Lisa Whitaker, founder of Girls Skate Network and Meow Skateboards, female skateboarding inspiration extraordinaire, on how 25 years on she can still remember how her first ollie felt like the biggest accomplishment ever. Plus how the internet and social media has changed women's skating and how you're never too old to start skateboarding
I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, California. I was a tomboy who loved animals.
I had a couple swap meet boards that barely rolled when I was younger, but I got my 1st "real" skateboard when I was about 12 or 13. I'm not sure I could describe the feeling in words, but the fact that I still love it just as much 25 years later sums it up. I do remember the feeling of landing my 1st ollie up a kerb and 1st kickflip. I really had to work hard for both and they felt like the biggest accomplishments in the world at the time.
I've always enjoyed skateboarding, but there have been times when I've needed a little break from it.
The Girls Skate Network site came about by accident. I was just curious about learning web design. Around that time I was sponsored and travelling around with a lot of the top girls doing contests. I've been filming just about as long as I've been skating and always had cameras with me. So when I needed content for a sample site I just pulled things from my computer, which happened to be photos and videos of girls skating.
I didn't think much of it and only shared it with a few friends, but soon after I started receiving emails from girls around the world who had stumbled upon it and were inspired by it. Weird to think about it now, but the internet was still pretty new then so there wasn't the content overload like there is now. This was before YouTube and Social Media...am I sounding old yet? Ha! The feedback I get keeps me inspired to keep it going.
Meow Skateboards came about when my boyfriend and I got a tax refund and he suggested we use the refund money to start a company we could do for fun. I had thrown around the idea of starting something several times over the last decade, but this time the timing and pieces seemed right.
My plate is pretty full with my "real" job, keeping Girls Skate Network updated and filming as much as I can...but this kinda fit into what I was already doing, the only difference is we are making product and supporting a team.
The biggest motivation for me was noticing that most of the top female street skaters in the world didn't have board sponsors or if they did it was "flow" and not marketed. I felt we were in a position to do something to change that.
I wouldn't necessarily say it is harder, but Meow Skateboards is less flexible. Girls Skate Network is just a website. I try to keep it as updated as possible, but if something else comes up or I'm busy I can put it off. With Meow Skateboards I have to make sure product is stocked, team has boards and orders are shipped out as soon as possible.
The internet and social media have had the biggest impact on visibility for girls skating over the last decade. In the past you had to rely on a company or skate magazine for any sort of coverage, now there are lots of options for people to promote themselves so more girls are being seen. It has also made it a lot easier to find and connect with other girls who skate.
As for changes for the worst, well the internet, it can be a double edge sword. Ha! I would love to see more events of all levels that just bring girls together to skate and have fun.
My favourite skaters to watch are Vanessa Torres, Amy Caron, Lacey Baker, Samarria Brevard and Nora Vasconcellos are some of my favourites that I have been skating with recently, but I also love watching unknown girls who come out of nowhere and the guys I grew up watching. There are too many to list.
My biggest inspirations life inspirations are family, friends and skateboarding.
I’ve noticed more girls of all ages giving skating a try. [We chat about mum skaters here]. I believe it is largely due to all the new skateparks popping up around here. Some skateparks can be intimidating regardless of age/sex the first couple times you go, especially if you are fairly new to it. My advice would be to go to early mornings or other off peak hours when there are less people at the park, once you get comfortable with the park and build some confidence it will get a lot easier.
I recently asked my friend Tara Jepsen who started skating at 36 about whether you could feel too old to skate and I like her answer best. She said: "Don’t deny yourself the pleasure. It is the best thing in the entire world." in Girls Skate Network Blog Cam #70 (around 4 minute mark) [peep the clip below]. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on that one from girls and guys, there are a lot of people out there of all ages who think they are “too old to skate". Sometimes just knowing you're not alone makes a big difference.