"There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise. "- Bosa Sebele.
Speaking from personal experience, I can find no better way to sum up, my experience as a South African, Female skateboarder. In fact, you'll find, speaking to the majority of femme skaters in this country, a gxrl skater's journey is often one of overcoming adversity and finding solidarity in sxsterhood.
In a recent 5-day technical course facilitated through Roller Sports South Africa, select representatives from the South African Skate scene came together to reflect the spirit of Gxrls Skating in style.
The "Women In Skateboarding" was hosted by Roller Sport South Africa and Funded by Olympic Solidarity through World Skate and SASCOC. This five-day technical course was presented by Natalia Sanchez (Argentina) and Renata Paschini (Brazil), and facilitated by Wendy Gila (South Africa). The course set to promote skills development in the areas of skate coaching, competitive judging, events hosting and basic first aid.
Meet The Hosts:
Natalia Sanchez: Head of the World Skate Gender Equality Commission, also known as the "Godmother of Argentinian Skateboarding", co-owner of Empilar Skates, the epicenter of skateboarding in Argentina.
Growing up in Tucuman, Natalia spent her teenage years devoted to skateboarding, and she later chose to channel her passion into supporting other skaters in her community. After travelling extensively through competitive skateboarding Natalia and her husband, professional skater Hans Ulver returned to Argentina to the small town of Pilar, near Cordoba. Poverty was widespread in her community, but Natalia had the vision and faith that skateboarding would pave the way.
Empilar became an initiative that would forever change the dynamic in the small city of Pilar. After constructing a largely self-funded but world-class skate park, the competitions, festivals and workshops hosted at Empilar, such as "Semana Chanta" and "OctoberSk8fest", soon started attracting hundreds of skaters from around the world and Natalia and Hans welcomed them with open arms. Everyone is welcome at Empilar; the initiative does not seek to make money from skating but rather to connect and empower. In the past six years, Empilar has facilitated some of Argentina's best skaters, including Mauro Iglesias, Matias Del Ollio, Martin Isoldi and Adriel Parmisano, among others.
Renata Paschini: Brazilian Skateboard Pioneer, Pro Skateboarder, World Skate Judge, Workshop Facilitator and Contest Organizer.
Skateboarding since 1986, Renata Paschini, better known as Renathinha by the skate community, is one of the worlds leading voices for female skateboarding. Coming from a background where she used to have to hide the fact that she was a skater due to social stigma, Renata now represents woman's skateboarding at the forefront as the 2009 co-founder of the Associação Feminina de Skate (AFSK) and Manager of Social Actions and Sports Competitions to advance gender equality through skateboarding. Using the sport as a means of breaking down barriers to participation and exposing hidden talents and building positive role models for young girls and young women.
Renata has been involved in the Construction of Sports facilities and Educational Projects. Facilitating as a skateboarding judge since 2005 in both national and international competitions with participation in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Renata has an MBA in Sports Management and graduated in dentistry. Still skateboarding to this day, Renata has an effortless and powerful style on a board that will inspire woman of any age to want to start skating.
photo: Wendy Gila
More About The Women In Skateboarding Technical Course
With these two powerhouses in Femme skating leading the way, the women in skateboarding representatives were led through a five-day journey of self-development, empowerment and friendship in a way that was true to skateboarding through and through.
`Representatives spent 5 full days in class, still making time for skateboarding early in the mornings and well into the evenings. No words can encapsulate the sense of pride and community we felt with each other, many of us meeting for the first time. The group consisted of prominent and proactive names in female skating across different provinces, as well as parents, educators and key figures in South African artistic and speed skating.
photo: Wendy Gila
The goal of the course was set for representatives to motivate and contribute to their participation as professional athletes or experience in a specific field, such as coaches and club administrators. Each of the representatives brought valuable experience and viewpoints to the sessions, with some conversations becoming so engaging that the class would run over time. The course aimed to establish a network of women who not only share an interest in skating but also in other areas and who can be instrumental in unifying the South African skateboarding scene across all provinces.
All in all, the group had over 120 years of skating experience between them, with over 1000 people pushed, taught, shown and inspired to start skateboarding because of the various initiatives each are involved in. When it came time to give back and for the course participants to present their various projects, initiatives and visions for the future of South African Femme skateboarding, the course hosts were taken aback by the determination, passion and sense of community we all displayed in our own skateboarding journeys.
What the course facilitators, hosts and participants did not expect is how the commonalities of coming from a third-world country and facing adversity in skateboarding as a sport would bond us. Upon the closure of the course, Natalia Sanchez left us in tears, saying she had never experienced the warmth and sxsterhood in skateboarding as the South Africans had shown.
photo: Wendy Gila
The Future Of Femme Skating In South Africa
Departing with the words, "You have no idea how powerful you are," Natalia instilled within us a newfound sense of purpose. Leaving us to return to our respective communities with a new determination, new skills, more focused goals, more prosperous networking opportunities and a stronger sense of community.
The overall goal for Roller Sports South Africa and the World Skate Federation is to establish a competitive club structure as a pathway to international and Olympic participation. This vision gained more traction with the inclusion of femme skaters in one week than it had made, dealing with other members of the SA skateboarding community in preparation for Tokyo 2020. Course facilitator and president of Roller Sport South Africa, Wendy Gila, remarked, "Meeting the Women in skateboarding restored my hope in the formation of a strong skateboarding structure in SA. I now know that there are skateboarders with a realistic and focused approach to the competitive side of the sport."
"It was refreshing to meet the group of women and be accepted and given a fair chance to again explain Roller Sport South Africa's role in the road to the Olympics."
From the Girls Skate SA headquarters, we can honestly say that the future of femme skating in this country shines brighter than ever. Beyond Keep an eye on our pages for updates on our progress, following the women in skateboarding technical course towards the 2024 Summer Olympics and beyond.
photo: Wendy Gila
-written by Chantall Graaf.