Skate Like A Girl: ‘An Alternative Universe’ for Seattle’s Female Skaters

Skate Like A Girl: ‘An Alternative Universe’ for Seattle’s Female Skaters

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Four young skaters wait in line for warm-up drills at Skate Like A Girl’s 12 and under lesson at All Together Skatepark in Seattle, Wash., on Oct. 23. Kristin Ebeling, director of Skate Like A Girl’s Seattle chapter, said skateboarding is slowly becoming a more accessible sport for young kids.
Four young skaters wait in line for warm-up drills at Skate Like A Girl’s 12 and under lesson at All Together Skatepark in Seattle, Wash., on Oct. 23. Kristin Ebeling, director of Skate Like A Girl’s Seattle chapter, said skateboarding is slowly becoming a more accessible sport for young kids.

By Katie Anastas

Kristin Ebeling, 27, started skateboarding at age 12. She continued skating for the next five years, and though she got sponsored by a local shop, she still felt pressure to prove herself to her male peers.

“Skateparks are like Lord of the Flies,” Ebeling said. “I always thought I had to be rougher and harder to hang out with the guys. I felt like I had something to prove because everyone immediately doubted me.”

At age 17, Ebeling heard about an all-girls skateboarding competition put on by the nonprofit organization Skate Like A Girl. She decided to attend and immediately wanted to be a part of the community.

“There were girls of all abilities, shapes, sizes, identities, short hair, long hair, pink hair, blue hair,” she said. “That’s the day I sold my soul to Skate Like A Girl. That was the day I realized there’s an alternative universe, and I wanted to be a part of making that.”

Now, as the director of Skate Like A Girl’s Seattle chapter, Ebeling oversees eight school-based programs, weekend lessons for kids ages 12 and under, two weekly “Ladies Nights” at All Together Skatepark in Fremont and Bellevue Indoor Skatepark, and more.

Ebeling said Skate Like A Girl creates an environment where girls can express themselves and pursue a new hobby without fear of judgement or ridicule.

“I’m so stoked that we’re creating a space where little girls can be brave, fall over, be covered in dirt, cut their hair short if they want, go by a different name, and just power through and not be a stereotypical little girl,” she said. “Here, it’s celebrated.”

Kristin Ebeling watches a young skater at All Together Skatepark in Seattle, Wash., on Oct. 23. As the director of Skate Like A Girl’s Seattle chapter, Ebeling oversees skateboarding teams, eight school-based programs, weekend lessons for kids ages 12 and under, two weekly “Ladies Nights” at skateparks in Fremont and Bellevue, and more.

“I like telling people I’m a professional teenager,” Ebeling said. “I’m tasked with creating an inclusive skateboarding community, where everybody can be a part of it and feel welcome and challenge themselves.”

Elise Hedge, 19, prepares to drop into a ramp at the Bellevue Indoor Skatepark on Oct. 25 in Bellevue, Wash. She said Skate Like A Girl has provided a supportive environment not found at other skateparks.

“Before knowing Kristin and before coming to this stuff, I didn’t have as much support as I get here,” Hedge said at Ladies Night. “Everyone here is wanting to get better and learn from others.”

Kristin Ebeling helps a student during a Skate Like A Girl lesson at All Together Skatepark in Seattle, Wash., on Oct. 23. Ebeling started skating at the age of 12, and she said that the lack of instructors at most skateparks makes many kids hesitant to try skateboarding.

“Having an instruction-based environment, where there’s a priority on learning and a responsibility on part of the organizers to guide the beginners, creates a culture where people feel more comfortable with scaring themselves,” she said. “If they fall over, their peers will make sure they’re ok. If they’re about to try something new, they’ll be encouraged. I think it’s a difference between night and day.”

Kristin Ebeling encourages Sky Berg to drop into a ramp at Bellevue Indoor Skatepark in Bellevue, Wash., on Oct. 25. Ebeling said most people don’t know where to start when they decide to try skateboarding for the first time.

“I think skateboarding is similar to any niche or underground phenomenon,” Ebeling said. “Whether it be learning how to play punk rock music or learning how to tattoo, it looks really cool, but people scratch their heads and go, ‘Well, how do I get into it?’ It’s super intimidating. But it’s starting to change, due to the work of Skate Like A Girl and other entities.”

Maddy Brown talks to a group of beginners at All Together Skatepark in Seattle, Wash., on Oct. 23. During Skate Like A Girl’s 12 and under lessons, kids are divided into groups based on experience, then matched with a volunteer instructor. Brown is a member of the Youth Employment Skateboarding (YES) program, which gives 12- to 17-year-olds the opportunity to earn service hours and gain work experience at Skate Like A Girl events.
Sean Watson helps a young skater at All Together Skatepark in Seattle, Wash., on Oct. 23. Every Sunday, Skate Like A Girl hosts lessons for children ages 12 and under.
Sky Berg watches as Kristin Ebeling teaches a skater at Bellevue Indoor Skatepark in Bellevue, Wash., on Oct. 25. Every Tuesday, Skate Like A Girl hosts Ladies Night at the park, open to women and girls of all ages.
Hudson Wakefield instructs a young skater at Skate Like A Girl’s 12 and under lesson at All Together Skatepark in Seattle, Wash., on Oct. 23. Wakefield is one of several teenage boys who volunteer with Skate Like A Girl through the Youth Employment Skateboarding (YES) program. Kristin Ebeling, director of the organization’s Seattle chapter, said she is always inspired by how many boys want to participate.

“Our work at Skate Like A Girl is centered around creating space for some of the most marginalized groups,” Ebeling said. “We’re trying to support a space where women, girls, queer, trans, and nonbinary folks can come in and try something in a supportive environment, basically creating the opposite version of your average skatepark. If you’re a 14-year-old boy who already knows how to skate, it’s really cool that you see a value in that.“

Attendees of Skate Like A Girl’s 12 and under lesson at All Together Skatepark prepare for their “showcase” on Oct. 23 in Seattle, Wash. During the showcase, skaters can volunteer to demonstrate what they worked on that day. For some, that was a new trick on a ramp, and for others, it was simply skating a few feet without holding a volunteer’s hand. Regardless of the task’s difficulty, each skater earned a round of applause from the rest of the group.
Sky Berg (middle) and Kristin Ebeling (right) talk to skaters during Skate Like A Girl’s Ladies Night at Bellevue Indoor Skatepark in Bellevue, Wash., on Oct. 25. Ebeling said skateboarding can be a valuable way to build a community, especially among women and young people.

“I feel like skateboarding is an extremely powerful tool for teaching people life skills, most specifically confidence, leadership, and inspiring a whole community to create a more socially equitable world,” Ebeling said.

Kristin Ebeling and her husband, Alex Schollen, sit in the Skate Like A Girl office in Seattle Center on Oct. 25 in Seattle, Wash. Schollen said volunteering with Skate Like A Girl has increased his awareness of how challenging it can be for women to begin skateboarding.

“I knew generally that skateboarding is male-dominated, but getting to hear accounts first hand makes it a really clear picture,” he said. “Working at the ground level, you can actually see young girls skating for the first time, and boys and men getting involved.”

Kristin Ebeling skates at the end of Ladies Night at Bellevue Indoor Skatepark on Oct. 25 in Bellevue, Wash. She said being the director of Skate Like A Girl has allowed her to address the problems she experienced as a female skater at age 17.

“Any time in life where you feel called to do something, you better take advantage of it,” Ebeling said. “As you get older, if you realize that you’re just doing things to please somebody else or because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do, you’re not going to end up happy.”

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