“When a girl starts skateboarding something magical happens”
When Rob Hewitt’s seven-year-old daughter Amelia took an interest in skateboarding last summer, they went to buy a board together. The problem was that in every shop they visited, the selection was overwhelmingly male-dominated. Amelia asked him why she couldn’t find anything she liked, and that question ultimately resulted in Oh-So — a magazine that celebrates the global female skateboarding scene, born out of the search for something Amelia could identify with. Skateboarding has been marketed as a rebel pursuit, but, as the opening essay in Oh-So explains, the skate park has been a depressingly male hetero space. The author cites a Vice piece from 2009 which began with a line it’s difficult to forget: “Girl skateboarders aren’t hot. It’s just how it is. I wish they were but they’re not.”
A compendium of interviews with the most talented women skating today, Oh-So is an eclectic, invigorating riposte to the sexism. A feature on Atita Verghese, India’s first female pro, focuses on the way the sport can transcend race and class boundaries; a profile on an all-female skate-crew in Brazil is about the very specific community that comes from skating with girls; the UK’s first female pro Lucy Adams talks about sourcing her first board in Crawley from a lad who worked in her dad’s butcher’s shop.
Frustrations are aired, but so are successes — like the fact that in Afghanistan alone, there are just as many girls as boys going through a new programme to empower young skaters. The whole magazine feels joyful. Text spirals across the page, mimicking the movement of the women it describes. One quote sticks out, from Nina Moran, part of the all-girl NY-based collective Skate Kitchen: “When a girl starts skateboarding, something magical happens. A skateboard is like their flying broom.”
Rob talked us through this first issue of Oh-So. And then Amelia stepped in to tell us what drew her to skating in the first place — before running downstairs to start making slime. According to Rob, she also “LOVES slime”.
Skating has been seen as a rebel pursuit. But, as Oh-So makes clear, the scene can be quite conservative. Why is it the ultimate rebellion for women to skate?
I think it just defies convention — it’s unexpected. Perhaps that’s because, like you say, it’s been dominated by men for so long. Let’s not take credit away, though, the girls have been on this trajectory for a good amount of time and they are showing that they have what it takes. Hopefully the magazine gives insight into how hard they work, and how passionate they are about skateboarding.
You focus a lot on community among women who skate. Is community more important for women skaters than men. If so, why?
Male skaters have a community for sure. But for women skaters it’s a part of their sub-culture in general. The sharing of experiences, the egging each other on, and skating in large groups with no judgment. It’s hard to summarize with a broad stroke the way each individual or group might feel about skateboarding in their own circles. There is one common message I got from all the skateboarders though, and that is: to have fun, and to enjoy skateboarding in the moment. It seems to be more about the experience of skating together, as opposed to a need to compete. Pipa Souza, who is part of Britney’s Crew in Brazil, explains how “sharing a skate session with girls is different — more special.”
We love the story of Lucy Adams getting into skating in Crawley, and being able to start because a guy who worked in her dad’s butcher shop had an old board. Another interviewee mentions skating is hard to keep up because it’s very expensive. Is that a barrier to female entry do you think?
One interview that comes to mind is with Atita Verghese, who started skating growing up in Bangalore, India, where she found it hard because some of the roads in her town aren’t even paved (“The streets are rarely skateable due to space being a problem in an overpopulated country. The streets are also way too crusty most of the time and there aren’t many squares or public grounds to use. There’s no solid skate shop where you can get equipment from.”) I think the barrier then becomes more about what these communities and governments are doing to help their people in general. If there’s a suggested financial barrier I reckon it might depend on location — how easy is it to import and export the gear to certain areas around the globe?
Atita Verghese talks about skateboarding as a powerful tool for social change. Can you tell us a bit about Atita’s story, and why skateboarding can move us towards equality?
Atita really is a super human — she’s India’s first female pro skateboarder and she sees skating as a way to break free from stereotypes. She also uses skating as a means to communicate. I admire her so much. She really is a leader in the sense that she’s created an organisation called Girlskateindia, to help other young girls escape from what is perceived as the ‘norm’.
Rob: What do you like about skateboarding?
Amelia: It’s fast.
R: How does it make you feel?
R: What tricks do you do?
A: Twirls (R:I don’t know what this means maybe she’s a freestyle skater at heart…)
R: Who’s your favourite skateboarder?
A: Sky Brown (R: She actually has a pair of the Sky Brown Pride socks).
R: Do you remember going to buy a skateboard when you couldn’t find one you liked? What did your dream board look like in your head?
A: I wanted an emoji (unicorn emoji) board with glow–in-the-dark wheels.(R: clearly, this design makes no sense because no one would ever know that they’re glow in the dark considering most people skate with the lights on or when the sun is out but, you know, at seven she always believes herself to be right — and she probably is.)