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First Push Into a Larger World

Oct 18, 2019

By Zane Foley

The Beauty in Skateboarding is Still Brutal

It’s 9:30 pm and the 2nd street tunnel downtown is the main artery into the heart of Los Angeles. Two lanes and one sidewalk host hundreds of cracks in the ground as the cacophony of whistling cars spills over perfumes of oil and gasoline. Armed with only our skateboards we lay down our inhibitions and push south through the tunnel against the oncoming traffic whizzing just inches away from us. I turn around as the veteran of the group to make sure everyone is on the same pace. “This is the way we have to go. Let’s get through it fast and fun and most importantly – in one piece.”

Nisalda, a young woman from Florida, and Ruby, another young woman from Los Angeles are my companions tonight. Both of these women are entering the third decade of their lives, while both have been skating for less than three years. By the end of the night, both will have fallen and bled and couldn’t be happier to have done so. We are headed off to meet some friends at the now-closed downtown Courthouse. The building’s foundation is known for its marble ground and their tolerance of skateboarders. It is also the nucleus of the city and the perfect starting point for the evening adventure.

We propel forward as dust kicks up all around us. The smell of gasoline trapped inside the tunnel wrangles our nostrils, the headlights beam our silhouettes as break lights curl in reflections of vibrant rust on the tunnel’s arch. The resemblance of who we are is undeniable. We are a crew, gang members of an illegal civilization and the entire downtown of Los Angeles is our turf. Each of us wearing cargo pants push violently over the maze of cracks and broken glass.

We continue to skate through the tunnel as cars beep and flash their lights at us. At first, I don’t really notice or think anything out of the ordinary. Skateboarders deal with a tremendous amount of interaction from people in their vicinity. I’ve had water balloons thrown at me, I’ve been bitten by dogs and placed in handcuffs, among other things, so it takes a lot to get me out of a groove. But as we kept going, I turned back a few times making sure no one went face first stuck in a crack; the beeps suddenly became more aggressive than coincidental.

Beepbeeppppeebepp! Rings out to get our attention. Then I hear whistles and catcalls and see the faces of men poking their heads out of the car windows. “She was a skater girl!” I heard screamed by one passing car. “Do a kickflip!” is yelled from another. “Sexy mama!” and a long whistle makes me turn back and give the car the finger. I followed my eyes expecting my female friends to be harping back or somewhat bothered by the harassment. Upon looking at their faces it was obvious that what I heard affected me more than them. They were pushing on full force dodging the broken glass and popping over the largest cracks. They were completely immersed in their experience of riding a skateboard. Being able to harness chaos for pure adrenaline-filled joy is next to godliness. It was clear to me as it has ever been, there were skateboarders and nothing could take away that special feeling they get when expressing this great freedom.

We made it through the tunnel and met our friends Danny and Eric at the Courthouse. We skated around homeless gargoyles, we swept past the walking bystanders, and dodged the security of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. We searched for marble ground and unique architecture. We bombed hills and grinded curbs. We eventually made it to the Staples Center. Outside on the north-west side is an assortment of stones that to the average person look like a random art installation; but to skateboarders, they are known as manual pads. Instantly, a security guard came through and asked us to leave, but Ruby wanted to drop in on one of the pads. We were yelling at her to do so – “You got this! You can do it!” But she was too scared. We walked about 300ft to the other side of the building when she stopped us.

“Let’s go back.” She said.

“What do you mean? We just got kicked out.” I answered her.

“All I need is one more try.”

We all picked up our boards and walked on foot so as not to be heard. We made sure the security guard was gone. Ruby climbed up onto the top of the stone and laid her board in the drop in position. She was right. One try was all it took. After she laid down all four wheels on the ground, plunged her shoulders and all her weight onto the nose of her board, Ruby rode down the rock and pulled up to pop off at an even angle, and boom – she rode away with a smile on her face that only a skateboarder can truly understand. As security ran after us, we darted away to the next spot, hooting and hollering like a pack of southern generals.

The first step into a larger world isn’t always a step at all. For these women, it was a push. A push upon a compressed 7 layer maple deck with some trucks and bolts and wheels. Like most industries and activities dominated by men, every woman who steps on a board highlights the struggles and rewards of being a girl in skating. it has been my honor to befriend these skateboarders and share with them the experiences unique to female skaters. However, it is not only about the specificities surrounding women in skating, but their seamless fit into the culture as well. The challenges and rewards that follow not only highlight the beauty of skateboarding, but the power of these women. They have made skateboarding stronger. They have made skateboarding more unique. They have helped bring skateboarding back to its roots. They participate in skateboarding on every single level. They are one of us. We are skateboarders.

It is impossible to ask every girl who steps on a skateboard how or why she did it. Some of them were the lucky ones who found their passion at a young age. From the women I have talked to though, many found skating later in life. “It came to me at a time when I needed it” Ruby confided in me. “If it wasn’t for skateboarding… I don’t know where I would be both physically and mentally.”

“I always wanted to ride a skateboard. I played baseball growing up. I even raced my bike with my brothers. But now, I am the only one in my family who skates. And I love it. Meeting all these people… these women… It’s amazing. It’s how I met you!” Nisalda explained to me over a freshly popped beer.

Either way, the results remain the same. With every push foreward the developing self grinds and slides and pops and flicks into an entirely new world. A world that really wasn’t ready to accept them, but now, owes them a complete debt of gratitude.

Follow this crew on Instagram! @zaneyorkfoley @rubyyyork @nisaldago

Primitive Skate

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