Skate Group GrlSwirl Brings Girls to the Male-Dominated Skate Scene
By Rachael Prevetti
3 · 10 · 2019
Nine ladies are on a mission to bring femininity to skate and they want YOU to join them!
On Thursday morning, I spoke with some of my idols from GrlSwirl, an all-girl skate group based in Venice who I’d been following on Instagram for a while. At Menotti’s coffee shop right on Venice beach, I got to know why four of the group’s leading ladies — Tobi Ann, Lindsey Kaye, Myriah Marquez, and Julia Ama — decided to embark on this adventure together.
Inspired by earlier female skaters like Peggy Oki and Laura Thornhill, the girls aim to introduce femininity to the skate world. Through quirky videos and photos posted to their Instagram — their page now boasts more than 50,000 dedicated followers — they broadcast the eclectic female skaters that make up their chosen family. Outside of social media, the girls organize large group skates every Tuesday night, quarterly community service events, and work alongside organizations such as Venice Family Clinic and Harvest Home.
At the end of the day, GrlSwirl aims to lessen the competitive aspect of the skate community by showing girls that it is okay to be a beginner, something that often discourages girls to get involved in the sport. Four of GrlSwirl’s founders spoke with Tough to Tame about the how they combat the double standards they face as women in the skate world, the badass female skaters they look up to, and their ambitious goals for the future. Read our convo below:
TT: What inspired you to start GrlSwrl?
Myriah: We just got together authentically to skate and it was a good time and we were like, ‘Let’s do this! We can do this all the time!’
Lindsey: Our creator, Lucy, had the idea and then she kind of met all of us skating or around town at different times and recruited us. It's been a year now since, what we call, ‘The skate where everything kind of clicked.’ And then we skated together on that one night in a group skate and realized that there was so much energy around it and so much excitement you could almost feel that it was something real. We wanted to share it!
TT: When and why did each of you start skating?
Tobi: I started pushing around as a kid. Like I was the one girl with a bunch of boys but never felt confident with it. So my whole life there’s just been like random periods where I would just grab a skateboard and push around and get nowhere and kind of give up. I had just gotten a skateboard here and ran into Lucy and she was like ‘Oh you skate?’ and I was like ‘Yeah’ and I didn’t know any girls who skated so then we all got together on that night. And that was my 30th birthday last year. From that moment on I’ve had friends to skate with and I’ve excelled. People think I’ve been skating for years. And yeah, girl power!
Lindsey: I moved to Venice eight years ago after college. I just started skating because it’s super flat here and there’s a lot of alleyways. My guy friend from high school had moved here and he was skating and I was like, ‘Can you teach me?’ So I would literally just kick push. I always really wanted to go in the park. You’re kind of hoping there are other girls out there. I was like ‘There’s gotta be other girls out there like me!’
TT: How do you incorporate messages of helping others, supporting women, and having fun into GrlSwirl?
Julia: I think we live it. We spend a lot of time talking to different members about it, but really, everything we preach, we also do through action. So we’re at the group skates, we’ll go to the parks in the mornings, we’re trying new tricks, we’re falling on the ground, we go and we help the different girls learn these things. And not only in skateboarding, but also a lot of the people that come to our group skates and we spend time with them. Everyone has something going on, everybody has things that they are unsure about or hesitant about. A lot of times my conversations are ‘No! You can absolutely do that! You can keep achieving your dreams. Don’t let anybody hold you back.’ We’re not only there to help with skating, but we’re also a women’s support group.
Q: How would you describe the vibe of Grlswirl skate seshes?
Lindsey: Super fun! They’re pretty amazing, I would say we have anywhere from 20-40 girls each time and they range from girls who have been skating with us from the start, or girls who are on vacation and have heard about us. There are some girls where it’s pretty amazing that they have the confidence to show up – they just bought their board an hour before the skate and they just show up and are ready and willing to try. There’s little girls with their moms who come, it’s pretty diverse with the age range.
Julia: It’s a lot of bonding, as well as skating. We have members who come who spend most of their time just chatting with other girls, or we have girls who want to learn something really specific. Sometimes girls are there because they’ve had a bad day and they just want to help someone else out and destress, it’s very meditative. So many girls that have met in our group skates are now going to be lifetime friends.
TT: How do you encourage and recruit girls to come on group skates?
Myriah: Our instagram. If you see a girl with a board, be like ‘Hey, GrlSwirl?’
Lindsey: If you meet a girl at the park, you just throw the invitation out and see if they come. And then we have girls who message us on Instagram constantly like ‘How do we join?’ and we just tell them, ‘Come on a group skate!’
TT: What is it like to bring femininity into a male-dominated world like skating? Do you ever experience backlash from men in the community?
Lindsey: It takes showing up as a women, a lot of the times when you’re doing something, because you’re doing it so authentically, you don’t really realize the impact you’re having. Just us showing up and there being more women around [the skatepark], the guys have now taken notice. Some days it will be mostly girls. We’re not bringing feminity in by putting girls on boards wearing skirts, we’re bringing femininity in by saying ‘you’re a girl on a board and you can wear dickies and a studded belt and a wife beater, or you can wear a skirt, or you can just wear jeans and a t-shirt’ and it doesn’t matter, you can just be you.
Myriah: I have felt personally attacked for being on a skateboard. Especially with dresses and stuff because sometimes I’ll wear my sweatpants. But sometimes I love makeup and glitter and dresses, but I’m not an idiot, I’m going to wear shorts under my skirt. How many people have told me, ‘Oh you could do that better if you were in pants,’ and I’m like, ‘Actually, look at my leg span right now!’
TT: What do your community service events entail and who do you work with to host these events?
GrlSwirl philanthropy is there as an opportunity for girls in the community to give back. So we want to create opportunities that they don’t have to search for and they know they can do amongst friends. So, quarterly we do massive fundraiser parties, which involve us finding a local non-profit that supports something we believe in.