When Kristin Ebeling heard of the organization Skate Like a Girl, she was skeptical of its scope.
“I don’t know any girls that skate around here. This is going to be a joke,” she thought to herself before attending her first Skate Like a Girl event in Redmond about 10 years ago.
But she was wrong. There were girls everywhere at the event—one girl on a microphone, one girl ollying a set of stairs, other girls of all abilities skating.
“That was a really cool experience. It definitely shattered a lot of internalized sexism that I was maybe holding onto,” she said.
Now 28 years old, Ebeling is the organization’s Seattle Executive Director.
Skate Like a Girl was founded in 2000 to create a skateboarding community that is accepting of all genders, races, and sexual orientations and that empowers young people, especially women, to become leaders and promoters of social justice.
When Ebeling first started skating at age 12, it was rare to see female skateboarders represented in magazines or on television. While things have changed since then, skateboarding is still a male-dominated sport.
“My hope is that skateboarding will change to become a more inclusive skate culture,” she said.
Skate Like a Girl operates in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. It offers a variety of programs including after-school enrichment, skate teams, ladies’ nights, and summer camps all over the Seattle area.
In Kenmore, three skate camps will take place this summer, on July 5-7 ($119), Aug. 21-25 ($199), and Aug. 28-Sept. 1 ($199).
Each camp has anywhere from about eight to 20 kids, depending on the size of the skate park and the number of staff.
All abilities are welcome, although Ebeling said the camps are most beneficial to those who have never skated before. The recommended age range is five to 12.
Despite the name, the summer camps are not just for girls. Boys and transgender youth are welcome as well. “We’re just giving space to all those kids,” Ebeling said.
Campers learn skills such as how to push, how to cruise, how to go down a small ramp, and how to do a trick called a “flippy-uppy.” Some even learn how to ollie and how to drop in.
“I think skateboarding really teaches kids courage, resilience, and confidence in a real way,” Ebeling said. “Kids can’t learn that behind a desk. They have to be faced with challenges.”
Other skills taught at the camps include skate terminology and skateboard maintenance.
“Our big focus is on making friends and making connections with a positive adult,” Ebeling said. “Our priorities are safety first, fun second, and learning third.”
One of the things Ebeling loves about skateboarding is its freedom of expression. In a sport like tennis, she said, you have to learn to return the ball. You have to learn to serve. There’s a specific skill set every player must acquire in order to succeed.
In skateboarding that isn’t the case. The sport isn’t linear.
“You don’t have to learn a certain thing. You can make it whatever you want,” Ebeling said. “It leaves a lot of space for all different types of learners, non-traditional athletes, and youth of all sizes.”
For more information and to sign up for a skate camp, visit www.skatelikeagirl.com. They are also accepting volunteers to coach or to get involved in other ways.
“We have so many volunteers that don’t even skate,” Ebeling said. “They just love to empower youth and create the spaces that we do.”