When a girl decides to participate in activities they are not 'expected' to, something magical happens. This magic shifts boundaries, shatters expectations, and attracts attention - whether good or bad & it is not different for the world of skateboarding.
This singular act is more than just a female entering into a male dominated field. It is a bold statement, to show that women are just as capable, resilient, daring and most definitely able to succeed like their male counterparts.
As a self pronounced "mega-phone" for women making waves in their respective fields, I felt it'd be best to feature a baddie that checks all boxes on this note. The rolling squeaks of skateboard tyres on the driveway signals her arrival. "Melanin On Wheels" I remark as I make my way to the door to meet Maya - a three time street world skateboarding champion.
She has a tall commanding figure with beautiful locks of hair plaited in rows of perfectly laid fulani Braids. Half white, half Ghanaian she straddles different cultures. As a hair enthusiast, I can't help but notice the large dark corn row Braids down the centre of her head with colourful beads at the tip. "I am always keen on celebrating my mixed-raced identity. I get the height from my dad and hair from my mom's side". The braids on her head is a protective style fit for purpose and a smart choice for her busy career. Functional and fashionable I must confess and now we got talking about haircare - my specialty. "t's always a busy day and there are so many moving parts. But I still need to ensure I take care of my hair the best I can". She says as my eyes remain fixated on her shiny scalp and bomb edges. Maya has nice edges, which I suspect must be from regular & generous use of aloe or castor oil-based products. "Maintaining my hair health is as important to me as skateboarding. I find this hairstyle both stylish and convenient. All I do is return to the salon for routine trims".
Now that I've got confirmation of her stellar hair game I steer the conversation away from my specialty back to hers - skateboarding. "When I get on a skateboard I literally feel like I can fly and I can go wherever I want" she says, as we stroll down the street with her pink coated barbie branded skateboard in tow. ' "Growing up I had to move several times. I did not really have any friends and didn't understand how to talk to other girls my age", she adds.
The isolation was crippling and she didn't know how to express herself or emotions. Thankfully her aunt living in San Francisco took her in and this was pivotal to her introduction to the world of Skateboarding. "L.A has some of the best spots in the world for Skateboarding. There were boys around my neighbourhood who'd skateboard everyday after school and I wanted to be their friend so badly. I didn't have a Skateboard and didn't want to embarrass myself". Five baby-sitting jobs, fifteen dog walks and three ushering gigs later she had her first skateboard - a pink maple plywood board, with glittery stars on one end & white wheels on the bottom which was going to be her ticket to entry into the cool boys club. Or so she thought.
"First thing they said to me was - "yo that board sucks!". She was not going to allow the initial disapproval deter her from giving up, not especially after the weeks of work she had invested to get her prized board. So she started skating by herself at the skatepark after school. "I would just watch the boys to see where and how they'd place their feet on the board and literally started copying them. They paid no attention to me at all". This motivated her more to prove herself and she continued for weeks, watching and learning how they did some tricks. "I remember it was two weeks of watching and practicing on the side after that I did my first backside tailslide".
At the skatepark filled with graffiti she shows me this trick. She approaches an obstacle with her back into it. She then pops her board, turns her shoulders slightly in a way that makes her skateboard turn 90° as she slides the boards tail on the obstacle. A smooth manoeuvre that welcomed her into the fold but over time she became better than the boys and soon it became a problem. 'I thought they were my friends but they saw me as a competition they didn't have to beat but discourage, undermine and hopefully drive away. They'd make comments like "oh, you are a girl so you are never going to be better than boys."
Multiple skateboard championships later she has proven them wrong and now paving the way for more girls who wish to skateboard. "As a woman in the skate park, a thousand and more judgements are made about you before you take your first step on your board. Everybody expects you to be bad at skateboarding, but this is not the case for boys who are newbies. When a boy starts skateboarding he is allowed to try until he gets it right. He is not made to feel that he is not capable or set for failure."
It's always a pleasure to meet someone like Maya, a girl simply skateboarding but quietly changing the world.