sessions. Head out to a girl’s contest or series, such as the Ladies Skateboard Series. Or start your own thread on a forum for your sport and either arrange to meet other women or create your own event or session.
Another of Maria’s tips to deal with the weird is to “listen to some music and get into the zone”. I find that once you’ve got the music blaring and you’re trying your hardest to nail your trick, there’s not even room in your head for worrying about everyone else.
And lastly, the best advice I can give you is to just get on with it. Stop over thinking it, stop reading this, and go out and ride! I still get nervous and apprehensive sometimes but it’s just as likely to happen when I’m walking into a room full of strangers at a party as it is at a skatepark! It’s just one of those inevitable things you learn to deal with in life! I hope these insights might help.