Historically, the skateboarding scene has been significantly male-dominated. But since the 1960s, women have been paving the way for the next generation of female skaters, showing younger counterparts the confidence that a board can bring.
The best female skateboarders of all time include women who have changed the culture and history of skateboarding, turning it from a male-dominated industry to one that represents anyone and everyone passionate about the sport. Women like Patti McGee and Peggy Oki transformed the world of skateboarding in the 60s and 70s, setting the course for nearly every female to follow.
Continue reading to learn more about how women have gained international recognition in the skateboarding industry, inspiring millions of fans worldwide.
- Women and Skateboarding: Breaking Boundaries and Transforming the Industry
- 12 of the Best Female Skaters of All Time
- Final Thoughts
Women and Skateboarding: Breaking Boundaries and Transforming the Industry
The fastest-growing demographic in skateboarding is — you guessed it — women. And what better time than the present, when skateboarding will soon make its debut as an Olympic sport.
It’s not that women haven’t long been taking surfboards to the streets — the first female professional skateboarder was Patti McGee way back in 1964. McGee set a world record for the fastest girl on a board at 47 miles per hour and won the first Female National Skateboard Championship.
Fast forward a mere 10 years later, and you’ll find Peggy Oki taking first place in the Women’s Freestyle Competition, and shortly thereafter joining the Z-Boys as the only female member among 10 guys.
That same year, Laura Thornhill would become the first female skater to get her own signature model board. So, it is clear that women have been an integral part of skateboarding culture since its beginnings.
But until more recently, women did not have a permanent stake in the industry in the same way that men have, certainly not gaining the status that their male counterparts have achieved since the sport’s inception somewhere in the late 1940s or early 50s.
It would take a while before women would find opportunities to participate in sponsorships and shoe deals or equality in pay.
That wouldn’t happen until the mid-90s with trailblazers like Elissa Steamer, known as the “godmother of street skating,” and the first official female professional skater, and Cara-Beth Burnside, the first woman with her own skate shoe behind her name.
In some studies throughout the same decade, demographic characteristics reflect limited diversity — one such study revealed that 90% of its participants were male, leaving room for females at only 10% capacity.
But a lot has changed since then.
Skateboarding has come a long way. From a misunderstood counterculture to an internationally recognized Olympic Sport, it has made it through quite a few waves in popularity while combating negative perceptions and misconceptions as simply a pastime where kids gathered to play loud music and shout profanity.
At its core, skateboarding reflects a culture of inclusivity, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. It’s where you’ll find intense discipline in practice, encouragement and support among peers, and appreciation for one another’s artistry.
And that is what makes skateboarding what it is. It’s a sport for the outsider and anyone who dreams of breaking down walls and overcoming the boundaries and stereotypes set by society.
That is exactly what female skateboarders have been doing for decades — and we’re lucky enough to witness some of the absolute best of all time in our generation.
12 of the Best Female Skaters of All Time
Skateboarding wouldn’t be what it is without some of the female pioneers who fell in love with the sport, regardless of the outcome or fame that followed. They’ve shaken things up across the board, accomplishing feats that others merely dream of.
Where one may see a wall that creates a barrier between her goals and her opportunities, another finds a way to scale it and ride the wave the follows. These women have done just that.
1. Patti McGee
We’ve already mentioned a bit about Patti McGee, but it seems fitting to begin with one of the first women who changed and challenged the world of skateboarding and made a name for herself on the cover of Life Magazine’s May 1965 issue.
The famous color image shows McGee doing a handstand on her skateboard — and a few short weeks later, at a mere 19 years of age, she became the only woman to be featured in an issue of Skateboarder magazine as well.
More recently, McGee was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame, the first female to achieve such an honor.
During her career, she became a “demo girl” for Hobie Skateboards, performing 360s and tricks that continue to inspire young female riders today. She truly paved the road for nearly every female skateboarder who would soon admire her strength, determination, and perseverance.
Today, Patti is still as influential as ever and continues, in partnership with her daughter, to design clothes for women who love skateboarding as much as she always has, and we owe a tribute to her for opening the first door.
2. Peggy Oki
Peggy Oki is another name we need to revisit. Remember, we mentioned that Oki was the first female skater to join the Z-boys, joining forces with a male-dominated group without a single care that she was said to “skate like a guy.”
From her perspective, and many others, she skated better — and at that time, that was no small feat.
Like McGee, Oki was a surfer first before falling in love with a different kind of board. Her father purchased her first skateboard at the age of 10, and it was fittingly equipped with Fred-Flinstone rock wheels. When she began skating with the Zephyr (Z-boys) Competition Team, her style was deemed both raw and “gritty”.
While she didn’t grace the skateboarding scene as long as some others, she became a different kind of pioneer in her own right, becoming an advocate and activist for projects that raise awareness about the environmental impact we continually have on the planet.
She’s created two projects, the Origami Whales Project and the Whales and Dolphins Ambassador Program. Both help educate youth about the importance of creating a sustainable future for all of earth’s inhabitants. Her passion, both on and off the board, will be admired for years to come.
3. Cara-Beth Burnside
Cara-Beth Burnside entered the scene a bit later, 1989, to be exact. Burnside displayed her strength and physique on Thrasher magazine’s cover, donning a ponytail and pink — clearly dominating a vertical ramp.
She was not only a professional skateboarder, she merged her career as a pro snowboarder, too — initially to make enough money to continue skating.
She’s won more than 16 titles in various competitions, including gold medals in the first-ever US Olympic snowboard team in 1998 and medals for the SKB Vert from 2003 through 2010 in the X-games.
In large part, it was Burnside who would entice the X-games to host a women’s event, and in 2003, the first X-Games Women’s Vert Event became a reality, ushering in an age where women would be featured as prominently in a skateboarding event as men.
Burnside has said that it is vital for young girls to see other women doing things — regardless of what that “thing” is. Seeing other women on skateboards validated her query that she could do the same.
That was all she needed to become an instrumental figure in the sport and a voice for many of the women, and especially kids, who would soon follow in her footsteps and perhaps in her shoes, as she is also credited as being the first woman to have her own signature skate shoe.
Finally, Burnside has added to her collection of titles and was named one of the world’s “sexiest vegetarians,” which we’d be remiss not to mention, of course.
4. Elissa Streamer
If you’ve ever sat down and played a video game, you know that choosing your character is half the fun. Now, imagine you only had one to choose from and that one female was Elissa Streamer.
Of course, there were a few supremely influential women in skateboarding before Streamer’s arrival on the scene in the early 90s, but she is credited as the first to really make a career for herself out of her passion.
She has no regrets. When asked if she thinks she’d have made it further if she’d been a male, you’ll likely get a resounding “no.” She negotiated and made a name for herself, fighting for equal payment even in her first appearance in Toy Machine’s famous “Welcome to Hell” video at the outset of her career.
Streamer went on to win four gold medals in the X-Games Women’s Street event. She ultimately partnered with the Bootleg brand, a subdivision of Baker Skateboard company, until joining Jamie Thomas, founder of Zero, from 2004 to 2011.
Currently, you’ll find her working on “Gnarhunters,” her own brand of Skateboarding apparel and accessories.
What sets Streamer apart is her determination to avoid being known as performing tricks that would be deemed “pretty good for a girl,” but instead preferred a reaction that took no note of gender at all.
Even now, you’ll find her passion leaning toward skateboarding that reflects more inclusivity and less segregation between women and men.
Rather than “female” skateboarding, or platforms for different genders, she’d prefer skateboarding be reflective of a more holistic view — that’s part of her dream for the future of the sport. And, honestly, who can argue with that?
5. Leticia Bufoni
Born in Brazil, Bufoni began skating at the age of nine when her grandmother bought her first skateboard. Despite her father’s disdain at the idea of his daughter skating amongst a group of guys, Bufoni refused to relent — though her father did, ultimately taking her to her first competition.
By 14, Bufoni would compete in her first X Games and become a 5-time gold medalist over the course of a few years. She also earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most wins in the World Cup of Skateboarding.
Bufoni may have been the only girl skating in her neighborhood, but, by 2017, she was officially a professional skateboarder sponsored by Plan B Skateboards. She’s already accomplished many “firsts,” including being the first woman on the cover of The Skateboard Mag and the first woman signed to the Nike SB team.
She’s even starred in her own reality TV show in Brazil. Bufoni has traveled the world competing in numerous competitions from Long Beach, California, to Shanghai, China, placing in nearly all of them.
One of the most influential athletes in the world, one of Bufoni’s proudest accomplishments is having had the honor to break Elissa Steamer’s record for the most gold wins in the Women’s SKB Street competition.
These are just a few notable achievements — there will no doubt be more to follow. She’s a true testament that you should never give up on your dreams, no matter the obstacle in front of you.
6. Alexis Sablone
The most veteran skater on the inaugural US Olympic Skateboarding team, Alexis Sablone, is about as fierce a skater as she is determined. She’s an architect with a master’s degree from MIT and an artist, creating illustrations and board graphics for WKND Skateboards.
Entering her first contest at only 12 years old, now 33, Sablone quickly rose the ranks of top female skaters, placing second in her first X Games and eventually earning three golds, another silver, and two bronze medals thereafter.
She’s seen skateboarding transform throughout her career, and her creativity and unwavering passion have come together through her love and nostalgia for skating. She recently unveiled a skateable sculpture in Sweden called “Lady in the Square” and plans to design more both in Florida and in Sweden.
In 2017, Sablone officially joined the WKND skateboard team, and her goal is to show that skateboarding is truly for anyone and everyone who loves it. Today, all kinds of people skate, and Sablone embodies that truth, expressing her individuality in every form.
7. Aori Nishimura
Aori Nishimura is one of Japan’s most extraordinary professional skaters, entering the scene when she was just reaching the end of her elementary school career at the age of seven.
She’s already won the Japanese Skateboarding Championship, and she was the first athlete from Japan to win gold at the X Games. At only 18 years old, her most recent achievements include 2 gold medals in the 2019 X Games and a Bronze in the World Skateboarding Championship in Sao Paulo.
Like many others, she’s suffered injuries that could have led her away from a career in skateboarding, but Nishimura refused to give up on her dreams despite 6 months of ongoing rehab in 2017 for an injury to her knee. In less than a year, she was competing again.
Aori has become the face of women’s street skating in Japan, and with good reason. She’s known as a “gold medal threat,” and she’s certainly one to keep your eye on.
8. Lizzie Armanto
Lizzie Armanto was the first female skater to successfully complete Tony Hawk’s 360 loop in 2018. She clearly has no trouble making a name for herself in the industry, and she is well aware of how she plans to go about doing so.
She’s a professional skater sponsored by Vans, continually making waves in the Vans Park Series Circuit and has already won over 30 awards, including being the first to achieve gold in the X Games Women’s Park Competition in 2013.
Armanto was also the first female to be featured on the cover of Transworld Skateboarding, and the first in 20 years to grace the cover of Thrasher magazine soon after Tony Hawk’s Birdhouse was set to release her pro model deck.
Armanto began skating as a child growing up in California. Her love for skateboarding could be credited to her mother, who brought both her and her brother to the local skate park after school as a way to occupy them both for a few hours.
In Armanto’s eyes, the skatepark was quite a lot better than the local library, and her career and dedication have not ceased since.
9. Nora Vasconcellos
Nora Vasconcellos overcame her anxiety disorder and became a pro in only 5 years (Welcome skateboards). She’s the first woman to join the Adidas team, won the Vans Park Series World Championships in 2017, and won Transworld’s Readers’ Choice Female Award.
After graduating Nora started working in an advertising warehouse, leaving little time for skateboarding. After a year she packed her stuff and went to California and took on a summer job.
After a year Nora move to So Cal and ran into the founder of Welcome Skateboards. After working for Welcome for 4 years, Nora turned pro in 2017.
Not only a professional skateboarder, Nora Vasconcellos is also a talented artist and most definitely a role model.
10. Alana Smith
An X Games veteran as a middle school kid, Alana Smith is here to stay — and for a good, long time. At 12 years old, she had already landed a Guinness World Record for being the youngest X Games medalist in the Women’s Park Contest.
Smith’s goal was to be in the X Games by the time she turned 16, and, since she achieved that 4 years early, there’s no doubt quite a lot left to see of her now that she’s reached her 20s.
Smith prefers skating with both girls and guys, reveling in the encouragement and push that they give to one another to go bigger and better. She’s one of the strongest all-around female skaters and has competed in numerous competitions of varying styles.
She’s not yet achieved gold, but it may not be long until she does because what is most notable about her is that, like every other skater, she falls, but she gets up every single time with more determination than ever.
11. Sky Brown
Recently suffering a fairly horrific fall, landing headfirst on her hand, Sky Brown shows no signs of slowing down and has credited her helmet and her arm for saving her life. Her enthusiasm for the sport and her determination to get back on her feet, better than ever, is admirable, to say the least.
At only 11 years of age, she’s reflected a maturity beyond her few short years on this earth, stating that it’s okay to fall, but getting back up and pushing even harder is what matters most. It’s a life lesson for us all.
Sky Brown is the youngest professional skateboarder in the world and the youngest Nike-sponsored athlete. And she doesn’t even have a coach. Instead, she’s learned most of her tricks by watching YouTube.
Brown has already accomplished what many of her peers could only imagine, including placing third at the World Skateboarding Championship in 2019, and a Bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
She is certainly a name to watch over the next few years, as her career and impact on the international skateboarding world will no doubt be huge.
12. Sabre Norris
Sabre Norris was the third female who landed a 540 (halfpipe) and she was only 9-years old at the time! Just two women pulled this off before her and she was the first Aussie woman to pull off a 540. Her 540 video went viral instantly and
Sabre is quite a popular character and makes regular appearances on TV and in newspaper articles. She’s also the 2nd youngest surfer to compete in the World Surf League event and got a wildcard at the Sydney International Pro surfing contest.
Sabre has a huge Youtube Channel called ‘The Norris Nuts’ that is about her and her siblings.
Women have taken the world of skateboarding by storm. They’ve always been there, but now they are transforming the industry as a whole, creating opportunities for current and future generations to see that no matter who you are, skateboarding truly is for everyone.
Skating takes a fierce amount of determination and creativity, and the names on this list, along with countless others, prove that with every competition.
So, grab your board, and check out your local skatepark — or if you want to keep on reading, check out the “best skateboarders of all time.” I’m sure you will disagree with the list ;).