Skateboarding

Female skateboarders encourage girls to find their place at skate parks

Meghan Whitton, Sarah Conrad want women to know they're welcome in the skating community

skatergirl
Girls aren’t holding back from joining the boys at the skate park anymore.   Jillian Ellsworth

Kick. Push. Kick. Push. Coast. Pop the tail. Flick your front foot. Jump. Land. Roll away. The perfect ollie.

What’s stopping girls from doing it just as well as boys? Nothing.

Female skate boarders in Halifax want to make sure that women of all ages find their place in the skate community, which has traditionally been dominated by males.

Meghan Whitton and Sarah Conrad have been skating for a combined 30 years and want women and girls to feel encouraged to try skateboarding. They consider visibility to play a huge role.

“I think it’s definitely more encouraging for women to learn when they see themselves in other women,” says Whitton.

For Conrad, this starts with inspiring young girls to learn the fundamental skills of skateboarding.

Her program, Skate with Sarah, has offered private lessons in the Halifax area for the past three summers.

While Conrad’s initial clientele was split fairly equally between boys and girls, she says the numbers of girls enrolled last year dropped to about a third.

Whitton says having more women making their presence known in the Halifax skate community could encourage more girls to get involved.

“Any time that there’s a visibility of other women that are skateboarding, it doesn’t seem as impossible or far reaching,” says Whitton.

She would like to see the city provide lessons for girls who might otherwise feel intimidated to get involved in the skate scene.

“There’s a lot of different groups of women and girls who want to learn how to skate but they aren’t brought together in order to keep that passion going.”

Whitton would also like to see more women using skateboarding as a method of transportation but notes that the confusing laws in Halifax may deter some people from trying it out.

“You get in trouble for skating on the sidewalk and you also get in trouble for skating on the street,” she says.

A report by Management Without Borders, a graduate class offered at Dalhousie University, says “fines for skateboarding violations are usually disproportionately high. Bylaws often do not make reference to where it is permissible to skateboard.”

One of the main things holding women back from skateboarding is trying to fit in with the boys.

But Conrad and Whitton want girls to know that there is always a place for them within the industry.

When Conrad picked up her first skateboard from a yard sale and dragged it home she had no problem elbowing her way into the world of skateboarding.

Growing up with a twin brother meant competing with the boys came naturally to Conrad.

“I’ve always felt accepted and welcome at the skate park,” she says.

For Whitton, who began skateboarding at an older age, it wasn’t always as easy.

“I know how intimidating it is to show up at a skate park where it’s all guys and they all have their groups,” she says.

The scene in Halifax has been welcoming though, says Whitton, who has skated in Canada, America, Australia and New Zealand.

“In general the guys here have been really supportive, they’re just happy to see anyone at the skate park,” she says.

For now, Whitton and Conrad will continue to encourage women to explore the world of skateboarding by sharing their stories and teaching those around them about the sport.

They want girls to know there is nothing to be afraid of – aside from a little road burn.