I was never one of those kids who yearned to skateboard. Never saw my brother do it and think, “hey, that looks fun!” Nope. I was the kid who never even learned to ride a bike properly, who prefered coloring indoors to any kind of outdoor activity that required sneakers and/ or sweating.
In college, I’d watch out the library windows as boys would skateboard on by. They’d carry them into class, looking smug and unbothered. I was not remotely interested. In fact, the entire sport and its hyper-masculine culture was wholly disinteresting to me.
Until I Instagram-scrolled upon GRLSWIRL.
They are an all women’s skateboard club based in Venice, CA, founded by nine girls on a mission to make the skate community more inclusive. And coincidentally enough, a wonderful and long-time friend of mine, Monroe (from my hometown!), just so happens to be a Co-Founder.
These girls are cool. I mean, really fucking cool. Between the group, they’ve got sweet sunglasses, rad denim jackets, and a super-cute sneaker collection. But, more than any of that, what I think makes them the absolute coolest is their genuine and unfiltered desire to share their time/ skills/ love with other girls (literally hundreds of girls!!), their excitement to teach, their efforts in manifesting change.
They make me, ME want to get on a skateboard!
Through bi-weekly group skates (welcoming to any woman-identifying person in the Venice, CA, area!), learn-to-skate workshops, and fundraising events for local philanthropic causes, the ladies of GRLSWIRL have really tapped into their community. And, from social media they’ve grown their following into a full-blown feminist movement!
Watching the smiles on these girls faces as they carve and grind together is joy-filled and empowering. Who wouldn’t want to pick up a board and shred with them?
Was there a specific moment that was the catalyst for wanting to create GRLSWIRL? What was the inspiration?
I am a fairly new skater who definitely doesn’t fit the typical skateboarder mold. I was a pro ballerina terrified to get on a board, but was taught correctly and fell in love with how liberating and empowering skating felt. I fell in love so much so that I was skating every day. Very quickly I realized the unwanted attention I had attracted from being a feminine woman skating alone. I started recruiting other women to join me in hopes of finding more comfort in numbers. I wasn’t just sharing the streets with other ladies, but I was sharing the empowerment and freedom I found from skateboarding.
Suddenly, we were a force not a minority, and we all felt it revolutionary. There was a moment on one of the first group skates where we all were skating down the boardwalk and some locals started cheering for us that it really clicked that people WANTED to see women working together, having fun together and skating together! From that moment we really charged forward with our movement to inspire other women to get on boards. – Lucy, @lucyjean333
The community has grown so immensely (and quickly!), with over 190 girls joining the GRLSWIRL movement! What does that impact mean to you and what do you think it says about the necessity of creating more women-led spaces?
Honestly, I get chills reading that question because it has been so tangible in my life. I am constantly in awe and appreciation of the kind and talented GRLS I have around me. I get to communicate with Grls GLOBALLY on a daily basis.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined. This feeling of intention and happiness is not just Necessity, it’s what life is about. I hope that what we’re doing helps to normalize women skating and the art and passion of the sport. I hope that it’s enjoyed on every skill every where! – Myriah, @myriahrose_
Talk to me about your recent project where you visited the border and distributed goods to migrant kids. How did that come about, what was the idea behind it, and what was the experience like?
Tobi’s friend Raechel is a photo journalist and she has been spending some time in Tijuana and the two of them decided to plan this trip. We were connected to this angel woman named Libertad who is a local in Tijuana and does a lot of charity work with the migrant camps, and she helped us organize the entire trip and also was our lovely translator. Being at the camps was life changing. It’s interesting to hear so many stories on the news of what’s going on, but then to go there and witness it first hand and hear stories from their point of view was incredibly eye opening. But overall, it was a beautiful experience to see these kids have a few hours of pure happiness where nothing else mattered other than these skateboards. We spent our first day at the YMCA where it was all unaccompanied minors between the ages of 13-17, 98% of them were boys, and it was a very interesting situation to be in because in Mexico women are not looked at as leaders or authority figures. We could tell at first that the boys had to let down their walls and take us seriously, but within 20 minutes they were all beyond captivated by us. The best was when they were all trying to catch our attention to show us how well they were doing, always calling out or waving us down and saying “ look ! Look! “ and pointing to what they were doing. The man who ran the YMCA, his name is Minor, he was telling us that he has never seen these kids this happy. The kids were telling him how grateful they were for us. I could go on and on about this trip but this was a small glimpse into how that short weekend went for us. Forever grateful. – Monroe, @dontbeafool
What lessons have you learned through skate?
Skating has been super empowering for me because its forced me to face a lot of fears and stretch my own belief in myself. If you told me 2 years ago that Id be skating bowls at the skateparks with all the boys doing flips left and right, I would have told you you were crazy. But thats exactly whats happened! By focusing on my love for the sport and going just a little outside my comfort zone every time (OK sometimes a lot out of my comfort zone), I have completely shocked and amazed myself. I have learned that sometimes the best dream come true is one you never knew you had. And finally, all things are more fun with a bunch of your girlfriends around. – Danielle, @theladydandelion
What is a favorite GRLSWIRL memory?
It’s really hard to choose just one memory – it’s been over a year of knowing these girls and the moments within this movement, within the community, and within the friendships I’ve formed with these girls are innumerable, many unforgettable, and just hard to be ranked. A few that stand out to me are our launch party, where half of Venice came out to support our new business, going to Tijuana for our migrant mission, where we taught and hopefully imparted a lifelong love of skate to children at the border, and lastly, some of the summer group skates where the sun sets late, the air is warm and we all feel like kids again. I think out of everything though, my favorite part of it all has been the little moments over the course of a year that have accumulated and amounted to new friendships with eight brilliant, loving and talented women, and all that we’ve accomplished together. – Shannon, @shanmoss
What is next for GRLSWIRL?
To be honest, we’ve been working on a lot of fun things…
So far, we’ve focused on being really present in Venice and building a strong community locally. Now, we’re looking to expand nationally and internationally to create the same community we’ve cultivated here, but in new locations so other women also have this opportunity and network.