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A perfect day for snowboarding in Venice

The Supergirl Jam brings women from all over the world to compete in snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing.

August 22, 2011|By Rick Rojas, Los Angeles Times
  • Snowboarder Melissa Evans, 23, of Big Bear keeps her goggles in place during a practice run on a specially built mountain in the Supergirl Jam, a competition for women at Venice Beach.
Snowboarder Melissa Evans, 23, of Big Bear keeps her goggles in place during… (Jay L. Clendenin, Los Angeles…)

The weather on Venice Beach was typical for a Sunday afternoon in August: The sun was out, there was a slight breeze, the thermometer registered 74 degrees. So, naturally, it was the perfect day for snowboarding.

In a patch on the boardwalk amid wandering tourists and crispy beach bums, a snowcapped mountain had been erected out of scaffolding, plywood and massive bricks of ice chipped into a wintry powder. It was built just for the day for the Supergirl Jam, a women's competition in snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing.

Athletes came from throughout Southern California and as far away as the Czech Republic for the fifth annual event, which is designed to help close the gender gap in action sports long dominated by men.

"The girls were always peripheral to the overall experience," said Rick Bratman, chief executive of ASA Entertainment, the company that produces the contests.

"It was time to have a platform for the girls that was all about them."

The two dozen contestants flew down the two-story-high slope (which didn't take long to resemble a Slurpee). On the skateboard course, they ollied, they grinded, they did moves that could make a mother cringe. This was their chance to show off what they could do and perhaps inspire some of the younger girls in the audience

"You can do what the boys do, and that's awesome," said Justine Clements, 26, who was there with friends and family to cheer on Laura Rogoski and Madison Blackley, contestants in the snowboarding competition.

"You've got to support these girls. There aren't enough women snowboarders."

Rogoski's sister, Tina, 26, noted that men in the sport score bigger prizes and more attention. "Why do the guys get so much more?" she said. "The girls work just as hard as they do."

It's a life-consuming pursuit for many of them. In all three sports, the practice is intense — hours upon hours a day, several days a week. Snowboarders often chase snow over great distances, moving from peak to peak so that they can practice year-round.

Desiree Melancon, a 23-year-old snowboarder from Riverside, already has sponsors, but scoffs at her talent. "I'm still horrible," she said. Despite being however lackluster she claims to be, she seems content living the life of an action sports athlete.

"There's no supreme place," she said of her aspirations."There's just snowboarding — and never having to get a real job."

rick.rojas@latimes.com

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