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5 female skaters that wrote the history of this sport

From pioneer Peggy Oki to legendary Cindy Whitehead

5 female skaters that wrote the history of this sport  From pioneer Peggy Oki to legendary Cindy Whitehead

It's everywhere: not only on specialized and not magazines, but above all on the social networks. Female skateboarding has never been so big. An increasing number of girls is the protagonist of skate videos, feels comfortable at the skate park, and the most important and influential brands of the industry are ready to expand also in this unexplored territory. This is undoubtedly a historic moment, but we can't forget that the history of this sport is essentially made of all those female athletes that throughout the years have contributed to shaping skateboarding. 

In reporting on the story of the five skaters we have selected - but there would be more personalities to talk about - the adjectives 'first' and 'only' will occur quite a lot: naturally, probably even without fully being aware of their actions, Peggy OkiElissa SteamerJaime ReyesCindy Whitehead and Lacey Baker have changed the history of skateboarding. This is the most interesting aspect of their tales: being a woman doing skate for them was absolutely normal, ordinary, what should strike about these athletes isn't their gender, but their results. A lesson that still has to be fully understood by the skateboarding world, for a long time a male-dominated sport, which is why it's important to remember these powerful and disruptive personalities, a role model for a generation of young female skateboarders. 

 

Peggy Oki

We could say that Peggy Oki is the first real female skater in the history of the sport, deeply connected to the Jeff Ho & Zephyr Shop team in California in the late '60s. The team, which included high-profile athletes like Tony AlvaStacy Peralta and Jay Adams, was formed mainly by surfers who looking for an alternative way to practice when the waves weren't big enough, found in the deck a suitable replacement for the surfboard. Peggy joined the legendary team thanks to Jay Adams, who one day noticed her skating in the Santa Monica Beach area and invited her in the team. Peggy, who first jumped on a skate at 9 years old, joined the group and started training and competing for the Z Boys, while she studied at university. Peggy has often said that she didn't care so much about being the only girl of the team, sometimes she wouldn't even notice it, she skated just for fun. Her skateboarding style was surf inspired, this special bond with the water and above all with the ocean, will later be the heart of Peggy's life, who now is an advocate for the protection of the oceans and of the whales. Over the course of the years, Peggy has become a model exactly because hers isn't a story of forced female empowerment and emancipation with political connotation: Peggy wanted to skate, she skated, she wanted to compete, she competed, simple as that. This apparent simplicity is the most important and disruptive aspect of Peggy's story, who without trying has become a reference point for all the girls who are passionate about skateboarding. Inducted in the Skateboarding Hall Of Fame in 2012, at almost 63 years old Peggy keeps having fun on the skateboard

 

Elissa Steamer

Elissa Steamer, born in Fort Myers, Florida, in 1975, was the first female pro skater. In the mid-'90s the skateboarding world first started to get to know the moves and the tricks of Elissa, especially thanks to a video, entitled Welcome To Hell, which is now legendary. Not only an entire section of the footage was dedicated to Elissa, but in the video, Elissa never tells she's a girl, the gender of the skater is never underlined. Elissa first considered herself as a skater rather than a woman, and that's how she wanted also other people to see her, regardless of her gender. Elissa's reputation expands with other videos where she is the main protagonist, thanks also to her unique and original style, images that led her to the first deals with sponsors, and therefore to being the first female pro skater. The final consecration to skate legend came with Tony Hawk's videogameTony Hawk Pro Skater: Elissa is the first female skateboarder to appear as a playable video game character. Throughout her career Elissa has one bronze, one silver and four gold medals at the Summer X Games, becoming one of the most winning skaters ever. 

 

Jaime Reyes

The impact that Jaime Reyes has had on the history of skateboarding, not only female, is often forgotten, but her story is at the same time unique and exemplary. Born and raised in Hawaii at the beginning of the '90s, Jaime is one of the three women to ever appear on the cover of Thrasher Magazine, after Cara-Beth Burnside and before Lizzie Armanto, who we met here. Jaime's skate style has always been very technical, made of precise and thought moves, which conquered the East Coast when she moved to New York looking for more visibility and contacts within the industry, and where she built a long-lasting connection with Supreme NY. Reyes has often recounted how she would be made fun of for her origin, for her small breasts, the way she dressed, many thought she was a man. Nevertheless, Jaime was one of the first athletes to openly talk about her bisexuality, unafraid of the consequences of such a statement in a world that wasn't as open-minded as it is today. Jaime's career has its highs and lows: she became pro with Rookie brand and designed her first pro shoe with Gallaz, that shortly after laid her off without notice, making her lose all the revenues of the sales. Jaime spent a few years without an agent and without a sponsor, ending up almost with nothing. In 2009, when her father passed away, Reyes decided to retire from skateboarding but changed her mind a few years later. Jaime Reyes has often professed that she doesn't care whether people know her name or her story, but the fact that her skate and some of her personal objects are displayed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History means definitely something: what Jaime Reyes did matters, not only for her but above all for all the future generations of female skateboarders. 

 

Cindy Whitehead

"I couldn't find photos of girl skaters to put on my walls. I would look through skate magazines, but there were so few photos of girls and no posters." So Cindy decided to appear herself in one of those magazines usually featuring only male skateboarders. Cindy Whitehead's adventure in the skate world begins when she's 15 years old, two years later she's already pro, and at 22 she retires from the competitions. Cindy is a phenomenon of vert skating, she's the only female skater to ever be sponsored by PUMA, as well as the only to have appeared in the central pages of a skate magazine. Whitehead created a brand, Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word, which establishes also as a movement for the emancipation and the empowerment of young female skaters, a project very important for Cindy, that she addressed also in her TED Talk. A few years ago the image of Cindy skating down the closed off 405 freeway in LA broke the internet: she likes to remind all the girls out there to take risks and to break rules, as she's done throughout her entire life. 

 

Lacey Baker

She's probably the most famous skater in the world right now. Lacey Baker, American, started skating at 5 but began to practice seriously at 11, becoming the pro she's today, with five medals at the X Games, a win at the Street League and the title of most influential and respected skater of the industry. Lacey doesn't consider herself a rebel, but she's always gone her way. When the first sponsors asked her to keep her hair long and blonde in order to give a less masculine image of the female skater, while opening the sport to a wider audience, Lacey shaved her head. What Baker loves about the sport is its most authentic and underground element, a duality between subculture and mainstream that is reflected also in her two current sponsors: on the one side Meow Skateboards, an independent all-female skate brand, and on the other Nike SB, a giant, proof of the fact that brands have finally understood the potential of this sport. Lacey Baker has never had problems in declaring her homosexuality, over the course of the years she's become an advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ community, opening a discussion that is still very debated in the skateboarding world. Lacey has unintentionally become a role model, a commitment that sometimes takes time from her real occupation. But deep down Lacey knows that even if just one girl will have the courage to take the skate, to go to a skate park or to come out, it will be also thanks to her.