As a kid, Kyra Teply dreamed of surfing as she watched Lilo & Stitch in her living room. However, there were two problems: she didn’t know how to surf and she didn’t live by the ocean.
To resolve these setbacks, she put herself in front of her television set and pretended to surf on a skateboard. Once Teply was old enough, she took her skateboard off the carpet and onto the streets.
Thanks to professional skateboarders like Lizzie Armanto, Lacey Baker and Allysha Le, women in skateboarding have recently come into the sport’s spotlight.
This is reflected locally, where women skateboarders at Westminster College have created a community through their love of the sport, moving into the spotlight in Salt Lake City.
Picking up a skateboard for the first time
No matter if it’s skateboarding or longboarding, many are inspired just to try something new.
“I had a couple friends who longboarded,” said Alyssa Mellmer, a senior biology major. “I wanted to learn to spend time with them and try something new.”
Skateboarding can also be seen as a way to make friends.
“I was a new student at my school,” said Halle Simonsen, a junior fine arts major. “[I] had trouble fitting in, and somehow [skateboarding] made me feel like I was cooler.”
Skateboarding gave her more confidence and attracted attention from students, according to Simonsen.
For skateboarding, many say they are influenced to learn by their peers.
“One of my best groups of friends in middle school was full of long-boarders who were sponsored by various companies,” said Jennifer Hylwa, a senior outdoor education and leadership major. “Being surrounded by those individuals inspired me to try it out and I have been skating ever since.”
For some students starting out, their peers teach them the basics.
“My friend Kyra Teply longboards and it seemed really fun so I asked her to teach me,” said Kiera Layne, a senior neuroscience major. “She’s taught me and a couple other Westminster gals and we’ve formed a ‘Longboard Gorl Gang.’”
Building community one skater girl group at a time
Students at Westminster create community by skating with friends, and some have even created groups to do so.
Kyra Teply, a junior neuroscience and pre-physician assistant major, formed a group of skateboarding women during the Spring 2020 semester.
“Basically, I was trying to get a bunch of girls that I knew who were interested in skating on a board to try it,” Teply said. “They ended up liking it and we formed our group. I trained a bunch of them with my assistant Alyssa Mellmer and then they have been teaching other girls while I’m not in Salt Lake.”
The official name of the group is the “Sk8er Gorls of Salt Lake.”
“We kind of started it while joking around with the song Sk8er Boi by Avril Lavigne,” Teply said. “And now [we] call ourselves the Sk8er Gorls of Salt Lake.”
After skateboarding, they end by playing the card game Uno. To signify being a member, they will have Uno Card stickers on their decks, according to Teply.
“I believe that by doing this we reached our goal and created a community where girls can board and be comfortable with it and just have fun,” Teply said. “But at the same time, support each other like a sisterhood.”
Skateparks and night rides
“I do not feel safe to go to skateparks,” Alyssa Mellmer said. “Honestly this is not something I have wanted to do in general, but the social scene at a skate park is very intimidating for a woman and a beginner. The demographic is mostly men, and they are usually very talented.”
Some students agree that skateparks are intimidating.
“As a woman I would feel safe going to skate parks,” Kiera Layne said. “But going to one seems very intimidating. I’m very inexperienced in longboarding and skate parks seem like very male-dominated spaces where I might receive a lot of unsolicited comments and advice.”
Some say their safety depends on the skatepark.
“I think that as a woman, my feeling of safety is completely dependent on the skate park and the individuals who I skate with,” Hylwa said. “I have experienced some skate parks where there has been a very negative energy toward female skaters, and others that are super inclusive. I feel much more comfortable when I go to skateparks with a group of people.”
Outside of skateparks, some students pay attention to where they skate alone.
“I feel that I could longboard anywhere that I would feel safe walking,” Mellmer said. “There are places I simply would not go alone or at night, but whether or not I am longboarding that would not change.”
Other students say they skate where they feel most comfortable.
It is comfortable to skate in most places during the day, but it’s different if she skates at night, according to Hylwa.
Some say skateboarding culture is inclusive to women
“I feel welcomed [in skateboard culture] for the most part,” Alyssa Mellmer said. “I have never been criticized when longboarding by anyone even if I fall. […] I think people have this idea of skate culture that is very intimidating or that people are going to be staring at them and make fun of them if they’re bad, but that’s just not true.”
In mainstream society, skateboard culture is changing, according to Hylwa.
“I grew up watching edits of big names doing big tricks and there was a very male-dominated energy to it,” Hylwa said. “I think that this has been constantly changing as more women started making names for themselves in the sport. I am not sure if there was a single female skateboarder that I saw when I was younger in edits; however, this is something that has started to shift.”
Advice for girls interested in skateboarding
“I’d say just do it,” Kyra Teply said. “Make a playlist and get on a board and try it out at your own pace, but always remember to try something new every time you go out.”
One does not become a skater until they crash, according to Teply.
“Do not underestimate the importance of learning how to fall well,” Hylwa said. “Also, if you are interested but not sure where or how to start, reach out to someone who skates and see if they are willing to help.”
Some students say to not overthink skateboarding. Every skateboarder must start somewhere, according to Alyssa Mellmer.
Members of the “Sk8er Gorls of Salt Lake” also encourage newcomers.
“To any female identifying individuals who are interested in skateboarding I would say, ‘Do it! Come join our Skater Gorl Gang, we’d love to have you!’” Kiera Layne said.