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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.“
“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.
“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.”
“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.”