Skateboarding has always been a male dominated sport, being that mostly males participate in it. While there are an ever growing number of females that skateboard, skaters are very much predominately male.
Male domination in skateboarding is because men are more likely to take risks. The stigma that skateboarding is for boys, and the lack of female role models and media representation makes it harder for girls to get into skateboarding. Part of the skateboarding scene is also not very welcoming to women.
Let’s have a look and see if we can come up with some ideas why skateboarding is male dominated.
What percentage of skaters are men?
Lets dive right into the fun part of articles like this: STATISTICS!!!
If you go to places that skateboards are most likely to be found, skateparks, you will mostly see males skateboarding. There will often be females skating also, but the far majority of skaters will be male.
It is tough to find skateboarding statistics from different surveys that match, so we will use the averages.
Out of the reported 85 Million skateboarders in the world, about 77% are male and 23% are female. Some websites claim that 40% of skaters are female which is questionable. At my local skatepark, the average is probably closer to 90% male and 10% female.
No matter how you look at it or whom you believe, female skateboarders are highly underrepresented in the skateboarding community.
Is skateboarding a gendered sport?
This is a great question. I don’t think that skateboarding is restricted to only young, fit, and able bodied males. I like to think that skateboarding is available for anyone to do it anyway they like. Be them male, female, visually impaired, short, tall, heavy, thin, or any combo of things that make up humans.
I see all kinds of different people enjoying skateboarding and because skateboarding can be done in a variety of styles, and on a vast assortment of terrains, that further opens skateboarding to a larger group of people.
The nice thing about skateboarding is the freedom. You can do whatever you want, and skate however you want. You can skate Vert like Tony Hawk. You can do street plant tricks like Mike V. You can use strange objects like milk crates and chains like Ritchie Jackson.
You can do weird super technical stuff like Chris Haslam. You don’t have to be jumping 16 stair sets to skate. It is open for anyone to do anything they want.
Bombing mountain highways on a long board, skating pools, vert skating, freestyle, street skating, off road skating and that skateparks are literally everywhere now have reduced the barrier for entry from when I was a kid. With the internet there is a ton of exposure to so many different styles of skating that anyone interested can find ideas of things to try.
Is skateboarding for boys only?
One of the things that I thought might make skateboarding seem like it might be “for boys only” is that it is a rough sport. Skaters fall down, get bumps, bruises, scrapes, cuts and even broken limbs. Most males grew up doing things that caused them to get injured.
When I think back to growing up as a little boy, I always had some kind of damage on me from jumping bikes on sketchy ramps, getting rough and tumble with my friends, playing stupid games like “Trip Tag” (where the person that was “It” tripped someone to make them “It”), falling off playground equipment while trying to play “Hot Lava”. We boys were purposefully engaging in things that hurt us.
I don’t recall many of the girls I knew participating in these risky activities. Maybe because of the rough nature of skateboarding, it might not appeal to the majority of females and males are more likely to engage in risky behaviour. Only the ones that grew up rough and tumble are likely to engage. Longboarding, for example, has a much higher percentage of females than skateboarding, this is just a thought that I had.
Don’t rule out toxic behaviour though, a part of the skateboard scene isn’t very welcoming to women. In 2013 Nyjah Huston (pro skater) was quoted in Trasher magazine saying that “skateboarding is not for girls.”
Female skaters in pop culture
I started to think about how many female skateboarders I have seen in different media, and I could not come up with many. I am thinking of Movies, TV programs, YouTube, Social Media, Etc.
I watched a lot of movies in my life and can only think of one that featured female skaters, “Skate Kitchen”. Skate Kitchen is a fantastic movie about female skaters navigating life as young adults in New York. Its an excellent watch, and I highly recommend it for anyone.
Other than that, Hollywood productions only featured male skater, in my recollection. “Gleaming the Cube”, “Police Academy”, “Thrashin'”, “Mid90s”, and “Grind” come to mind as movies with great scenes of skating.
“Back to the Future” had every boy in the 80’s picking up a skateboard. One things all these movies have in common is a complete lack of female skateboarders. There was no female version of Marty McFly to inspire little girls to skate.
TV shows are no different. Bart Simpson skateboards through the opening credits of The Simpsons. Even shows about skating and skateboarders like “Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory”, “King of the Road”, “Epicly Later’d” and my childhood favourite “Sk8-TV” have very little female representation. Again, no one featured for females to identify with in the sport.
Social media may be the only place that has an appropriate representation of female skateboarders. There are tons of excellent clips of female skateboarders of all styles, disciplines and ages ripping up the pages of Instagram.
However, you have to seek their clips out. Without getting into complicated things I don’t understand like algorithms and social media recording our thoughts, if you look up female skaters, your feeds will be full of them.
Instagram pages that feature skateboarding, such as Quartersnacks and the Berrics, do feature female skateboarding on their pages, but the amount of male skateboarding far exceeds the clips of females. Again, there is a lack of representation.
Is skateboarding harder for girls?
Physically there is little difference in the physique of girls vs boys. Yes, generally, males are stronger than females, however the difference is not going to be a barrier to skateboarding. If a male, or a female, wants to get good at skateboarding, like anything else, you need to practice the techniques, strengthen the right muscles and continue working on it.
Psychological barriers for females
I think skateboarding could be harder for girls for psychological reasons as opposed to physical reasons. It comes down to having exposure to skateboarding by females, role models to look up too, support from friends and peers, and feeling comfortable enough to try skateboarding.
Lets look at how I started skateboarding as a kid. Me and my friends watch back to the future, and thought Marty McFly skateboarding was the coolest thing we’d ever seen. We had never seen anyone in our town on a skateboard, so Marty McFly was our role model.
We all decided to get skateboards and start skating. Because we had each others support and we skated together, we were comfortable taking the chance to try this new thing.
Support of your peers is probably the biggest factor in starting something new. Generally speaking, if your friends are doing something you are more likely to try. If a girls friends are not skating, she is less likely to start skating. Trying something new, by yourself, can be a scary prospect.
When I decided to start skating again as an adult, I had no friends that still skated or wanted to get back into it. It was a tough thing for me to go to the skatepark alone and try new tricks. There were many times that I drove past skateparks or left shortly after arriving when the park was a bit crowded. It wasn’t until I got to know some of the other skaters that I actually felt comfortable at the park. I needed that peer support.
Because of the lack of female representation in skateboarding without having to seek it out, females and their friends are not seeing themselves skateboarding. It’s like anything else. If you aren’t exposed to fly fishing, it’s very unlikely that you will pick up a fly rod and start.
Think about Golfing as another example. Golf exploded in the late 90’s when Tiger Woods came on the scene. Tiger was all over the place and exposed a lot of new people to golf. Hence, the number of people that started golfing flew through the roof. If it was a female golfer instead of Tiger Woods, the number of female golfers would have likely exploded.
You need exposure too start new things, peer support will help you stick with it, and the more you stick with it and your peer group of skaters expands, the more comfort you will be to go skating. If more female skaters were exposed to females, there should automatically be an increase in female skaters.
Look around your local skatepark and the male skaters will outnumber the female skaters. Skateboarding is definitely a male dominated activity. While access to skateboarding, cost of skateboarding, and female physical limitations are not much of a barrier, for some reason skateboarding continues to be male dominated.
I think that the main reason is that females are not readily exposed to other female skateboarders. There are few female skaters featured in mass media, there is little exposure of females in skateboarding magazines, and because there is little exposure of female skaters, there will be fewer female skateboarders.
Good news is, women are on the rise. Ever since the Olympics, skateboarding is attracting more and more female skateboarders.