Words by Jenna Selby
I was nineteen when I first set foot on a board. At the first competition I ever entered, I remember the emcee calling out my name, saying, ‘Look everyone, it’s a girl!’ Looking back, I realise the guys were actually pretty encouraging, but because of their initial reaction, it made me shy and stand-offish. It also made me feel like I had to prove myself.
Later, while studying in Newport, Wales, I met Rowena Brannon and in 2002 we started the first Girl Skate Jam. In one day, I met forty other female riders from around Europe that I didn’t know existed – this was before everyone relied on the internet. It was amazing to see the level of riding, but I’d never seen any coverage of any of these people. Around the same time I was picked up by Gallaz (sister brand to Globe shoes). As the first female skate team in the UK, we received regular coverage. The core media were great, but the mainstream coverage only associated female skateboarders with health and fitness stories. My favourite quote was from this one newspaper article that said, ‘An ollie burns 20lbs, kickflips 25lbs and I do pilates like [Dirty Sanchez skate nut] Matt Pritchard to keep up my core fitness!’ It was ridiculous. The perception was that girls don’t skate just because they enjoy it there always had to be another reason. It was this sort of negative coverage that really pushed me to start Rogue.
So, in 2005 I approached four friends – Lucy Adams, Laura Goh, Maria Falbo and Sadie Hollins. I thought, if we got a group of women together who skated well, we could choose the coverage we felt helped promote female skateboarders in a positive way. Here is definitely a lot less funding for female-orientated projects from brands. Our film, As If, And What?, was completely self-funded. I think the industry is pretty confused by female skaters. With snowboarding and surfing there is a clear market that companies can target. Female skateboarders don’t fall into this same bracket, which is why companies have been reluctant to get involved. Brands think there isn’t a market, but there is obviously an enormous amount of interest surrounding female riders. Just look at the amount of hits female skate videos get.
Last year, one of the big skate companies dropped all its female pros; in the X-Games this year, the female vert competition was dropped. As with anything, the scene has its ups and downs, but hopefully as more female riders get involved in the industry, they will help lay proper foundations for future generations to build upon. Our all-girl projects – the films, tours and jams – aren’t about creating a separation from the guys; far from it. As long as you approach it in the right way, female projects can only be a positive thing. They give other female skaters a sense of what is going on, and provide coverage for riders who don’t generally receive it because of the way the industry is.
Remembering how daunting it was when I first started, the aim of the comps is to provide an environment where girls who are new to the scene can come along and get to know other female riders – where there is nothing expected of them. Every day, I wake up wanting to create new things. I see what the other riders get from the tours and competitions I organise and I also love that experience myself. That’s what keeps you involved and makes you want to get better; dreams of tricks you’re going to learn the next day, videos that have the same effect, the people you hang out with and the different places you get to visit. You always want more.
I don’t see what I do as work, but as something I just do. I have a compulsion to want to make things happen; I can never quite explain where it comes from.
Skateboarder and photographer Jenna Selby from London has created the first all-female-skateboarding-film “As If, And What”. She is now working on a world wide venture called ‘Scratch The Surface’ – a documentation on girls who are part of emerging scenes in countries where skateboarding is relatively new, including Afghanistan, China and Russia. http://jennaselby.co.uk/
This article originally appeared in HUCK magazine, Issue 29, Oct/Nov 2011, http://www.huckmagazine.com