Trailblazers of Women’s Snowboarding: How We Got Here
Words by Holly Estrow
I couldn't have been more surprised, excited and disappointed in one moment, looking at Jon Foster's color-film negative of Victoria Jealouse launching off a mass of snow at Sierra Nevada, Spain back in 1993. This amazed me, but it was also one of the only images I'd seen of female riders this early on. My disappointment had sparked my interest. Finding photographs of early women snowboarders isn't easy, nor do you often stumble upon them on snowboard websites or in magazines these days. Unfortunately snowboarding hasn't done a great job at telling the stories of its past. So I decided to delve into the 1990's archives of TransWorld SNOWboarding mags in search of some history on the pioneering women of snowboarding.
In the early '90's, names like Tina Basich, Shannon Dunn, Barrett Christy, Tara Dakides, and Janna Meyen were among the first to pave the way. Competing in contests, joining teams, getting sponsored, and eventually establishing the first girls snowboard products were the things done to break what at times felt like an all-male barrier in snowboarding, proving women had a well-deserved place in the sport.
By the late 1980's, women were entering contests, pulling small maneuvers like methods and Indy airs out of the pipe. And although the level of riding was not as elite as that of their male counterparts, the ladies stuck together, pushing each other in supportive and positive ways. Tina Basich, who rode for Kemper snowboards in the early '90s, explained that "by being together, and competing and being supportive of each other and excited about what we were doing, we didn't fade out, and instead paved the way during those early contests to make a permanent place for women in snowboarding." Basich felt that by competing and being on a team, she could represent women's snowboarding for the rest of the female snowboard community. Her hope was to expose and inspire women to snowboard. She wanted girls to have that "If she can, I can too" mentality and feel that anything was possible. Amy Howat, a young shredder at the time, was honored with the first women’s cover of TransWorld SNOWboarding back in 1989 at the OP Pro, the first invitational event, at June Mountain, California. This proved to be a huge and inspiring moment in snowboarding for all girls.
It wasn't until 1994 though that the first women's signature pro model snowboards were released: The Shannon Dunn Board by Sims and the Tina Basich Board by Kemper. The success of these boards sparked the industry and led to more female endorsed equipment and clothing lines in brands. Burton soon followed and conceived their first women's pro model in 1996. Soon after, more women everywhere were getting their own pro model boards such as Victoria Jealouse, Barrett Christy, and Tara Dakides. Tina and Shannon also gave birth to the first all women's outerwear company called, Prom. This was the era that female-specific snowboard gear and clothing finally came to the forefront and with all its feminine glamour, wouldn't go away. Stine Brun-Kjeldaas, Norway snowboard legend, says, "I think it helped for girls to feel like they had a place in the sport…not just trying to be part of something the guys did."
Even still there was stagnation in women's riding up until the early 2000's. A big step-forward for women's competition came in 2005 when the Swatch Ticket to Ride (TTR) World Snowboard Tour incorporated the ladies. Female snowboarders now had the opportunity to ride at an equal level of competition and have an equal prizes as the men. There have been many more key moments in women’s snowboarding that are important to it’s existence today. And so, this article was written with intentions to inspire all shredder girls out there to look deeper into our history as snowboarders in order to discover how we got here.
Ever since, women in snowboarding have strived towards equality amongst the entire snowboard community. Riders like Annie Boulanger, Jess Kimura, Desiree Melancon, Jamie Anderson, Elena Hight, and Kimmy Fasani are out there killing it, progressing and pushing themselves constantly. Though we have made serious progress, it doesn't mean the endeavor is over, it's just not quite as hard. With events like Kimmy’s Amusement Park and this past years Community Cup, women have created fun environments where they can inspire, empower, and progress the way they want. Still it's important as girls to remember what the female pioneers had gone through in helping us be where we are today in snowboarding. We then must never forget how important our part is in keeping women's snowboarding rad, communal, and of course, fun. Jess Kimura recently said in an interview with TransWorld SNOWboarding, "Even if girls snowboarding is never going to surpass guys' snowboarding, the only thing we can do is try and change that."
Also I recommend Tina Basich's autobiography "Pretty Good for a Girl".