Action-sports photographer and skater Patty Segovia, 32, who had to use boys' gear when she started skating in dry backyard pools as a teen, says the corporate interest is helping the sport grow and makes women feel more welcome. "If girls don't have clothing and equipment designed for them, it just adds to the sense that they don't belong," she says. Such discord is often enhanced by skeptical male skaters. "Skating with guys can be intimidating," says Segovia. "I still get heckled in skate parks." This occurs even when she is skating with championship skateboarder (and Olympic snowboarder) Cara-Beth Burnside, left.
Segovia founded the All Girl Skate Jam in 1997 as a way to recognize female skateboarders. "It was like we dropped a bomb on the skating world, which was mostly male" and somewhat hostile, she says. The competition has helped legitimize the place of women in the sport with its inclusive philosophy, reflected in its motto "All ages, all abilities, all girls." The first year the contest attracted just five female skateboarders. At the most recent event there were more than 100.
And it's not just teen and pre-tween girls taking up the sport. Women approaching middle age are the latest converts like Barb Odanaka, 41, author of the biographical kids' book Skateboard Mom and a founder of the International Society of Skateboarding Moms. At her skate camps in San Diego, Segovia says, she sees women 14 to 40 perfect their techniques with a program of yoga, skateboarding lessons and surfing. "Mothers come with their daughters now. It's about women of all ages reaching their dreams."