Skateboarding Equality Helps Women Board Chairs

Olympic skater Annie Guglia’s first experience with another skater was through a Tony Hawk video game. She didn’t even know if Elissa Foggernaut, the character she loved to play, was a real person.

In 2001, when she fell in love with skateboarding – thanks to her brother who received a skateboard for Christmas – there were few women in the sport, especially outside the United States.

She remembers going to a competition in her hometown of Montreal when she was young and being told there was no event for girls, and winning one. another because she was the only woman to participate. And she remembers the years when women who won events received t-shirts and, maybe, a few hundred dollars while men received prizes of $10,000. Worse still, she remembers thinking it made sense.

“Of course I deserve a T-shirt for my performance,” Guglia, now a 31-year-old professional skateboarder, recalls looking back on the times.

“It’s crazy because now that I’m older I see the whole pattern, that’s why there weren’t young girls coming into the sport and pushing it and that’s why people were giving up, because it was not sustainable.”

Two decades later, her experiences and those of the young girls and teenagers who now populate the catwalks are very different.

Guglia credits the Olympic inclusion of skateboarding at the Tokyo Games last summer – and the impetus that gave the prize money equalization – for changing the sport’s landscape and allowing more women around the world to win their life as skateboarders. This weekend, she will participate in Jackalope, an action sports festival of skateboarding, sport climbing, breakdancing and BASE jumping in Montreal, where women will win the same cash prize as men.

Micah Desforges, founder and producer of the festival, is proud to say that this is the first major skateboarding event in Canada to offer equal cash prizes. That was in 2016 and he continues to make people doubt his wisdom, arguing that there are fewer female competitors and their tricks aren’t as difficult.

“It’s a Catch-22,” he retorts. “If you don’t put money into winning, they don’t train, they don’t compete. It’s a 10-year vision. If you keep building the hype and the opportunities, more women will come to the party…more girls will be inspired and the whole circle will start to turn.

The push for gender equality, more professional opportunities for women and equal pay is a raging issue in many sports right now. Earlier this month, during the National Bank Open tennis tournaments, the best women in the world won half of the total purse awarded to the men. Simona Halep won $440,000 (US) for winning the women’s tournament in Toronto, while Pablo Carreno Busta, the men’s winner in Montreal, received a check for $915,000.

At Jackalope, the total purse offered for street skateboarding competition is a tiny fraction of that, just $30,000, split 50-50 between women and men. But the prize money isn’t just about paying the bills, it’s also about recognition, Guglia said.

“The fact that it is equal is the most important thing. This sends a message: is women’s sport as important or not? »

A few years before the Tokyo Games, Guglia, who did her master’s thesis on the skateboarding industry, was able to make a living from sport for the first time in her life.

The Olympic stamp on skateboarding caused more sponsors to see the value in offering contracts to female skaters, prize money increased for women at events equalizing their purses and there was a new funding pool for national sports bodies focused on winning Olympic medals, she said.

It gave him and other top athletes access to things that had never been a part of skateboarding before – an athletic trainer, physical conditioning, physiotherapy, nutrition experts and a mental performance coaching. And just as Olympic inclusion has done for other sports, like snowboarding, it all combined to skyrocket the level of tricks and progression.

It didn’t stop, especially on the women’s side. Men’s skateboarding was already at a high level of difficulty, so progression there is slower, she said.

“Women’s skateboarding right now is so interesting because in between competitions girls are learning new tricks that a woman has never done before,” Guglia said. “Most of them are between 11 and 16 or 17 years old and they are all pushing the level. They are much better than I could think, when I was 15 it was even possible for a girl to be.

The Jackalope Festival offers an elite skateboarding competition and an event for ages 13 and under, and the latter category has been sold out since 2018.

The Olympics helped bring more “legitimacy to the sport”, said Deforges, who owned a skateboarding business before Jackalope started a decade ago. “A lot of families might see their kids in a different light, where they’re not wasting their time at the skate park, maybe their kid is a potential Olympian.”

The skateboard has already been approved for the Paris 2024 and LA 2028 Olympic Games.

Guglia says she’s proud to have been one of the first 20 women in the world to compete in street skateboarding at the Olympics, but she won’t be looking for another chance.

“The new generation is pushing much harder than I can do right now. I want to watch it and enjoy it,” she said.

She remains a professional skateboarder but focuses more on the creative and industrial side of the sport than on competition. She works for footwear company Vans which runs a program to make skateboarding more accessible and inclusive for women, LGBTQ+ and Indigenous skateboarders.

And she’s set to debut as a character in a new video game, perhaps helping to inspire young girls like she once was.

“When I was growing up I knew every woman who owned a skateboard in Montreal and there were 13 of us, it was easy to count,” she said. “Now you can have 13 girls in a skatepark. It’s evolving but I feel like right now it’s the best that’s ever been for women’s skateboarding, in terms of opportunity and community as well.

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