Grl Mag Caught up with professional skateboarder and head of Skate Like A Girl Seattle, Kristin Ebeling.
Tell us about the very first time you got on a skate board? Did you know right away that skating would play such an important part in your life?
I stepped on my brother’s skateboard when I was a child living in Singapore. It had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on it. I remember going super fast buttboarding down hills with him. I never thought it would get me anywhere. Life sure is funny!
Of all the skating competitions you’ve competed in over the years which one stands out most and why?
“Chicks Flip Out” in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was the first time I’d ever seen a large professional contest put together by women, with international competitors, a live DJ, photographers, giant checks for winners, and the like. I took a road trip out there with about 10 other gals who became some of my closest friends. This contest inspired me to start Wheels of Fortune.
Tell us a little bit about your motivation behind ” Wheels of Fortune”?
There’s not a lot of opportunities for women & girls (but also even more so for queers, non-binary, and trans folx) to get recognition, build community, and come together through skateboarding. Most of the opportunities are pretty exclusive and set aside for the “best of the best” and even smaller contests are still thrown together by men. As someone who has competed in lots of events, it’s hard not to feel like the women’s portion is just a small sideshow to the men’s “main event”. Wheels of Fortune is to be the antithesis of that. It’s all inclusive to all identities, abilities, ages, and even includes a kids event. Further, it’s less about the competition, and more about the community. We work to create a whole weekend of activities for everyone to participate in. Personally, I want it to be like the family reunion you want to go to.
What’s your favorite board you’ve ever ridden ?
My first Meow board just felt so good. I’ve always looked up to Lisa Whitaker, so it felt awesome to ride for her company.
You got involved with Skate Like A Girl in 2006, what’s the story there?
I was 17 years old, and had just spend a week with Alex White in California “visiting colleges” [aka street skating]. Prior to that I had never really skated with other girls before. I came back and the next day there was a contest being held at my local skate park, Redmond, by an organization called “Skate Like a Girl”. I remember being skeptical about this event because I was so entrenched in the male-dominated culture of skating. I thought to myself, “I’m the only girl skater in Washington, this is going to be so dumb”. Anyways, I showed up, and to my surprise I saw tons of girls of all ages and abilities shredding around. There were women on the mic, gals taking photos, and my soon to be mentor, Nancy, was serving sno-cones to the crowd. It was like a dream. At that point, I sold my soul. I wanted to be a part of building and sustaining this scene.
You now run the Seattle chapter, is there a story of a skater that you can tell that would inspire other girl skateboarders?
My friend Lisa is a rad one. Lisa had grown up skateboarding, but hadn’t really learned many tricks. They started coming to Ladies’ Night, not common for someone in their 40’s, and also not easy for someone over 6 ft. tall. Nonetheless, Lisa mastered every trick – pushing, riding, ramps, drop-in’s, ollies, and more. Lisa reminds me that you’re never too old, never too tall, never too this, never too that, to do what you want to do.
Who is a female skateboarder today that you admire and why?
I admire Lacey Baker. Lacey is carving a new path that doesn’t involve Energy Drink companies, make up, low cut tops, or anything related to being “marketable” in the eyes of mainstream skateboarding. As someone who doesn’t typically subscribe to femme styles or anything girly, Lacey is an inspiration to me personally. Oh yeah, did I mention how skateboarding? That too. I also look up to Alex White because she has taught me a lot about skateboarding, filming, the industry, etc., and she’s hilarious. When I first saw her part in “Getting Nowhere Faster” I was stoked that she was hitting big rails and gaps, and didn’t have the typical body type of a skater being that she had bigger boobs and wasn’t super tall. Watching Alex skate gave me confidence that I didn’t have to have to “build” of a guy to skate.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? What do you think about young women today shying away from using that word?
Yes, I’m a feminist because I think women are capable of everything men are, it’s only a matter of time. I also want to add that I consider myself an ally to the queer, non-cis, and non-binary community members who perhaps don’t identify with she/her pronouns, but I consider them part of my version of feminism. It makes me sad if folks aren’t using the word feminism because they either don’t understand it, or they are scared to promote it for fear of backlash from their peers, parents, community. However, if someone doesn’t identify that way, then that’s perfectly okay. As long as someone believes in equity of all folx in this world, I’m cool with that.
Why do you think it’s important to create safe spaces for girls?
My experience as a young woman in this world involved some really amazing experiences, but also extremely problematic ones as well. I’m pretty most womyn could agree with me if they really thought about it. I remember being forced to wear a shirt at age 5 because I “was a girl”, and being really sad and confused about that. No one was there to have a conversation about why I had to be a girl when I wanted to do exactly what my brother did. When I was 10, I told another girl on my soccer team that she sucked because she was scared of the ball. I had an eating disorder for many years. When I was 16, I was told I wasn’t pretty enough to ride for a certain company. Even these days, I go to the skate park and regularly hear, “you’re pretty good for a girl” or “dang, I can’t even do that” from men and boys. Long story short, our society is so sexist and not supportive of womyn, that while we work to get everyone on planet earth “up to speed” that we are all human beings, it is imperative that we intentionally create spaces where girls can be themselves. More specific to skateboarding, Skate Like a Girl intentionally creates a space where it’s okay to fall, get hurt, get back up, try again, sweat your make up off, rip your pants, share success, make new friends, build intergenerational community, and beyond.