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Sports & Gaming

Girl Skaters Rise: A Brief History of Women’s Skateboarding

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 3 min read

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Tony Hawk Teaches Skateboarding

Since the early days of skateboarding, the sport has been predominantly male. But for young girls and women—who’ve long been marginalized in what is reputed to be a progressive sport—activism and entrepreneurialism have been integral to addressing gender inequality everywhere from the skatepark to the X Games.



Tony Hawk Teaches SkateboardingTony Hawk Teaches Skateboarding

Legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk teaches you how to take your skateboarding to the next level, whether you’re a beginner or a pro.

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A Brief History of Women’s Skateboarding

Female skateboarders have been integral to the development of skateboarding as a sport. While women have been skateboarding since the sport was invented in the 1940s, it took nearly 20 years before the first major women’s skateboarding competition. Here is a timeline of the most iconic moments in women’s skateboarding:

Tony Hawk Discusses the Rise of Girl Skaters

1964—Patti McGee Becomes Sets a World Skateboarding Record

Patti McGee, the first female professional skateboarder, set the world record for the fastest girl on a skateboard—47 miles per hour—at Dick Clark’s World Teen Fair. She went on to win the first female national skateboard championship, and she appeared on the cover of Life magazine doing a handstand on her skateboard.

1975—Peggy Oki Joins the Z-Boys

From 1970 to 2000, women’s visibility in skateboarding saw many small victories. In 1975, Peggy Oki joined up with several other skateboarders to form the Zephyr Skateboarding Team (Z-Boys) as the only female member.

1988—Cara-Beth Burnside Becomes First Female Skater to Grace the Cover of Thrasher

In 1988, Thrasher, a skateboarding magazine, featured the first woman skateboarder on the front cover: Cara-Beth Burnside in 1988.

1994—Cara-Beth Burnside Debuts Her Signature Skate Shoe

In 1994, Burnside collaborated with Vans to become the first woman to have a signature skate shoe. That same year, Thrasher featured the second woman skateboarder on its front cover: Jaime Reyes.

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1996—Elissa Steamer Appears in Welcome to Hell

In 1996, Elissa Steamer featured in Welcome to Hell, making her the first female to have a street part in a major skate video.

1999—Women’s Competitions Added to Slam City Jam

In 1999, Slam City Jam, the North American skateboard championships, added women’s competitions. That same year, Elissa Steamer appeared as a featured skater in Tony Hawk Pro Skater—the only playable female pro at the time.

2003—Jen O’Brien and Cara-Beth Burnside Push ESPN for Change

The early 2000s saw major strides for female skateboarders. After being shut out of the first seven editions of the X Games, skaters Jen O’Brien and Cara-Beth Burnside pushed ESPN for inclusion, securing a women’s demo in 2002 and full-on women’s events in 2003 (where Vanessa Torres won the first women’s park gold medal).

2005—Women Skateboarders Stage X Games Boycott

When O’Brien and Burnside found out that male X Games winners made 25 times more than their female counterparts, they organized a women’s boycott of the 2005 X Games and won equal pay in 2008.

2008—Burnside and Knoop Take Action for Representation

Burnside and Mimi Knoop continued to push for female representation in skateboarding. In 2008, the duo created the female-focused skate company Hoopla because other skate brands weren’t sponsoring women skaters. Their mission—to encourage girls to skate and provide a support system for female pros—led to sponsorships for women skaters from skate brands like Welcome, Plan B, and Enjoi and sneaker giants like Nike and Adidas.


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2015—Leticia Bufoni Signed to Nike SB

In 2015, Leticia Bufoni became the first female skater signed to Nike SB, and was the first woman skateboarder to appear in ESPN The Magazine’s annual Body issue.

2016—A Big Win at the Summer Olympics

In 2016, women’s skateboarding (and skateboarding in general) saw one of the biggest wins in the sport: the International Olympic Committee approved skateboarding for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, including women’s street and park skating competitions. During this same year, Lizzie Armanto became the first woman featured on the cover of TransWorld Skateboarding magazine. Nora Vasconcellos became the first woman to join the Adidas skateboarding team.

2017—Leo Baker Makes History With Nike

Leo Baker (née Lacey Baker) became Nike SB’s first openly gender-queer nonbinary skater and designed the first-ever Nike skate shoe for women.

2018—African American Skater Samarria Brevard Makes History

Samarria Brevard became the first professional African American woman skateboarder to sign with a major skate brand (Enjoi). During the same year, Lizzie Armanto became the first female skater to complete The Loop, Tony’s 360-degree ramp.

2019—Nike Releases First All-Female Skate Video

Think Like a Pro

Legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk teaches you how to take your skateboarding to the next level, whether you’re a beginner or a pro.

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Nike SB releases Gizmo, its first all-female skate video and a tribute to team member and women’s skate pioneer Elissa Steamer.

Now, children of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, gender identities, and orientations are watching, and the more they see themselves reflected and accepted in skating, the more they will embrace skating and push it to new and exciting places.

Want to Learn More About Skateboarding?

Whether you’re just learning how to ollie or ready to tackle a Madonna (the vert trick, not the singer), the MasterClass Annual Membership can help you find confidence on your board with exclusive instructional videos from skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, Olympic hopeful Lizzie Armanto, and street skater Riley Hawk.