Old Pal collaborated with MS. RPRSNTD on a limited edition skate deck in celebration of Go Skateboarding Day.
For many kids growing up, standing sideways automatically meant you were different. We’re not talking about the way you walked, but the choice you made as an individual for a declaration of independence rooted in board sports. Merit wasn’t measured by points or scores but by how many boards you could ollie, the number of times you could bash the lip on a wave, or how far you could huck yourself down a set of stairs.
Intrinsic to surfing and skating is the belief that the iconoclastic freedom of expression builds community but bias in those scenes still exists. With skating, women were almost always marginalized as the younger and less talented counterparts to men with extreme athletic prowess, save a few outlying examples of women like Peggy Oki who was the only female in the Z-Boys crew, a misnomer considering her gender. The Hiroshima-born skater also happens to be Japanese, making her a novel figure in the early skate scene among a number of other women and people of color that skate history treats as more of a footnote in that culture than a regular theme in its narrative.
Fast forward to almost forty years later and we began to see a growing number of women not only showing up but dominating the skate scene. Their presence is too large to ignore as females grind their way to a level of acceptance that means entire skate parks erupt in tail tapping approval after someone stomps a landing.
Despite the fact that big brands now have female-forward skate teams and women are competing at the Olympics, there is still a lot of work to be done to evolve the conversation so that the lines are so blurred that everyone who rolls along is all a part of the same gang.
MS. RPRSNTD started as a creative project that doubled as a tiny rebellion against underrepresentation of skater girls of color. Since its inception in 2014, it has evolved into a half brand, half philanthropic initiative. Today, MS. RPRSNTD acts as a platform to amplify skaters from marginalized communities. They share content, give out skate decks, find job opportunities for skaters of colors and donate funds to organizations that support social justice and female empowerment. MS. RPRSNTD is meant to be a north star for young women who want to express themselves in ways that don’t necessarily align with the cultural expectations they were born into—whether on a skateboard or not.
ON THE CHALLENGES WOMEN AND POC FACE IN ACTION SPORTS
Action sports tend to create this invisible socio economic barrier. It wasn’t until Natas Kaupas wore a Public Enemy T-shirt in Thrasher magazine that kids on the East Coast were even able to think that skating in the city was an option. Then you add ethnicity and gender you have what seems like an impenetrable barrier. Women of color have been a part of skate and streetwear since the very beginning—Peggy Oki was skating with Tony Alva and Jay Adams! The idea of an Asian American woman holding court with arguably the founding fathers of skateboarding is often overlooked but incredibly important.
For MS. RPRSNTD, it’s about visibility and accessibility. We want a 17-year-old young woman who lives in Detroit to know that she can hit the waves or the skate park without hesitation. With more and more representation thanks to Textured Waves, Brujas, Unity, etc. the accessibility is within reach more than ever.