An Ascending Crescendo: The Voices of Women in Action Sports are Growing Louder Than Ever

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There were over 60 of us. The air was March crisp and the snow was firm, a ribbon of white winding its way between borders of tall pines.

We veered just close enough to one another to grab mitten-clad hands momentarily before avoiding a collision, smiles plastered on our faces as we pointed it down the mountain. For this moment, the trails of Loon Mountain in New Hampshire were filled with a cascade of women snowboarding and skiing, and the rareness of that many females together in the mountains was electric.

As long as women have snowboarded, surfed and skated, we’ve been the minority within board sports and although this isn’t detrimental by definition, it has necessitated that we act resiliently to define our role within the greater industry. Currently, we’re hitting a stride. “I see women’s snowboarding, and women’s action sports in general, as the underdog that’s finally coming to have its day,” says Jenna Kuklinski, Marketing Manager of Nikita and Bonfire Outerwear. “The general social attitude of women’s rights awareness tied with the growing number of female athletes has set up a situation where people aren’t afraid to be more vocal and others are really clamoring to see this.” Lesley Betts, Senior Products Manager of Hardgoods at Burton Snowboards is quick to point out how integral women are within the ranks of snowboarding. “We’re seeing more female voices at all levels: CEOs (Cough, cough, Donna Carpenter!), programs built to support and mentor women as they break into the outdoor industry, and all-girl shred crews. We’re out here,” says Betts. “Plus, 83% of purchasing decisions are made by women, so while it doesn’t match up to the number of female participants in snowboarding, women are an important factor for everyone participating.”

This influence is not lost on the industry. Voices resonate. Social media platforms catalyze soapbox change. Brands and media are held more accountable by their constituencies and in the best cases, everyone works together to raise up women via inclusive ad campaigns, imagery of action over lifestyle, grassroots events, and celebration of athletic achievement. Currently, there is huge momentum as well as necessary discussions. “There are times and places where it feels like the conversation about men’s-versus-women’s anything in action sports is a moot point,” continues Kuklinksi. “And then other times where I have felt completely crushed by the assumptions and actions of brands or individuals. All-in-all, it’s still an uphill project, but it’s been vastly improving.” While gaining ground in such a traditionally male-dominated sphere is a work in progress, there are more and more women adding their skills, ideas and opinions to the collective and spurring their peers to do the same. “There is so much power in the female community as supporters and encouragers,” says Betts.

Kim Woozy, founder of MAHFIA.TV, emphasizes the ability of females to affect the status quo via inclusivity and creativity. “As a community, when we invite and include females and all non-traditional skateboarders to participate, and empower and support them to continue to do so, the community grows and the industry thrives. Skateboarding as a whole is constantly re-inventing itself—that’s what makes it so special. Don’t see what you like or want? DIY! The evolution is what makes it unique. Having been involved in the skate industry for the past decade, I can say that right now is an exciting time for women in skateboarding.”

As women continue to ask questions, create solutions and invite others to join in, we grow our stake in our communities. There’s possibility before us and the first step is to paddle out, strap or click in and push our way forward. And then we can share these experiences. “What would I love to see more of?” asks Betts. “Storytelling. I’d love to see more women sharing their stories about learning to snowboard, do a new trick or splitboard. There is something truly authentic about hearing it from another babe.”

Images by Mary Walsh.

xx Mary Walsh

This article was originally published in RANGE Magazine Issue Eight.