When Cara-Beth Burnside started skating there were a few other girls in her Southern California neighborhood in the town of Orange who skated. But then they all grew up, the skate industry began having financial problems and the skate parks that had sprung up everywhere in the 70s all closed down. Cara-Beth got interested in other things and quit skating for a few years, and then she realized she missed the sport, so she took it up again. Slowly, skating began making a come-back in the mid-90s, the parks opened again, and there was Cara-Beth in the center of it all.To support her passion for skating, she transferred her athleticism on the ramps into snowboarding and carved a name out for herself as one of the top women halfpipe riders in the competitive snowboard world. Today she is undisputedly the best woman vert skater in the world, dropping into ramps that are 12-16 feet high and speaking out for women skaters all over the world.

Sponsors: Burton, Arnette, Volcom, Vans, Baby G
Home Base: Orange, CA
Favorite Skate Park: Vans Skate park in Orange

Life as a Pro

For the last two years her skate sponsor, Vans, has produced a pro model shoe, which is one of their top selling shoes. She has also been a key spokeswoman for the All Women’s Skate Jam, the only women’s skate contest in the world organized by her friend, photographer Patty Segovia and funded by her sponsors’ Vans.

While skating is important to Cara-Beth, she would never deny that snowboarding has also ended up being major influence in her life. Last season was the pinnacle of her career when she qualified to be on the first ever Olympic snowboard team and she traveled to Nagano to compete. While she has competed with these women many times before, the Olympics were different. The pressure was immense, the responsibility was insurmountable. She made it through the competition and rode her best. And, in spite of the fact that she didn’t make the podium, Cara-Beth still felt it was an experience that was incredibly important for women athletes competing in sideways sports like snowboarding, skating and surfing.

In the next year Cara-Beth sees more competing, more freeriding, and she wants to continue pushing women’s involvement in skateboarding to a new level.

The Beginning

SB: How did you get into skating?

CB: I have an older brother and people would skate on the street in my neighborhood. I got into it when I was really young. There weren’t many girls, but the few that I saw made me want to skate. There was a girl’s division of skating in contests in the early days and I was like “I want to do that.”

SB: Where did you skate?

CB: At a place called the Big O Skate Park in Orange. It closed down though.

SB: Did you know right away that you wanted to be a professional skater?

CB: I was like, I want to do this, but as a couple of years went by and the girls quit and the skate parks closed, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for girls.

SB: Where was the first place you ever skated?

CB: I just cruised around my neighborhood. When I saw a skate park, I started going there.

SB: Did you always have support in skating?

CB: It was pretty supportive at first, but once it started dying and the industry dried up it was tough for everyone. Not just for girls. When the parks closed street skating became the thing and so that’s what everyone got good at. It has always been a struggle being a girl in anything athletic. It’s a struggle because people don’t take you seriously, no matter how good you are. Also, the backing just hasn’t been there in the past for women in sports. It’s getting better though.

The Shoe

SB: When you got your pro model shoe from Vans, was that the first “real” industry support in skating?

CB: It helps women in general that Vans is doing so much to support women. The shoe, the ads, it really shows progression in girls’ sports in general. I have been with Vans sie I was little so it was valid for them to do a shoe with me. And because I always skated getting nothing, but did it because I loved it, their support is great.

SB: What is it like to be involved with creating a shoe?

CB: I love it because I work with a designer at Vans and then I see it a few months later. The one thing about my shoe is that it is not super hard core like some of the guys’ shoes, but it is functional. It’s something I like, because they want me to like it and wear it and promote it. They totally listen to my ideas, I get a proto-type and if I say no and they understand that. They didn’t really have a strong girl’s shoe before my shoe. They made girl’s shoes but they were not happening. Now girls can buy my shoe and it is cool to wear out and to skate in.

SB: What changes are there in your new shoe?

CB: My second one is a little more sportier and has mesh and stuff. I just always want to make it different. The new one is supposed to be in stores at the end of the month. It took me a long time to design it. Maybe four months because you have to get all of the feedback.

SB: So you would say the shoe makes a statement about the support of women in skating?

CB: The shoe was good, but I think a lot more can be done in skating for girls. It needs to be to a point where girls can skate and actually support themselves. And the support needs to be there so guys will be stoked and not like “what are you doing here?” One day there should be a big contest circuit for girls — I think the All Girls Skate Jam is the beginning of that. I see how stoked the girls are to learn new things and have a contest. Besides, I like skating with a bunch of girls ’cause they are charging so hard these days.

Mind and Body

SB: Nutrition… how do you stay healthy?

CB: I am a vegetarian. I eat a little fish and I don’t eat dairy. I feel healthy without it. I try to eat a fruit and vegetable and protein diet and not a lot of junk food. Junk food just works on you after a while. And I try to stretch al lot. If I party, I try and party moderately. Partying takes its toll after a while. I have seen so many people in sports party on and then one day they are like “what happened?” If you party a lot you can lose track of what’s going on. You get caught up in the party thing and you aren’t stoked or motivated about the sport. I have seen it happen to people and I never want that to happen to me. I like to go out just like anyone, but you just have to do it in moderation

SB: What is important for you when riding?

CB: I think for me it’s just being in an environment I like and being with positive people. If I am not around a positive energy that just brings me down. I want to have a good time. I don’t want to be around people with weird vibes. It’s about having a good time and some people get energy off of vibing others and that is too bad. It’s not about being with the best riders or skaters either. I can have a good time with anyone if the support is there.

Advice

SB: Any advice for young women getting into skating or snowboarding?

CB: Be around people that are encouraging for them and what they want to do. It’s so easy to forget about what you want when your peers tell you “You don’t want to do that.” Surround yourself with people who support you and that will make it better for you in the long run. And for people who aren’t supportive, don’t worry. They are just jealous. I have always had a lot of support, but have seen people who aren’t supportive and I know what that can do to you when you are trying to charge in sports like skating or snowboarding.

SB: What do you think about women in sports these days?

CB: I feel it is getting better and that people are recognizing that girls can do a sport. People are taking girls more seriously with all sports. It takes time though. Women who are doing it need to be strong and hold their ground and not let people intimidate them and that will make it better for women in the future. It is important to stand by what you are doing, even if the outcome isn’t good in the beginning. It’s frustrating when people talk about you and it makes it hard to hold your ground. It’s tough when you try to make a statement, which is what you are doing when you take up skating or snowboarding.

Being a Role Model

SB: Why is being a spokesperson so important to you in these sports?

CB: If I have an opportunity to try to help girls in the way of the future for skating I want to do it in the most positive way so it is possible for them to one day skate pro and compete and travel the world. So I am going to continue to talk to certain people and say things up front for that reason. I am skating a lot now because Vans is backing me in doing a shoe, and I am good at where I am, but I want to make it good for other girls, so it’s not just for me. Look at all of the support for surfing these days. Roxy backed those women and so they were able to do what they are doing. That can happen in skating but it’s slow. It’s like anything that is new, slow to change.

SB: What needs to happen to step it all up?

CB: The promotion isn’t that good in skating. For girls to see other girls is important. It takes years to see progression. Look at snowboarding. Eight years ago there were contests with girls and they weren’t that good. Now look at where women are. There are girls’ contests for skating now, but if there were more then it would give girls something to look forward to. It gives them a deadline to get better and gives them a feeling that people are stoked. It’s nice to have that feeling that you are skating and people are stoked and then you learn a new trick and you are getting the support from all sides, so you can progress. You will progress.

Great Accomplishment

SB: What’s the contest win you are most proud of?

CB: I was really stoked on last year’s X Games because I felt like there was so much pressure in the Olympics, but winning the X Games was easy because I was riding without injury. But I would have to say going to the Olympics and riding well there was great. I felt I rode well there. I didn’t do exactly what I wanted to do, but I didn’t choke under all of that pressure and my mom and sister got to go with me there. I didn’t get top three…. but I felt like I rode good there. It was good pipe and I was able to tune things out and focus on myself while riding under the most pressure in a contest that I will ever be in.ill make it better for women in the future. It is important to stand by what you are doing, even if the outcome isn’t good in the beginning. It’s frustrating when people talk about you and it makes it hard to hold your ground. It’s tough when you try to make a statement, which is what you are doing when you take up skating or snowboarding.

Being a Role Model

SB: Why is being a spokesperson so important to you in these sports?

CB: If I have an opportunity to try to help girls in the way of the future for skating I want to do it in the most positive way so it is possible for them to one day skate pro and compete and travel the world. So I am going to continue to talk to certain people and say things up front for that reason. I am skating a lot now because Vans is backing me in doing a shoe, and I am good at where I am, but I want to make it good for other girls, so it’s not just for me. Look at all of the support for surfing these days. Roxy backed those women and so they were able to do what they are doing. That can happen in skating but it’s slow. It’s like anything that is new, slow to change.

SB: What needs to happen to step it all up?

CB: The promotion isn’t that good in skating. For girls to see other girls is important. It takes years to see progression. Look at snowboarding. Eight years ago there were contests with girls and they weren’t that good. Now look at where women are. There are girls’ contests for skating now, but if there were more then it would give girls something to look forward to. It gives them a deadline to get better and gives them a feeling that people are stoked. It’s nice to have that feeling that you are skating and people are stoked and then you learn a new trick and you are getting the support from all sides, so you can progress. You will progress.

Great Accomplishment

SB: What’s the contest win you are most proud of?

CB: I was really stoked on last year’s X Games because I felt like there was so much pressure in the Olympics, but winning the X Games was easy because I was riding without injury. But I would have to say going to the Olympics and riding well there was great. I felt I rode well there. I didn’t do exactly what I wanted to do, but I didn’t choke under all of that pressure and my mom and sister got to go with me there. I didn’t get top three…. but I felt like I rode good there. It was good pipe and I was able to tune things out and focus on myself while riding under the most pressure in a contest that I will ever be in.