This weekend the X Games is taking place in Austin, Texas and for the first time will feature both Women’s Skateboarding Park, and Women’s Skateboarding Street events. It’s also one of the few competitions where females win the same amount of money as men for their sports. The past few days contenders like Monster Sponsored Lizzy Armanto and 11 year old new comer Brighton Zeuner have been getting in a few practice runs preparing. Kisa Nakamura, 16 year old from Japan, is zooming by, and from my stand point she seems to be the fastest.
Watching the Women’s Park practice I caught up with Kim Woozy, VP of Women’s Skateboarding Alliance and host of Mafia.TV (a site dedicated to women’s sports) to get her take on the shift in Women’s Skateboarding from obscurity to popularity.
Allie Hanley: So you mentioned that Women’s Skateboard Park has been absent for a few years from The X Games. Why is that?
Kim Woozy: Honestly that’s a question for ESPN, but I think the events they choose have to do with representation. So, I think there is a rise in girls in the world wanting to skate and going to skate parks, so that’s probably why we have Skateboard Park back in the rotation.
AH: So it’s obvious why someone like Lizzy Armanto would be invited, but tell me about the process for someone like Kisa from Japan?
KW: So the way these girls were selected and invited to compete is based on the other existing pro bowl or transition contests. One of the contests is called The Girls Combi which takes place in Orange County, California in January. That event has one of the biggest, most gnarliest bowls that exists, so if you do well there then it’s a good reflection that you can come here and skate this stuff and compete. And then there is another one that takes place in Hunting Beach over the summer, so most of these girls have done those contests and done well there. It’s not an official qualifier but it is a good indicator.
AH: How hard is it for a girl or woman skater to find sponsorship compared to a man?
KW: It’s definitely a lot harder for females to make a living off of professional skateboarding for a number of reasons. In the past it’s just been because of participation and there just haven’t been a large enough consumer market. And now, young girls are starting to skate and they are starting to see other examples of other girls skating, so it’s something that they feel like they wanna do, and can do.
And a lot of that is attributed to the internet. Before it was like you only had magazine and television, so there are gatekeepers there who decide what they can show; and traditionally of course, it’s been a male dominated sport. Now we have Instagram, YouTube, etc where you can see more girls skating which inspires other girls to get out there.
Now with sponsors they are slowly starting to see the value of putting their marketing dollars into these girls. Or, even if there was a really good girl, the idea of putting their marketing budget towards her was something that they really didn’t want to do because there wasn’t enough female customers. There whole thing is, -is there enough girls skating? The answer is yes and therefore they should market and put their marketing dollars towards females and that means bringing on a Pro-Skater.
So the tide is shifting right now, especially with the inclusion of events like this <Women’s Skateboard Park>. It really helps to have events like this because the exposure these girls get here will then translate to value for sponsors.
AH: I discovered that Lizzy Armanto is the only female pro sponsored by Monster Energy Drink. How does that open doors for someone like 11 year old competitor Brighton Zeuner?
KW: Anytime a sponsor brings on a female that’s opening doors for more females to get sponsored. Monster had a pretty large action sports program, not in skateboarding but they had a pretty good representation of female sponsored athletes but for whatever reasons they shifted and actually cut a lot of their female sponsored athletes; and then brought Lizzy Armanto on, which is a good indicator of what kids are doing right now and further -which athletes predict what is happening out there.
AH: Where do you see sponsorship/marketing dollars going for 2016-2017 for Women’s skateboarding?
KW: The value of Women’s Skateboarding marketing is growing. X Games doesn’t just add events in and out for any reason, I’m sure they look at the demographics, do their market research, look at the participants, and there are a lot of families that come here so I’m sure there’s some daughters in the crowd. So that value is growing for sure, but it’s also the type of thing that is new. It’s not new for these girls but it’s new in that a mainstream audience is yet to see a live demonstration of these girls skating on their boards or they’re definitely not household names yet. That’s an aspect that is new and exciting because its just something different than what X-Games has promoted traditionally. And it goes back to the demand that there are just more girls out in the world skating, so for them to have this contest going on here just makes total sense. It’s a reflection of what’s going on out in the market.