BMX Bandits at BMX Worlds

Being a female BMXer can be a lonely pursuit, especially if you prefer riding with other girls. The BMX Masters, now BMX Worlds in Cologne was one of the first contests to brings a welcome break to the old routine and we had all about it in our April/May issue last year

Words by Heike Müller & Lilian Muscutt, photography by Christian Scholle

It’s a calm summer morning in Cologne. The benches by the Rhine are occupied with early birds who absent-mindedly watch joggers sweating on the waterfront and ferries slowly crossing the river. Then suddenly a noise cuts through the peace and catches their attention. A crew of young girls approach on BMXs. One of the girl’s left arm is covered in tattoos, her long brown hair waving in the morning air. Astonishment is written on the faces of the observers and heads turn in unison as the girls ride by. Even in a metropolis like Cologne a crowd of girls on 20-inch wheels is far from a common sight.

At the nearby Jugendpark it’s a different story. It’s the Girls’ Class at the BMX Masters and Camila Harambour (Chile/Argentina), Angie Marino (USA), Rebecca Berg (Germany), and Mini Park (South Korea) are competing with six other girls. Accompanied by the cheers of more than a thousand spectators, Camila stomps a back flip while Angie pulls perfect turn downs. The contestants high five each other on the jumps, anticipate every try from Shanice Silva Cruz (Netherlands) to land a front flip and support Mini for continually trying to stomp that flair.

Outside the circuit you hardly ever see the girls by themselves. Angie, Mini, Rebecca and Camila are staying with a BMX friend in Cologne and sprawl around the compound with the rest of the girls, enjoying sharing their passion with like-mindeds. “The vibe is so good when you get to ride with more than one or two girl riders”, says New Yorker Angie Marino, who discovered her love for 20-inch wheels at the age of 15. “It’s so awesome to see everyone push each other in ways that the boys can’t.”

She is almost single-handedly propelling the female scene forwards. In 2010 she started the girls BMX web hub Yeah Zine with Nina Buitrago from Austin, Texas, followed by an online petition to push for a female comp at the X Games a year later. They didn’t succeed that time but in 2011 they at least got a show where Camila, Nina, Angie and Jessica Ausec (all from USA) could show off their skills. Now the step to set up a girl’s category isn’t far anymore, Angie hopes. “Since we have more opportunities to ride in events and stuff, more girls get involved and want to be a part of BMX ”, she says.

Some organisers have already sensed that. The BMX Masters introduced a “Girls’ Class” in 2004. At first there wasn’t much interest but by 2010 there were 18 female contestants competing in the park discipline. More than ever before. This appeals to the male riders as well. BMX icon and pioneer Bob Haro is impressed, “The female riders make BMX more interesting and are important for the future of BMX.

The women crash and bail like men and stand up again and again!” In Spring 2011 the FISE Festival in France also introduced a “Girls’ Class” for the first time. According to the organisers this was due to growing numbers of female BMX riders.

A trend Camila, who is among the best riders in the world, noticed as well, “The amount of girl riders has been growing that’s for sure, and I hope it keeps growing more and more.” To the 22-years-old, who caused quite a stir with her backflip no hander last year, the Girls’ Classes are the key to female BMX , “I would love for more big contests to include us, but at the same time I do believe that more women must be willing to travel.”

In 2011 she let her travel bug run free and spent more time with BMX buddies around the world than at her own home in Buenos Aires. She rode Greenville with Ozzie Peta Shepherd, toured the Czech Republic for months, met Nina and Rebecca in Austin, rode the streets of Denver with Jessica Ausec and went to Camp Woodward in the company of Angie, Mini, Jessica and Natalie Wade (USA). Which is why “I miss U!” is more than just a Facebook statement among those girls. And the hangovers after shared experiences are often big, no wonder since the majority of them mostly hang out with guys at home. But as Camilla says, “Thanks to the internet we can keep in touch with each other all year. I actually have more friends from overseas than from where I live.”

Camila’s South Korean friend Mini Park spent most of last year on the road in Europe and the US as well, but unlike her friends she’s neither paying for that herself nor relying on family support. Mini is the only full time and fully sponsored female BMX pro at the time of writing. A luxury not even her countrymen are enjoying. “They don’t make it to the podiums”, the 21-year-old smiles. Her sister is on the national team too and together they race for their nation, but they still feel alone in their huge country within the respectively tiny BMX scene. “Maybe I’m the only female (freeride) BMX rider. I heard that there are a few female riders in South Korea, but I’ve never seen them riding in BMX parks. So, I feel lonely sometimes. I’m not that much of an outgoing person. So it was really hard to get along with male riders.”

Rebecca and her BMX buddies in Stendal are a whole different story but even though they get along really well, she bemoans the lack of female companions. At the BMX Masters she realised, “I have to ride somewhere else”. Three weeks later she was on a plane to Texas, to sample the Austin scene with Camila and Nina. Not even temperatures of up to 42 degrees Celsius could stop them from rocking the famous T ramp or checking out Natalie and Morgan Wade’s indoor park in Tyler. With her horizon broadened and wanderlust tackled, she still types “I miss U” into the internet. But more and more often, this is replaced by “Looking forwards”– for example to the BMX Worlds in Cologne July 2012, where she hopes to reunite with all of her friends on wheels once again

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