Not Seeing Women Represented In Extreme Sports, This Colombiana Skater Created An All-Girl Collective In Bogotá

credit: Sobre Ruedas Girls / Gaffphoto,VIGASKATEPARK / CorpoEVG Extremo.

At Bogotá’s Fontanar Skate Park, the largest in the Colombian capital, 22-year-old Valentina Díaz dives into the concrete bowl, glides along the smooth floors and walls off what appears as a massive, dried up pool. Amid the crowds of young men dressed in jeans and baggy shirts that sit on the sidelines and wait for their turn, Díaz stands out: Instead of the usual streetwear, she skates in a black miniskirt and matching leather jacket, paired with Vans, tube socks and a crushed velvet halter top.

Díaz is the co-founder of Sobre Ruedas Girls, an all-female collective that only 10 years ago wouldn’t have existed in Colombia. Women-only crews activated in 2014 to defeat the popular notion that skateboarding is a male sport. Despite the extreme sport’s meteoric rise in popularity in recent years, entrenched gender norms stand in the way of women claiming their rightful place in the national skateboarding scene.

Sobre Ruedas Girls is challenging these notions by supporting women’s advancement and equality in the realm of extreme sports. In 2017, Díaz started Sobre Ruedas Girls as an online platform where she could upload short videos of her friends’ skate tricks to social media — a much-needed representation of female talent in a media landscape devoid of it. Since then, the collective has amplified its work to include women’s-only competitions and workshops as well.

(Photo Credit: Christina Noriega)

Still, the act of introducing more women into the sport alone in Colombia is an uphill battle. Skateboarding in the South American country is more popular than ever before: athletes bring home medals from international competitions, attract the sponsorship of big-name brands and help lead the construction on a growing number of skateparks in the country — a few of which are on course to become some of the largest in Latin America. Yet, machista attitudes prevalent in Colombia are keeping women out of the extreme sports world.

Male skateboarders scrutinize female newcomers to the sport more critically than their counterparts on the basis of their gender, says Díaz. Women experience harassment because of their looks, clothes and skill level, which can lead these female novices to feel unwelcome in predominantly male skateparks and, eventually, abandon the sport.

“It affected me a lot, because I would go to a skatepark and there would be a majority of men and a minority of women,” Díaz says, who now mostly skates with women. “And what would happen? They would treat you badly, they would throw their board at you or they wouldn’t care if they crashed into you or not.”

(Photo Credit: Sobre Ruedas Girls / Gaffphoto,VIGASKATEPARK / CorpoEVG Extremo.)

While Díaz says attitudes toward women are changing thanks to a rise in the number of women skaters, female representation in the scene remains underwhelming. Women make up only five percent of the estimated 20,000 skaters in Colombia, according to Corporación EVG, an organization that promotes extreme sports in the country and supports women’s skate initiatives.

A countermeasure for the gender-based discrimination female skaters face could be women-only spaces, one study says. In contrast to traditional areas, where men make up the majority, women-only spaces recognize and reward female skaters’ social dispositions, thus making them “empowering” and “positive” to them.

Sebastián Montoya, director of Corporación EVG, argues something similar: To develop a more inclusive future in the extreme sports realm, we need more events, designed by and for female skaters. He explains that women may expect events that are less competitive and more conducive to learning and having fun.

“Sometimes, women don’t want to compete,” Montoya says. “They simply want to hang out, be with their friends, have a good time and be relaxed, without the pressures of a competition or an audience.”

(Photo Credit: Sobre Ruedas Girls / Gaffphoto,VIGASKATEPARK / CorpoEVG Extremo.)

Here, Sobre Ruedas Girls’ competitions fulfill several needs of Bogotá’s female skate community. Díaz explains that when she first came up with the idea to hold women’s-only competitions, she really wanted to provide high-performing skaters with the equipment they needed.

“I started realizing that my female friends were missing a new deck or wheels,” Díaz says. “I would think, ‘This can’t be. She’s incredible, but she doesn’t have anything to ride with.’”

At this moment, she teamed with Valentina Venegas, a student in business administration, and Paola Franco, a graphic designer, to organize women’s-only competitions that would reward female skaters of all skill levels. The efforts paid off: Brands offer their sponsorship to pay for awards, while these competitions can expect anywhere from 35 to 70 female skaters to participate.  

But, perhaps most importantly, the collective’s competitions and workshops offer women the opportunity to meet and bond with other female skaters as well as find motivation from more experienced riders. Díaz knows more than anyone else that visibility of female proboarders can have a lifelong impact. When Díaz was 14 years old, living in a rural town known more for llaneros, or cowboys, than extreme sports, she saw skateboarder Daniella Pisarella in action. This was the first time she witnessed a female skateboarder, and in that moment she decided that if Pisarella could be skater, so could she.

(Photo Credit: Sobre Ruedas Girls / Gaffphoto,VIGASKATEPARK / CorpoEVG Extremo.)

Similarly, Katheryn Sabogal, a 20-year-old novice skateboarder, sees women’s-only events as spaces where women can learn from each other with little concern for one’s skill level and free of the harassment women may experience in some situations with male skaters.

“I liked seeing so many women that skate and that do it well,” Sobogal says. “I also liked seeing women like me, who are learning, work hard and have lots of dedication. It’s really motivating to see other girls that share the same passion as you.”

Read: Here’s How This Latina Broke Through Barriers To Become A Leading Force In The World Of NASCAR Auto Racing

Recommend this story by clicking the share button below!