The Crooked Path of Culture-Blown Away At the All Girls Skate Jam

Snowboarding has officially galvanized girls skateboarding into a palpable entity. Proof? The First Annual All-Girls Skate Jam that happened earlier this month. It was organized by snowboard photog Patty Segovia, Fresh and Tasty publishers Bethany Stevens and Melissa Longfellow and Cara-Beth Burnside, who is arguably the best vert skater of the female persuasion.

If it wasn’t for snowboarding, this event would have never happened. And without this event, there would be no coverage, no new sponsors, no next event, no impending unified front of girls’ skateboarding.

I was not this rah-rah about the whole thing before I saw it with my own eyes. I feel no need for skaters to get recognition. Why set up a contest infrastructure that will eventually be blamed for the downfall of everything inspired about the sport? I like to skate and snowboard. I like to see other girls doing it and I love to meet girls that do it. I just don’t need a club. I’m not a “go-girl”-er. For me, the advertising and marketing of women’s stuff, the girly fashion can be demeaning in any sport. I don’t feel that comfortable with the whole community element of women in sports that the mainstream media loves so much.

Talking to Cara-Beth Burnside sort of changed my mind. Back in the day she skated with Duane Peters. She remembers the girl skaters of the ’70s, when there were contest divisions for girls, both the goofy Sims freestyle days with the barrel jumps and slalom and the more hard-core pool contests. Girls like Vicki Vickers and Laura Thornhill were stars in the late ’70s. But when the bottom fell out of the skate industry at the turn of the decade, girls fell away and boys went underground. Burnside told me once that all she ever wanted was to be a professional skater. Unfortunately, after the big park skate era ended, there was no money to sponsor girls – or no market. She was unable to pursue her talent and passion because she couldn’t afford it. Now that’s lame.

Burnside became a professional snowboarder. She shot to the top of the snowboarding hierarchy, but her skate dream never died. As the world changed due to women in snowboarding and other sports, she pushed herself back on the skate world and this time, they sat up and took notice. The girls market exploded in board sports between ’92 an ’97. She easily scored sponsorship with Think Skateboards, Independent Trucks, Volcom, and the ultimate, a pro model skate shoe with Vans – the first women’s model ever. Her selling power as a pro snowboarder and her history and talent as a skater were exactly what everyone needed to justify spending on girls’ skateboarding.

But Burnside represents only one part of skateboarding. She is ostensibly a vert skater. A few street skaters showed up to the event. Culturally, as well as physically, they are quite different from vert skaters. This sort of goes back to the skater/snowboarder comparison that I talked about in my art/sport post a year ago. While in the realm of snowboarding, pipe riders like Burnside are the closest to skaters, in terms of attitude and style, in the realm of skating, the vert skaters look like snowboarders. In fact, most of the vert skaters were pro snowboarders: Kyla Duffy, Jen O’Brien, Morgan Lafonte, Leslie Olson, and Aurelie Sayers (although she didn’t end up skating).

The tough, boyish girls were the street skaters. They’re coming from an even more male-dominated situation. Jaime Reyes and Elissa Steamer, who competed at the jam have been covered in TransWorld and Big Brother. They’re not used to being around girls. They don’t skate vert, and they kept quiet, deadpan expressions on their faces throughout the day. They smoke. They do kickflips. They’re small and skinny. They don’t look like poster children for the mainstream media. They are not media-friendly personalities. They have pissy attitudes. They make the vert skaters seem old school.

The quality of skating changed as the day moved along. The runs got moore and more rhythmic and the euphoria that the skaters were obviously feeling spread into the stands. It was like what I have been told the first snowboard contests were like. People who went to the first Worlds in Soda Springs or the first Baker Banked Slalom have told me that they were shocked to see that other people snowboarded. These girls from all over the country and Canada, who have been skating by themselves, with no media to look at to see themselves, came together under one roof and skated together. They seemed surprised and overwhelmed and ecstatic all at the same time. It was the beginning of something. And instead of being hatched by the skate industry, it happened through snowboarding.

Kind of ironic, when you think about it.