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There is plenty of controversy surrounding the portrayal of women in extreme sport and the way in which their hard work, talent and determination is too often minimised with the focus being more on how they look rather than how they perform. I have been angered and outraged many times from stories I’ve heard and comments I’ve read directed towards these badass women killing it at their chosen sport. I could bang on in a fire breathing rage all day about the deplorable comments out there, however, I’m going to shake that off and shift my focus to highlight the positives surrounding women in extreme sport and the amazing individuals and companies out there who are doing their bit to create change to make extreme sport more appealing and accessible to women of all ages.
For me personally, extreme sport has changed my life for the better. Snowboarding, wakeboarding, surfing, kitesurfing & biking has increased my confidence, helped me manage a very stressful day job, improved my health, widened my friendship circle and provided me with a sense of purpose. At my local wake park, the community couldn’t be any better. Males and females of all ages are welcome, people are friendly and if you want to learn something new, you just ask and someone is always willing to help and share advice. The males and females I have come across through participation in these sports have been nothing but kind, supportive and encouraging. Some of these people have now become my closest friends.
There are ladies ride days and clinics popping up all over the place for snowboarding, wakeboarding, kitesurfing, skating and biking, days where ladies come together and do what they love most. I have attended ladies days for both snowboarding and wake boarding and there’s seriously nothing better than doing what you love with a group of like-minded ladies, the laughs, support and encouragement is contagious and each time I left the day on a pure high of stoke and adrenaline while feeling grateful for the great ladies I’d met. I would just like to point out that I’m yet to come across a ‘Men’s Ride Day’ so maybe they are the ones actually feeling left out :P
I feel like the true success story in all of this is the emerging sisterhood. Females are coming together and uniting with their love for extreme sport being the driving force. Solid connections and friendships are being made all over the world between women who share the same passion. This type of collaboration far out ways the negatives and the trolls out there who have nothing better to do than make nasty comments. I have lost count of the amount of talented and inspiring females I have come across face to face and on social media, these are women who are killing it in their chosen sport whether they are professional or not and these are the women who inspire others to smash goals and live their best life.
Lately I have discovered some rad individuals, organisations and companies doing their bit to bring about change in the way women in extreme sport are showcased and recognised around the world. Take a look at the great work that’s being done.
World Surf League – WSL announced last year that they would be granting equal prize money to male and female athletes. The WSL is the first and only US based global sports league, and among the first internationally, to achieve prize money equality. It is hoped that this announcement will encourage more women to take up surfing and transform the sport for generations to come.
Burton – Founded by Donna Carpenter and Jake Burton. In recent years Burton have made it clear that that they will support their female athletes if and when the time comes where they wish to have a family. Burton are allowing their female athletes to keep their sporting contracts while raising their children and will not make them feel like they must choose between their carer and raising a family. Have a read of the interview with professional Burton rider Kimmy Fasani
She Shreds.Co – Founded by an amazing lady by the name of Gina Duffy. She Shreds celebrates ‘Everyday girls doing extraordinary things every day’ Their mission is to arm everyday girls and women with apparel, experiences and a support system that helps them feel extraordinary. She Shreds is about coming together as females with a passion and supporting and encouraging one another to kick goals not just in our chosen sports but in all areas of our lives. I’m honoured to be an ambassador for She Shreds and be part of such an inspiring group. I feel really connected to some of these fabulous ladies despite being on the other side of the world. www.sheshreds.co
She Flies – This is a community for women who are passionate about pushing themselves and their limits in extreme sports such as kitesurfing, surfing and wakeboarding. She Flies are aiming to change the perception on women in extreme sport and want them to be recognised in these sports for their strength, finesse and determination and not just their looks. She Flies organise kiteboarding and wakeboarding events all over the world in the hope of bringing like-minded women together. www.she-flies.com
Inspire Crew – Created by Kopal Goyal, a New Delhi based rock climber. I stumbled across this Instagram account earlier in the week and I’m so grateful I did. Kopal is the mastermind behind ‘Project Wild Women’ – A documentary (being released July 2019) about 16 female extreme sport athletes in India and how they live their life pursuing their chosen sport while managing challenges and family expectations. This documentary celebrates their achievements and will be released next month. Check it out for yourself and have a read of the interesting blogs about extreme sports in India. www.inspirecrew.com/blog
Shred Maiden – Founded by the lovely Emily Lonkhurst who I have met in person at a snowboarding camp in New Zealand. Shred Maiden is all about supporting women’s shreducation through education, community, events and swag. The goal is to empower girls and women of all ages with an identity of strength and sisterhood in the outdoors. That’s not all, Shred Maiden also donate the Protect our Winters (POW) and host events about being environmentally friendly while enjoying the outdoors to ensure we can all enjoy the outdoors for as long as possible. www.shredmaiden.com
Miss Snow it all – Miss Snow it all was created by Rachael Oakes-Ash who is also the brains behind Snows Best which relates to all things snow, from travel to gear and everything in between. Miss Snow it all recognises the gap in the snow industry when it comes to women not being treated as equally as their male counterparts so she created the #showusdagirls. This is a hashtag to encourage more women of all ages, all sizes, all ski and snowboard ability levels to get in front of their cameras and reveal themselves, their skills, courage and determination in snow sports. www.snowsbest.com Check out the #showusdagirls on Instagram.
While things could always be better, I don’t think it’s all terrible and things are definitely improving. the majority of males involved in extreme sport themselves are super supportive and encouraging (in my experience anyway) and that goes both ways. We have each other and we have a voice and can speak up as a united front when we’re not happy with the way things are. If there’s a company out there that’s not selling appropriate gear, tell them, if there’s a magazine that’s not featuring enough female athletes, call them on it, if someone makes a rude or sexist comment, educate them. Social media has made it even easier to do this. I personally have done this and received a promising response back.
So, ladies, let’s continue to do what we love, let’s continue to progress and smash goals and as long as we have each other, we’ll be OK because together we do it better.
So share those waves and make friends on powder days!