As skateboarding railslides between taboo and mainstream—even in a city like Portland—one group often gets omitted from the narrative of the sport’s ever-growing popularity: Women skateboarders. Like so many other male-dominated sports, women still get lost in the fray. Though, the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics may help showcase both male and female skateboarder athleticism as the United States’ 16-person Olympic skate team is comprised 50-50 of men and women.
Portland’s relationship with skateboarding is storied and complex. To understand Portland’s women in skateboarding, it’s best to first dive into the actual infrastructure of Portland skate parks. According to a Wall Street Journal article published in 2009, “It all started with an attempt to solve a typical dilemma in Portland: what to do in the rain. (It’s wet about 150 days a year). In the 1980s, Portland skaters built wooden ramps under freeways or in roadside gullies, but Portland native Kent Dahlgren says many of his early projects were stolen. Rain took care of the rest.” By 1990, Dahlgen and a group of local skaters began building their own concrete skate park under Portland’s Burnside Bridge. “Obstacle-by-obstacle, with concrete sometimes hand-mixed, they built a huge skatepark of flowing transitions that still eclipses most city-built skateparks in size and quality.”
Since then, significant contributions and infrastructure plans have been put in place to make skateboarding more accessible in Portland. Locally, there are a plethora of skateparks in town for local skaters including but not limited to: Pier Park, Glenhaven, Burnside, Ed Benedict, Gabriel, Holly Farm, Alberta Park and Gateway Park. There are also local organizations in town such as Skate Like A Girl that help women of all ages learn how to skateboard while building a community with other women skaters. Both Skate Like a Girl and Commonwealth Indoor Skatepark host panels and events encouraging women of all levels to come participate in discussions about the landscape and culture of skateboarding and how to get involved, raise money and continue supporting women in the sport in general.
How can visitors in Portland participate?
Skate Like a Girl
Register for one of the skate programs/ clinics, summer camps or attend any of the sponsored events hosted in Portland through the organization.
Commonwealth Indoor Skatepark
Attend Ladies Night, which is the last Friday of each month from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.. Skate Like a Girl clinics are held on the first and second Sunday of each month from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Free with a suggested $10 donation to go back into the program.
Tuesday night specials often include Womxn’s Night and LGBTQIA+ night. Stronger also hosts Skate Like a Girl clinics. It is $12 for a two-hour session or $20 for a full-day session.
Women-owned jewelry and accessory company that makes all their products out of recycled skateboards and industrial skateboard waste. The company is run by skateboarders in Portland, and is fueled by a passion to give back to skateboarding by reducing its carbon footprint. MapleXO products can be purchased locally in stores such as: Betsy and Iya, Presents of Mind, Redux, Salty Teacup.
Skating with Shes and Hers and Smash The Skatriarchy Zines
Indie zines written and created by local Portland skater Amelia Bjesse Puffin, in which she interviews and features women skateboarders of all ages and skill levels about their personal experiences and overall feelings about skateboarding.
Oregon Humanities “Dropping In” Story
In depth story profiling of three Oregon women skateboarders ranging in age and experience levels and what the sport means to them.