My outlook changed when I watched the inspiring TEDx talk – Girl Is Not A Four Letter Word.
Meet Cindy Whitehead, a former professional skateboarder and OG in the industry. In the 70s, she began skating professionally at 16-years-old. Her tenacity stood out on a male-dominated skate team, which resulted in an endorsement deal with Puma Tennis Shoes. But when skate parks started closing, so did the opportunities for women.
“The last time I skated professionally, I was 21-years-old,” Whitehead said to FORBES.com. “Skateparks started dying off and once that happened we did not have sanctioned contests. We had backyard ramps and pools, which we originally started in, so [skateboarding] went back underground. The industry went dormant for many years.”
Austin, TX – June 6, 2014 – Circuit of The Americas: Alana Smith during practice for Skateboard Street Women’s at X Games Austin 2014 (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)
Whitehead eventually found her way and transitioned into sports styling. She worked with celebrated athletes such as Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, and Mia Hamm, but her passion for skateboarding never wavered.
A chance meeting with a skateboard creative director led to her recent collaboration with skateboard manufacturer Dwindle Inc. and its Dusters California division. Today, Whitehead is the designer of a board appropriately named – GIRL is NOT a 4 Letter Word (GN4LW).
GN4LW acknowledges and encourages all female skaters because for Whitehead the word “girl” should never be used as a slur.
The board supports Longboarding for Peace and portion of the proceeds goes to Girls Riders Organization, a non-profit that helps to inspire, educate and support girls in action sports. Whitehead excitedly shared that moving forward Dwindle Inc. and Dusters will produce, create, and manufacture GN4LW in its line twice a year.
“There is no other female specific board on the market that is giving back to women in skateboarding,” said Whitehead. “This partnership is not just a single board, but a long-term commitment.”
High Tide Floats All Boats
Undoubtedly, women’s skateboarding is grasping for a long-term commitment from sponsors, media, and fans. While male athletes get more face time in magazines and television coverage, female athletes are not waiting for industry executives to decide their future – they are creating it on their own.
Meet Mimi Knoop, a five-time X Games medalist who began skating professionally in 2003. Early on, she recognized that seeing other women compete made the sport attainable for her, but the disparity between male and female riders was a fact she could not ignore.
Determined to make a difference, Knoop co-founded hoopla skateboards and theAlliance. Hoopla is a skate team that partners with the other female-driven brands such as Girls Skate Network and MAHFIA to encourage girls’ participation in skateboarding while providing a support system that does not exist. Meanwhile, theAlliance is a non-profit organization that provides a much needed voice for women in action sports. In women’s skateboarding, working towards a collective goal means everyone progresses. As Knoop describes it, “High tide floats all boats. If we raise it up, everyone will benefit.”
Alana M. Glass is an attorney and sports entrepreneur. Follow Alana on Twitter (@IWant2BeAnOwner) or visit her website www.AlanaGlass.com