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Move Over, Guys--It's Their Turn to Fly

The All Girl Skate Jam is a rare chance for them to prove they can shine in a male-dominated sport

September 10, 2002|SUSAN CARPENTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The conditions were perfect for skateboarding: A breeze was blowing, the sun was shining and the Beastie Boys and Social Distortion were blaring in the background.

The 50 or so girls who rolled on to Huntington Beach Pier on Sunday for the All Girl Skate Jam--the only all-female skateboard competition in the world--were prepared to take full advantage of the opportunity.

With BMXers flying high on side of the skate course, and surfers riding waves in the background, the young women pulled on their kneepads and sticker-plastered helmets and took off through the course.

Her T-shirt streaked with dirt, Vanessa Torres, 14, rode a well-worn skateboard up the ramp, balancing on its top edge before careening down the other side. Hair flying, Lyn-Z Adams, 12, performed an "air transfer," wheeling up one ramp and down another. Alexandra White, 17, pink bandanna tied around her face, sped into a "rail slide," gliding the belly of her skateboard along the top of a rail before hopping down to the ground on four wheels and finishing her run.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday September 11, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 ..CF: Y 4 inches; 178 words Type of Material: Correction
Winning skateboarder--An article in Tuesday's Southern California Living about the All Girl Skate Jam in Huntington Beach incorrectly identified the winner of the event. The winner was Lauren Perkins.

Torres (who won the competition), Adams and White are some of the world's top female skateboarders. They can grind axles and catch air as well as almost any guy, but there are few opportunities for them to show their stuff. Most competitions are male-only.

The All Girl Skate Jam, in its sixth year, was founded by Patty Segovia in 1997. "I put it together because if you tried to sign up for a [boys'] contest, they'd shoo you away."

Segovia, of Encinitas, who started skating 15 years ago, was also "tired of going to skate parks and being the only girl."

That is gradually changing: In 1996, 7.5% of frequent skateboarders were female, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Assn. Today, of the 3.3 million Americans who skateboard more than once a week, about 11% are female.

Those numbers may soon shift upward. Events such as the All Girl Skate Jam are prompting the media to give girl skateboarders some attention; skateboard manufacturers, clothing lines and stores are beginning to cater to young women.

In August, the extreme-sports extravaganza known as the X Games included seven girls performing in an "expression session," demonstrating their skills. Although it was not televised on ESPN, like the rest of the X Games sports, it was the first time female skateboarders were included in the X Games' eight-year history.

"We finally had a demand for it," said Melissa Gullotti, X Games spokeswoman. "There were enough female athletes out there on the pro level for skateboarding to warrant a demo, and we're hoping to see that side of skateboarding grow."

So do two girl-oriented skateboarding magazines launching this fall. Canada-based Push magazine will publish its first issue in November. San Clemente-based Surfing Girl magazine relaunches today as SG, to cater to girls who like to surf and snowboard as well as skateboard.

Unlike boys' skateboarding magazines, such as Big Brother and Skateboarding, which almost never profile female skaters, the new magazines hope to serve as a means of inspiring and unifying the female skateboarding community and to encourage more girls to get involved.

"Board sports give girls confidence and an amazing feeling of independence," said Robyn Lass, the 28-year-old managing editor of SG, which co-sponsored the All Girl Skate Jam. "It's so much different than being involved with a team sport. When you're involved in an individual sport, it's all up to you....You learn a new trick, or you surf on a day that's bigger than you've ever surfed before, and you're proud of your accomplishments. No one can take that away from you."

Full of Confidence

As they flew over ramps, kick flipping their skateboards and spinning around on two wheels, the girls at the All Girl Skate Jam were nothing if not confident. They attacked the ramps at full speed. If they fell or didn't get the trick the first time, they tried it until they got it right.

Mike Cruz, a 27-year-old skateboarder from Brea, was among those in the crowd that ranged from male skateboard pros to soccer moms. "I like that so many of the girl skaters go after it. They aren't what you call feminine about it," said Cruz, who was competing as part of the Core Tour.

The All Girl Skate Jam was part of the Core Tour, a weekend-long competition for skateboarders, surfers and BMX bikers, the latter of which were running a course next to the skaters. The entire time the girls were grinding it up on the course, the BMXers were in the background, doing back flips and handlebar spins.

Started at Age 2

As distracting as it was for onlookers, it didn't affect skateboarder Anna Gault, a 9-year-old from Huntington Beach, who, in her pink sneakers and jeans, exhibited the confidence of someone twice her age.

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